A chronological resume, also known as a reverse-chronological resume, is the most popular format among job seekers and recruiters. As the name suggests, this format puts your most recent employment first followed by the one before it until you work your way back to your first job.
Recruiters and HR managers prefer the chronological resume layout because it gives them an easy way to digest an applicant’s career trajectory and it’s the most widely used format so they’re more accustomed to it. Applicants prefer this for the same reason; it highlights their career’s progression and increasing scope of their responsibilities and skills. In this post we'll explain what a chronological resume is and why it's the most popular resume format. You'll also discover how to write a chronological resume format yourself.
What Is a Chronological Resume? How Does It Compare to Other Resume Formats?
The table below summarizes the main differences among the three formats. Most notable of all the differences is how the functional format highlights skills relevant to the job, regardless of when and where the applicant acquired them.
The combination resume format is flexible, which makes it hard to distinguish from other formats sometimes. In most case though, a combination resume starts with a functional layout that includes a qualifications summary or career highlights followed by a list of skills relevant to the job. After that comes the chronological part: the work history and education section.
The following table shows a comparison between the chronological resume format, the functional resume format, and the combination or hybrid resume format:
Chronological Resume Format
Combination or Hybrid Resume Format
Applicant’s career trajectory and current or last employment
Combination of the applicant’s skills and professional experience
Work experience section
Listed just below the professional summary, and includes a bullet-point list describing the candidate’s skills and accomplishments
Relegated to the bottom of the resume, and only lists the employer’s name, job title, and employment duration.
Work history is listed after the skills section
Easy to comprehend, highlights applicant’s career trajectory
Conceals applicant’s lack of career projection, or employment gaps if any.
Combines the advantages of the two formats
Suggests the applicant is hiding something. Recruiters not used to this format may find it confusing to read
Not suitable for applicants with limited work history
Suitable for all candidates
Entry level candidates with zero job experience, career changers or transitioners, applicants with employment gaps
CEOs and executives with a long career history
Chronological Resume Format
Here’s a list of all the sections a traditional chronological resume format needs in the correct order:
- Contact information
- Additional Sections
Use a Professional Resume Template
Before we dive into how to write a chronological resume, let's take a quick look at resume templates. One way to make sure your chronological resume looks good is to use a professional template. We've got a number of professional resume templates available for purchase on GraphicRiver. If you've got an Envato Elements subscription, you'll have unlimited access to a variety of professional resume templates. The resumes from both of these sources have numerous features to build a chronological resume, functional resume, or combination resume.
Many of these templates also have additional creative options for displaying your portfolio, include a well-branded cover letter template, and more. All these features can help you stand out visually and land that job you're applying for!
Here's a sample of a professional resume template that's available on Envato Elements:
Now let's take a closer look at how to write a chronological resume.
How to Write Different Sections of a Reverse-Chronological Resume (with Examples)
1. Contact Information
Write your full name, email address, telephone number, LinkedIn profile URL, website (optional), and home address. You don’t have to list your complete address; many applicants just list the city and state where they live. Include your professional designation or license number in this section, if your job requires a professional license.
There’s no exact layout for this section because it varies according to the resume template you’re using, or how much information you’re willing to disclose. Including your complete address, for example, will take up more space compared to just writing the city and state, making this section a few lines longer. Adding labels, such as “phone number,” “email address” or “address” beside the information will take up space too.
Brief contact information example:
(XXX) XXX-8620 | Annie.UXdesign@gmail.com| San Jose, California
Contact information with license and labels:
Mary Williams, CPA
Contact info: (XXX) XXX-5421|Mary.Williams@gmail.com
Address: 28 Bollinger Road San Jose, California
A header includes your current or target job title and your professional tagline or unique value proposition. It’s optional but it’s a great way to describe the benefits of hiring you or distinguish you from other candidates with similar experience. Since many applicants don’t have a header on their resume, having one already puts you ahead of the competition.
Chronological resume example header for a Senior Marketing Executive from GreatResumesFast.com
Reverse chronological order resume example header for a Quality Assurance Manager
You have three options: a professional profile, a summary of qualifications also known as career highlights, or a career objective. Each type of introduction has its own pros and cons so the best option will depend on where you are in your career.
Tells the employer about your professional experience and educational background, and how that’s related to the job you want. Career Objectives are often thought off as an outdated way to start a resume but there are situations where it’s a good choice, such as if the applicant is switching careers or has an unclear career path that needs explaining.
In the example below, the applicant is implying that the bartending and wait staff experience gained through restaurant work could be useful in a flight attendant role.
“Front of the House Associate with 3 years lounge and bar operations experience for upscale restaurants. Seeking to apply customer service and hospitality management experience in a flight attendant role for United Airlines”
This is recommended for applicants at least three years of experience who aren't planning to switch careers or industries. It highlights your most notable achievements or skills so you can get them hooked long enough to read through the rest of your resume. Think of it as the written equivalent of your elevator pitch.
You can write this as a paragraph, a list of bullet points or a combination of both. If you’re going to write a paragraph though, keep it short and use bold formatting to emphasize important keywords.
While there’s no specific rule about the type of achievements or skills you can include, you’ll have a better chance of impressing recruiters if you've got a wide range of career achievements:
Example Qualifications Summary for a Chronological Resume:
Here’s what the example above would look like if the candidate isn’t switching careers to become a flight attendant.
- Front of the House Associate with 3 years lounge and bar operations experience for upscale restaurants
- Increased bar revenue by 7% after creating a new cocktail promoted during the summer season
- Well-versed in recommending craft beers and wine to pair with food
- Social and conversational skills honed through serving upscale clientele
- Worked well with a diverse team of wait staff, cleaning crew, and chefs
A professional profile is a structured hybrid version of a career objective and qualifications summary. It’s structured because the main points of the profile don’t change regardless of your experience level.
What to include in a professional profile:
- First bullet point. Job title and how many years you’ve been working in that capacity. If you’ve held the same role with multiple employers, write the total number of years you’ve worked in that role.
- Second bullet point. Areas of expertise or a specific task where you excel
- Third bullet point. Job-specific and transferable skills recruiters would expect from someone in your role.
- Fourth bullet point. Your proudest achievement
Example Professional Profile of an HVAC Technician:
- HVAC certified technician with 5+ years of experience in commercial building maintenance and management.
- Installation, repair, and maintenance of commercial grade air-conditioning and heating systems
- All-around technician with knowledge of plumbing repairs, general electric repairs, wall coverings and paintings, as well as coordinating with other licensed vendors for repairs and maintenance.
- Organized inventory of all working units and spare parts to avoid unnecessary expenses and minimize downtime of HVAC units that need repair
4. Professional History
Write your job history in reverse-chronological order, careful only to include jobs within the last 10 years or those relevant to your target position.
If you don’t want to exclude former positions or if you've got too many previous jobs to list, you put this in a separate section called “Early Employment” or “Previous roles.” Organizing your employment history in this manner puts the focus on your recent roles and accomplishments, without risk of employment gaps or loss of transferable skills you may have acquired in those early roles.
Information to include in each job entry:
Use the widely-accepted version of your job title to avoid confusing the ATS or the recruiter reading your resume. Fancy titles like “Customer Success Manager” or “Customer Service Hero” are starting to go mainstream, but it’s advisable not to use them as the only job title listed. If you've got a creative job title and you want to put it in your resume, at least include the industry-accepted version of it in parenthesis to satisfy both the ATS and recruiters. Spell out abbreviated job titles, too.
- Assistant District Attorney (ADA)
- Customer Support Hero (Customer Service Associate)
- Head of Storytelling (Director of Marketing Communications)
- Advanced Alcoholic and Drug Counselor (AADC)
- Clinical Nurse Consultant (CNC
Write your employer’s complete business name and the state and country where your office is located if your employer had multiple branches. It’s also useful to include this for jobs where licensure or certification affects your career prospects.
List the month and year when you started working and terminated your job contract for each role.
Short Job Description (Optional)
Write a short description if your employer is relatively unknown, or if your job title is somewhat vague. Include a brief introduction explaining the industry you’re in, the customers you serve, what you do at work, and how that contributes to your employer’s business.
Product Writer at Rebel Alliance, June 2016 to Present
Rebel Alliance is an online clothing store serving the steampunk and rock fashion market. The Product Writer role includes researching trending products in our niche and using that information to write descriptions for the apparel and accessories we sell on our website.
Bullet point list of achievements
Pick achievements and skills mentioned in your target job then include action verbs and keywords when you write them as bullet points. Read this guide to find out how to write your professional history and achievements. You can also find easy to use and professional looking resume templates in our resume template roundup.
Example Professional History Section for a Soon-to-Graduate Nurse
from East Carolina University.
Almost every role only lasted a few months, but that might be because they’re internships, it’s just not disclosed to avoid the impression that the student has no “experience.” The variety of clinical settings and responsibilities add credibility to the application.
The general advice is to include only your highest level of education, but that may backfire on you if a recruiter or the ATS system they use is searching for applicants with a specific undergraduate degree. To be on the safe side, just list all your higher education experience in reverse chronological order.
What to include:
- Type of degree: B.S., B.A., M.A, M.S
- Your Major
- Name and location of your school (if overseas)
- Relevant academic awards or distinctions: Dean’s list, Summa cum laude, etc.
- MA in Creative Writing, University of Manchester
- BA in Creative Writing, Auburn University
Don’t include coursework information or your GPA unless you've got few with related work experience.
Ongoing education, such as seminars or online courses may be included in this section below the details of your formal education or in a subsection specific for ongoing education. Like your collegiate experience, this should also be written in reverse-chronological order to present a consistent narrative throughout your resume.
- What to include when listing ongoing education:
- Name of course, seminar, conference, or certification
- Name of organization that conducted it
- Duration (if applicable)
Some conferences or online training providers aren’t well-known enough for recruiters to recognize them. You can boost the credibility of these credentials without listing the whole event schedule or course syllabus in your resume by linking to the specific webpage of the training.
Read this guide for more information about writing the education section of your resume.
A typical chronological resume puts the skills section after the professional experience section, but some layouts put this section in a separate column on the right or left-hand side of the resume. Whatever layout you use is fine, as long as you include all the skills required for your job.
Example for an E-commerce Web Developer:
- E-commerce platforms: Shopify, Woocommerce, Magento, BigCommerce, and Demandware
- Programming languages: JSON, jQuery, PHP, XML, HTML, Java,
- Technical skills: database management, APIs, Front-end development, responsive web design, Photoshop
- Collaborative and receptive to criticism
You can also categorize skills according to their type or relevance. Don’t forget to sprinkle different synonyms of your skills elsewhere on the resume. For more information about writing this section, check out this guide:
7. Additional Sections
Resumes aren’t rigid documents, so go ahead and add any of the sections here as long as they’re relevant to your career. Adding these sections not only adds keywords and skills to your resume, it also bolsters your professional experience, especially if you’re switching careers or a fresh graduate.
- Professional memberships
- Volunteer work or creative projects
- Industry awards
- Extra-curricular activities
Example of extra-curricular activities for a relatively an accounting graduate:
See how the extra-curricular activities show the graduate’s potential and skills as an accountant?
Example of a list of certifications for a Dental Hygienist:
- Registered Dental Hygienist, Florida –2011 – Present
- Radiology Certified, Florida – 2011 – Present
- X-ray Certified, Florida – 2012 –
Be Flexible and Creative
There’s no one formula for creating a perfect chronological order resume as it all depends on your professional experience and career goals. For example, if you’re a fresh graduate with zero relevant work experience, then listing your education before your work history may work better for you. Don’t be afraid to make strategic changes to the layout and content of your resume, as long as those changes showcase the best of your qualifications. To learn even more about resumes, study our ultimate guide on creating a great resume.
Editorial Note: This content was originally published on July 13, 2018. We're sharing it again because our editors have determined that this information is still accurate and relevant.
Subscribe below and we’ll send you a weekly email summary of all new Business tutorials. Never miss out on learning about the next big thing.Update me weekly
Envato Tuts+ tutorials are translated into other languages by our community members—you can be involved too!Translate this post