Resume Writing Tips: Chronological Resumes
The goal of a resume is not only to display your strongest employment information -- it's also to keep a potential employer from eliminating you from the pool of applicants.
There are many resume formats that will accomplish this, and since there is no universally accepted "right format," it's up to your preference which one you decide to use. Two popular resume formats are the chronological resume, which focuses on work history, and the skills resume, which focuses on accumulated skills and intentionally brushes over work history. This is a look at the chronological resume; click here to see information on skills resumes.
The chronological resume
This resume format is the most popular and the most trusted by employers, and provides the best opportunity for you to effectively communicate your strongest points in a small amount of page space. For readability, use a modern, sans-serif font such as Ariel or Verdana, and vary your text by including larger headings, bolding important information, and being consistent with your language and style.
The chronological resume typically reads as follows:
- Name, contact information
- Summary statement
- Work experience (in chronological order)
- Extra information (depending on your strengths)
Let's go into each section in more detail:
Name, contact info
Your name should be slightly large and prominent. You may wish to center it, or use a more interesting font for employment in creative fields, but don't go overboard on aesthetics. Below your name, include your:
- Phone number (home and cell)
- Email address
Use a standard, name-style email (firstname.lastname@example.org) rather than a quirky, handle-style one (email@example.com).
Example: JIM SMITH
1405 Santa Monica Blvd, Apt 305
Los Angeles, CA 90048
The current "in" style is to use periods in your phone number instead of dashes.
Note: Some people prefer to include an objective statement, a short statement detailing the specific position you are seeking, in addition to (or instead of) a summary statement. This is recommended only if you know exactly what position you want, and if you can afford to wait for it. Objective statements can limit your job search, as a narrowly focused resume is less likely to line up with a company's goals.
A summary statement is a short (a few sentences) statement describing what you do and what your primary skills and accomplishments are. Summary statements are usually in the third person, and should give the employer a general idea of what's on the rest of the resume. Some details to include are:
- Your last (or current) job title
- Your main strengths or responsibilities
- An accomplishment or two that highlights your strengths
It's important to use strong keywords in your summary statement, since it is often the only thing an employer reads the first time around. Choose keywords that describe your strengths and abilities, and which you believe your ideal employer would be looking for.
Example: Results-oriented, highly motivated marketing consultant and analyst with project management experience and a background in account managing for fortune 500 companies. Additional experience in recruiting and training. Increased client ROI 15% by managing large-scale projects within time and budget constraints.
More information on summary statements can be found at Isabont Blog.
Your work experience should be listed from the most recent at the top to the oldest at the bottom, and should only cover the previous seven years, unless you have older experience that's important to list. If you have over 10 years of relevant employment history, you may need a second page.
Each entry in your employment history should include:
- The company name
- The type of company (unless it's apparent from the name)
- Dates employed (month/year)
- Your last or current job title
- Your bulleted accomplishments for that position
Example: Burton Landscaping, Inc.
5/05 - 8/08
Accomplishments should be thought of as a) bottom-line benefits you provided to the company, b) the action you took to provide it, and c) the challenge you faced while providing it. To write a good accomplishment:
- State a benefit you provided to the company (such as a revenue increase, a goal reached, or a challenge met)
- Include the action you took to provide that benefit, demonstrating a strength you posess
- Mention what made it a challenge (such as the market economy, competition, or lack of funding)
Example: Increased client ROI 12% (benefit) during a market recession (challenge) by consolidating redundant properties to boost spend efficiency (action)
Accomplishments can be tricky, because they're not always easy to express in a number. If there is no realistic way to express an accomplishment in a number, try to provide a close estimation (it's best to underestimate by a small amount), or provide a general benefit that can be observed, such as "created a prominent market presence," or "developed a strong industry reputation."
The standard is one accomplishment for each year of employment, but this is not set in stone. Again, keywords are important.
Example: Burton Landscaping, Inc.
5/05 - 8/08
- Grew company revenue 26% over a 14-month period by increasing local advertising presence
- Increased repeat client base 35% in a highly competitive market by implementing and enforcing new client-facing protocol
- Turned a $38,000 investment into over $120,000 in gained revenue by introducing higher-tier equipment suppliers and exchanging sponsorships
For more information on accomplishments, see ExecutiveAgent.com.
The education portion of your resume is not as important as your experience, but many employers require a degree for consideration. This is also your opportunity to list your educational achievements. This section may include some or all of the following:
- School name
- Graduation date
- Degree (BA, MA)
- Any awards or distinctions
Example: University of California, Berkeley -- graduated May 2001
MPH: Public Health
Honors program graduate
Pi Kappa Phi honors society recognition
Here you can list any additional skills you have, computer applications you know, or any other information that is relevant to the rest of your resume or will help your job hunt. You may categorize it under "Skills," "Applications," "Organizations," or whatever describes what you are listing. Items can include:
- Relevant job skills that don't fit anywhere else
- Languages you speak
- Computer programs or systems you know
- Societies or organizations you've belonged to
- Non-work/school-related awards you've received
- Research you've done
- Works you've authored or published
Some people choose to list references on their resume, or include "References available upon request." Neither is required, and career transition companies often recommend no mention of references on resumes. (It is considerate to warn your references before they are to be contacted, so if you withhold your references until they're needed, you can be more certain of when they will be contacted.)
Keep a separate list of references, and be prepared to send it to a potential employer if asked.