At one time there was just the simple chronological resume … and everyone had one. It started off with your contact information across the top, an objective statement, a reverse chronological listing of your career history, your college education, and maybe closing with organizations or awards. This format accounted for over 95% of all resumes about 10 years ago. It was clear, easy to read, and structurally simple to format. But times have changed … and so must the classic chronological resume.
Let me first state that the basic chronological format hasn’t changed much over the years. It’s the general improvements in resume writing and formatting that has kept this classic resume style alive. That, and the numerous online job search sites that request, store, and present your resume in their preferred chronological layout that keep this format the most popular. Still, we can make some slight improvements over the old tried-and-true format and have a very nice looking resume!
Chronological Resume Sections
Your resume starts with your contact information, which is usually kept simple and clear. Include your first and last name, your phone number, your e-mail address and at least your city, state and ZIP code – your street address is optional. If you have a website, you will also want to list it here. The layout isn’t predefined, but centering your name with the other elements all on a single line below your name would be a fine start.
In most cases today the objective line has been done away with unless you are writing the resume for a very specific job or if the objective line is used more as a mini-summary statement (which I like). If you are open for a variety of positions and are going to use a summary statement (below), you can leave the objective line off.
The summary statement is the newest piece of information of this format. It is either a multi-sentence or a multi-bullet section — it’s just 4-5 lines that provides a mini-commercial of your skills, talents and successes. This section was actually taken from the functional resume format (we’ll discuss this format later) to help the reader get a quick idea of who you are and what strengths you might have. Note that some online resume systems don’t have a place for this summary, so you may need to make sure that you address these points carefully within the respective career history sections.
Career history, presented in reverse chronological order, is the next section and also the namesake of this format. You list your title, your company, the time you were with the company (mm/yyyy – mm/yyyy format is preferred) and, optionally, the city and state of the job. This information should be presented on 1 or 2 lines and usually in bold print. Then below this is where you point out your major activities, the successes, any measurable accomplishments – preferably using a STAR writing style. It can either be paragraphs or bullets, but I suggest using a little of both – a 2-3 sentence paragraph followed by 2-4 bullets. List your jobs back at least 8 years, but not more than 15. Yes, this is important … the old stuff is not generally something that will “sell” you – save it for your cover letter or your interview.
Your degree information will follow your career history. And before you’re all done, you might also add the optional sections of awards, groups, activities or other job-related, career-related or industry-related information (no hobbies, no personal stuff, etc.).
My suggestion is that everyone should have a chronological resume. Even if you’re inclined to use a different resume format for various reasons or situations, there will always be a need to have your resume available in the chronological layout.
Bottomline: The chronological resume format is a classic and most commonly used version. But it’s not the layout that’s the challenge, it’s the quality of the writing and use of engaging text that can still make this format work. Even if you eventually use another format, create a chronological resume format version; it will be the one most often requested by the online job sites.