Job seekers often struggle with the work history section of their resumes. Many are wed to the traditional chronological order format and hesitate to deviate from that approach even when it’s not the most effective way to document their experience.
Others would like to use a different format but are not sure whether that’s even an option.
The good news is that the chronological resume format is but one of three resume formats you can use.
Yes, you read that right; you don’t necessarily have to list your previous jobs in chronological order!
Resume Work Experience Order
As we noted, the chronological order is just one format. There are two other ways to list your prior work history, using either the functional or hybrid resume format.
Let’s examine each of these three options to better understand their differences:
(We wrote a good post here on choosing the right resume format)
The Chronological Order Format
Most job seekers are familiar with this option. It simply includes information about your prior jobs in reverse chronology – beginning with the most recent position.
That provides employers with an easy way to see your career path. Typically, this format includes the employer’s name, your title and dates of employment, and a description of your duties.
ACME MANUFACTURING, Anytown, AnyState
Sales Manager (2012-Present)
Managed 30-person sales team in $40 million industrial tool company
- Developed sales programs that increased overall sales by 78 percent in first year
- Integrated new technologies into sales efforts, resulting in 42 percent growth in efficiency
You would then include similar entries for prior jobs, working backward through your employment history. Of course, if your work history is extensive, you may want to limit it to the last ten to fifteen years, or three or four positions.
The Functional Format
The functional format offers an alternative to the chronological order resume. It’s designed to highlight your competencies and qualifications, instead of showing your career path.
As such, work history is generally shortened, and the resume focuses more on skills and achievement.
Effectively led sales and marketing teams with as many as 30 salespersons, increasing efficiency, sales productivity, and company profitability each year. Created new sales organizational structure, incentives, and goal-setting processes that reduced turnover by 70 percent.
Implemented technology and structural systems that improved quality control metrics across the entire sales division. Resulted in 80 percent reduction in dropped sales and returns.
Created innovative sales training program incorporating online learning, in-house presentations, and group discussion. Reduced personnel onboarding time by 42 percent, increasing sales activities by 27 percent.
Sales Campaign Development
Worked in concert with marketing departments to create innovative sales campaigns to boost sales activity. Directly led to quarterly sales growth ranging from 12 to 23 percent.
Note: you should also include your employment later in your resume, but you don’t have to be as detailed in your descriptions. You can generally just include the company name, job title, and year of employment.
It’s also worth noting that some experts question the effectiveness of the functional resume.
The hybrid resume – or combination resume – attempts to enjoy the best of both worlds. It emphasizes your skills and accomplishments, but also includes prior employment in chronological order. It’s typically used by early career job-seekers who have little experience, or those who have just left college.
However, many of those candidates find the functional resume to be sufficient for their needs.
If you think a hybrid resume may be your best option, check out our great article: Hybrid Resume: When You Need It and How to Write One.
Whichever option you choose, it’s vital to remember the purpose behind your resume. That purpose is simple: you want to demonstrate your qualifications in the clearest manner possible. To achieve that, you need clarity. These tips can help ensure that your resume is as clear as possible:
- Flow is everything. If your career path has progressed steadily, with obvious promotions, then that story needs to be told in chronological order to be understood.
- Always provide at least a summary of your employment history. Without it, there’s little chance that an employer will consider you for the job.
- A resume with employment in chronological order is generally the easiest to create. However, you can supplement it with other sections to highlight important skills, achievements, and other qualifications.
The good news is that you don’t need to feel limited by the chronological order format. Today’s employers are open to alternatives, as long as they provide clear information. In most instances, though, you’re likely to find the chronological resume format suitable for your needs.