There are several resume formats you can use to present information to employers. The chronological resume format, also known as “reverse-chronological,” lists your professional experience from most to least recent.
This format is best used by those with a consistent work history and increasing job levels over time. If you have significant gaps in your career or have changed industries or positions multiple times, you might consider using a functional or combination resume format.
What is a chronological resume?
A chronological resume is a resume format that prioritizes relevant professional experience and achievements. Chronological resumes are one of three common resume formats. The three main types of resume formats include:
- Chronological resume: For candidates with rich, consistent professional experience.
- Functional resume: For candidates with several gaps or changes in their career.
- Combination: For candidates with a diverse background of experience or when skills and abilities are more relevant than work experience.
When deciding which format to choose, consider both your background and the job you’re applying for. For example, you may have a rich, consistent professional background typically represented in a chronological format. However, the job you’re applying for might place heavier value on your proven skills and abilities, in which case you might choose a combination format to highlight what’s important to the employer. For clues on which the employer values most, pay attention to requirements listed in the job description.
You should use a chronological resume if:
- You have several years of experience in one career path
- You have worked for several employers or clients in one industry
- You have minimal or no gaps between jobs
If you’re a recent college or high school graduate with little or no professional experience, you might consider using a functional or combination resume. A functional resume format is also useful if you have been out of work for a significant amount of time.
If you’re changing positions or industries, a combination resume might be a better fit. In this case, a resume that puts more emphasis on your transferable skills and abilities may be more beneficial to potential employers.
A chronological resume helps employers quickly understand the value of your most recent and relevant work experiences. As employers may only spend a few seconds on each resume, prioritizing the most recent information helps ensures your experience gets seen.
Related: Functional Resume Tips and Examples
How to write a chronological resume
Your resume should include information relevant to the position for which you’re applying. Chronological resume sections should include the following in this order:
- Name and contact information
- Summary or objective
- Professional history
- Educational history
- Skills and abilities
You can also include achievements and interests, but these should only be included at the end of your resume, and only if they are relevant. If your resume is multiple pages, consider removing optional sections like these to make it as brief, concise and readable as possible.
The key difference between a chronological resume and other formats is how you structure your experience section. In this format, you will list your most recent experience first. When you are writing the details of each experience, you should reference the job descriptions that interest you to see which keywords employers are using. These terms can be a guide for what phrases to include when you describe your own experiences.
The placement of your professional experience and education sections depends on where you are in your career and the relevance of education to your chosen industry.
For example, if you are writing a resume as a student, you may want to prioritize your education section as it may be more helpful information for potential employers. This is especially true if you have relevant certifications, diplomas or coursework. If you have been in the workforce for several years, you might consider placing your education after your experience section.
Name and contact information
Begin with your name and contact information. In this section, include your name, phone number and email address. Optional information includes your mailing address or links to online portfolios if appropriate.
Summary or objective
You might also choose to include a short professional statement at the top of your resume. This section provides quick context for employers as they review your application. Those with several years of experience in a specific industry should include a summary of their skills and experiences. New graduates or those still in school may want to consider an objective statement that describes your most valued, short-term goals.
Your professional experience section should include all relevant work experience starting with your current or most recent position, if applicable.
For example, if you’re applying for a dental assistant position, you should list your work history starting from your current employer and going back to the first job you obtained out of high school or college related to the dental or healthcare industries.
When you’re writing this section of your resume, consider which experiences are most relevant to the next step you want to take in your career. For example, if you worked at a fast food restaurant during college or high school, you may not want to include it on a resume for a position in dental assistance (using our last example).
Your education section should be structured similarly to your professional experience. List the most recent educational achievements first and go backward in time from there.
If you have are currently enrolled in or have completed and obtained a post-secondary degree (Associate’s degree or above), you should not list your high school information. However, if you graduated from high school and did not seek a post-secondary degree, you might consider including your high school background with your GPA (if above 3.5) and any other relevant information related to your educational experiences.
Your education section should focus on degree acquisition and coursework but can also include other academic achievements such as certificate programs or awards.
Skills and abilities
Your skills and abilities section should highlight your most relevant competencies. Skills and abilities can include both hard (technical) skills and soft (interpersonal) skills. The most important consideration when listing your skills whether or not they are relevant to the job. Carefully review the job posting to identify which of your skills the employer is looking for in an ideal candidate and include them in your skills section.
Chronological resume template
Here is an example of a reverse-chronological resume using the practices listed above. Use this and other resume samples like it for inspiration as you write your own:
Little Rock, Arkansas • (123) 456-7891
An exceptionally organized and friendly dental assistant with 3+ years of successful experience working with dental offices and clients.
Smith Family Dentistry, Dental Assistant
July 2017 – Present
- Clean and prepare treatment rooms
- Prepare patient to be seen by for dental treatment
- Answer common patient questions about dental procedures, treatments, and issues
E&H Dental, Office Assistant
August 2015 – July 2017
- Organized client schedules
- Received patients upon arrival
- Handled client billing and paperwork
- By end of work experience, took on key dental assistant roles
Little Road Junior College
August 2012 – June 2014
Certified Dental Assistant Program
Dental assistant skills include: DANB certification • X-ray certification • Denture impressions • Calming personality and demeanor • Hygienic • Minor oral surgery experience
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