Chronological Resume


Learn how to construct one of the most common resume formats–the chronological format.

At one time, there was the simple chronological resume—and everyone had one. It started 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.  About 10 years ago, this format accounted for over 95% of all resumes. 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. General improvements in resume writing and formatting has kept this classic resume style alive. That, and the numerous online job search sites that request, store, and present your resume in a preferred chronological layout continue to keep this format the most popular. Still, we can make some slight improvements to the old tried-and-true format and still have a very nice looking resume!

Chronological Resume Sections

Your resume starts with your contact information, which should be simple and clear. Include your first and last name, your phone number, your email 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 all the other elements on a single line below your name would be a fine start.

In most cases today, the objective line has been scrapped unless you are writing the resume for a very specific job, or if the objective line is used as more of a mini-summary statement (which I like). If you are open to a variety of positions and are going to use a summary statement (below), you can leave off the objective line.

The summary statement is the newest piece of information in this format. Either it is a multi-sentence or multi-bulleted section—just 4-5 lines that provide a mini-commercial of your skills, talents and successes. This section actually was 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 the strengths you have. Note that some online resume systems don’t have a place for this summary, so you may need to make sure 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, your successes and any measurable accomplishments—preferably using a STAR (Situation, Tasks, Action, Results) writing style. It can be paragraphs or bullets, but I suggest using a little of both (i.e., a 2-3 sentence paragraph followed by 2-4 bullets). List your jobs as far back as 8 years but not more than 15. Yes, this is important—the old stuff generally isn't something that will “sell” you; save it for your cover letter or for 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, personal stuff, etc.).

Getting Started

I suggest that everyone have a chronological resume. Even if you’re inclined to use a different format for various reasons or situations, there'll always be a need to have your resume available in the chronological layout.

Bottom line: The chronological resume format is the classic and most commonly used version. But it’s not the layout that’s the challenge—it’s the quality of writing and the use of engaging text that makes 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 online job sites.

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