There are many different resume formats used by job applicants, but none are more popular than the chronological resume. It’s also referred to as a reverse-chronological resume, because it starts with the most recent job experience and works backward. Chances are that you’ve seen a few of these in your time, or even used one yourself!
In fact, it’s so popular that most people instinctively picture the chronological format when they hear the word “resume.” So, you’ve seen them and maybe used them–but do you know how to write a chronological resume?
These tips can help you to gain more insight into that important process and help you build a chronological resume that facilitates your job search.
Why is the chronological format so popular?
First, it’s important to understand why the chronological format is so popular. Its name comes from the way that it lists your previous work history in chronological order.
That listing method showcases your career progression, and provides hiring personnel with an easy-to-read summary of your various jobs. It’s also compatible with the widest possible array of industries and job types, and can accommodate different experience levels too.
Who should use the chronological format?
Everyone should list their work experience reverse-chronologically: start with your most recent experience and order the remaining experience from newest to oldest.
The chronological format is the most popular resume format and is fit for someone with solid work history. It’s also the best resume format for when you’re targeting a position in which you are experienced.
If you have a non-linear professional history, you should consider a functional resume instead. A functional resume focuses on your job functions and key skills and minimizes your work history to titles and dates. It should be a last resort, but it’s sometimes a good option for those with large employment gaps or little relevant experience.
💡ZipTip: if you aren’t sure what resume format to use, this guide walks you through the three most popular resume formats for American and Canadian employers.
5 steps to a chronological resume
There are five sections you need to write for your chronological resume: contact information, summary, work experience, education, and supporting details. This post organizes them by the questions each section needs to answer.
1. How should hiring managers contact you?
Your chronological resume needs to start with the right information about you: your contact details. It’s vital that employers know how to reach you! Be sure to include all these details right at the top of your resume:
- Your name
- Your email
- Your phone number
If a hiring manager needs to hunt for your contact information, there’s a good chance you just won’t be contacted. Always include your full name, phone, and a professional email address at the very top of your resume.
Example of a contact section on a resume:
Tips from a resume expert:
- You should include your LinkedIn URL on your resume. Most employers will look you up online before contacting you, so this is anticipating that step. It’s unlikely employers will contact you by LinkedIn, however; most correspondence about job applications happens by email.
- You don’t need to include your full mailing address–this is an outdated idea from when people applied for jobs by submitting paper resumes. Employers no longer contact job candidates by mail. You can provide your city, state, and zip code, or just the country if you’re outside of the USA.
- You don’t need to label each section “Email” or “Telephone.” It’s obvious to the reader!
2. How would you summarize your resume?
Next up, include a brief summary of your skills, work history, and career highlights. This section can be called a resume summary, professional profile, or resume profile. This is different from a resume objective, which we don’t recommend using.
Think of this section as your resume’s “elevator pitch”–a short and simple pitch to capture employers’ attention and make them want to read on.
The elevator pitch is a concept from the sales industry. Sales professionals should be able to sum up their product in 30 seconds or less: roughly the amount of time you might share an elevator ride with someone.
Similarly, your resume should quickly convey why you’re a great fit for your job target. Your work experience section will support your claims.
Example of a summary on a chronological resume:
Tips from a resume expert:
- Start your resume summary with a headline. This can be as simple as the job title you’re targeting, or include your top certifications, skills, or accolades.
- This section should generally stay between 4 and 6 lines. Be selective about what you showcase here!
- Keep this section employer-focused. Try to check all the boxes the employer is looking for by using keywords from the job description and examples of how you add value.
💡ZipTip: resume summaries are a fantastic (and overlooked) way to incorporate more keywords on your resume. Check out our full guide on how to write a resume summary that lands the interview.
3. What have you accomplished in your work experience?
As we’ve already mentioned, your work experience should be listed in chronological order, starting with your most recent job. Beyond the job title and basic info, though, what should you write in this section?
The bulk of your resume will be its work experience section. To make the most of your experience, you need to include both the essential information and the compelling information that will land you the interview.
Here are the essential parts of your work experience section:
- Basic company information like company name, the location of the job, the dates you were employed
- Your job title (or multiple job titles, if you earned a promotion or changed jobs internally)
- Some details about your exprience
Most people incorrectly assume that those details must be a list of obligations or daily duties. This isn’t quite true and comes down to relevance. In most cases, you only need to include relevant information about your work history. Let’s look at an example before we talk about how to level-up how you describe your work experience.
Example of work experience on a chronological resume:
This example does several things to represent this candidate as compelling and valuable. The bullet points are specific, informative, and impressive. None of these bullet points could be guessed from the job title. This resume would really stand out from other Creative Manager resumes that only list bullet points like “Helped with creative ideas for [company project].”
Here is some advice from a professional resume coach on what to include to make your work experience more compelling to employers.
Tips from an expert:
- Include standout accomplishments from each position, such as projects you contributed to that had a positive outcome or specific ways you improved business.
- Add numbers that translate your effort into value. Monetary gains are great, but here are some other metrics ideas: time saved, people managed, increase in output, decrease in errors.
- Use plenty of keywords from your industry and the job you’re applying to. If all the jobs you want to apply to want marketing strategy, be sure to include your experience with marketing strategy in this section. You’ll appear especially compelling if you can provide results of your marketing strategy!
💡ZipTip: view 200+ more professional resume samples for all industries, along with a 2020 guide to writing resumes from our experts.
4. Are you qualified?
After your work experience section, there should be a section that details your education: degrees, certifications, continuing education, and training. You should provide the name of the school or institution and the name of your degree or certification. You don’t need to include the year you completed the education, unless it was very recent or is a certification that will expire at some point (i.e. real estate license).
Essentially, you want to prove you’re qualified on a basic level to do the job you’re applying for. If the job description requires a degree, license, or certification, this is where you should include it.
Just like your work experience, you want to list your most recent education first. This tends to be your highest degree.
If you’re short on experience but you have a relevant degree, you can explain your qualifications by including specific courses you took. Read more about what you can include in your education section here.
5. What else makes a good chronological resume?
If you have additional relevant information that doesn’t fit into the sections above, you can add more sections to your chronological resume. In 2020, most resumes should be about two pages long. If your reverse-chronological resume isn’t quite meeting that goal, here’s what you can add:
Additional applicable skills (optional)
This section is optional, but can be helpful if your prior employment doesn’t demonstrate obvious skills that would interest the hiring manager, or if you have additional skills that would help an employer make a decision. You can use a skills or core competencies section to showcase relevant skills that you possess that would make you a great candidate for the job.
This can either go below the summary or at the end of your resume.
💡ZipTip: having the right combination of skills is key to passing the ATS scans. Learn how in our guide: 10 Vital Skills to Put on Your Resume & Stand Out
Volunteer work (optional)
Volunteer work can be very relevant when applying for jobs! You can have a dedicated volunteer work section, or include it as “Additional Experience” with other part-time, freelance, or work experience.
Volunteer work serves a number of purposes, such as displaying skills you don’t use in your professional work such as event organization, fundraising, or even leadership skills. It also nods to the causes you care about enough to donate your time to. Finally, volunteer work can help fill gaps in your resume–and your interview. If you’ve been job searching for three months, it sounds way better to say you’ve been volunteering and learning new skills versus sitting at home refreshing your email inbox!
Interests and hobbies (optional)
This is another optional section, and allows you an opportunity to showcase any interests that might showcase your depth as an employee and person.
You should be careful to avoid controversy, however. For example, don’t list political groups that you might belong to, or interests that might draw any sort of controversy. However, if you belong to professional groups or organizations related to your field of expertise, they’re well worth mentioning. We have more information about including relevant hobbies and interests on your resume here.
If you do add this section, it should be one of the last sections on your resume.
Time to put it all together!
Now let’s look at a full example of all five parts of a chronological resume.
Example of the chronological resume format:
Final tip: be flexible
Remember also that the chronological resume does have some built-in flexibility. It’s not a stale formula that you plug details into.
For example, if you’re a student with little professional expertise, you can place the educational section before the work experience section to better highlight your educational achievements. In short, don’t be afraid to make some strategic changes to the order of the sections. The goal is always to showcase the best parts of your resume to enhance your chance of success.
Thanks for reading our guide to writing a chronological resume! As long as you answer the questions for each section, you should be well on your way to landing more interviews.
Of course, resume writing is as much art as science! Like any type of endeavor, it takes practice and experience to create a perfect resume. These tips will help you to get a handle on the process, but no formulaic tips can ever replace a well-crafted professional resume written by experienced resume writers.
If you want to ensure that your resume earns you twice as many interviews, hire your own personal resume coach! Zipjob has over 100+ professional resume writers to help you display your work experience in the best way.