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Aah, just imagine…
Wouldn’t it be easier if there was only one type of resume that is universally accepted by employers?
It would be, but it wouldn’t be any fun, right?
The good news is:
It’s not that hard to figure out which type of resume to choose, and once you’ve made your pick, you can truly highlight your individual strengths, skills, and talents with the right formatting.
So let’s dive right into it, and find out what the two most common resume styles are all about: functional vs chronological resumes.
In this article:
- What’s the difference between a functional and a chronological resume format.
- Two example resumes.
- What are the advantages and disadvantages of a chronological and a functional resume.
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1. Functional vs Chronological Resume—What’s the Difference?
A functional resume focuses on the skills you’ve gained throughout your career, with less importance given to your exact work history.
A chronological resume, meanwhile, places emphasis on your work history, as it lists every relevant job you’ve held in reverse-chronological order (most recent first).
Why Does Your Resume Format Matter?
A resume is the first step towards getting an interview and your one-way ticket into your dream job.
How you sell yourself on a resume is crucial to the impression you make on the hiring manager and your future employers.
Picking the best resume style to put the spotlight on your biggest strengths is important in positioning yourself as the ideal candidate for that next great job. Plus, sticking to an accepted resume format will help you organize your information on the page in a logical manner, which goes a long way towards boosting readability.
Let’s take a look at an example for each resume type: functional and chronological. See which one would work best for you!
2. Chronological Resume Example
A chronological resume is the most common resume format that shows your work experience and education in reverse chronological order, where your most recent jobs are at the top and your least recent jobs are down below.
As you’ll see in the example below, a chronological resume focuses primarily on employment history.
Let's take a closer look at the chronological resume to see if this is resume style is right for you:
Human Resources Specialist
Personable and dedicated HR Specialist with 7+ years of experience maintaining a staff of 100+ employees. Advised and influenced employee management and leadership with a focus on performance, organizational development and effectiveness. Seeking to join Stexoa as Human Resources Manager.
Human Resources Specialist
ChactFox, Inc., Philadelphia, PA
May 2018–Dec 2021
- Managed all HR-related tasks for 100+ employees, including payroll processing, employee benefits program, documentation.
- Led all sourcing, recruiting, and interviewing of candidates, as well as training and on-boarding new recruits.
- Created sales team evaluation program and safety program to assist in the decreased associate turnover rate from 20% to 15% in 1.5 years.
Human Resources Administrative Assistant
Bea Wire, Little Rock, AR
June 2014–May 2018
- General upkeep of 70+ employee files.
- Designed job postings for open positions, handled recruitment advertising, and tracked results.
- Scheduled and maintained complex calendars.
- Provided back-up to payroll when needed and filed all paperwork in the department.
BA in Business Administration
Arkansas State University
- GPA: 3.7
- Relevant Coursework: Human Resources Management, Principles of Accounting, Finance for Business
When to Use a Chronological Resume?
Imagine bumping into an old friend from high school you haven't seen since 2011.
What’s the first question you ask them?
“Hey, what were you doing in 2012?”
First, you’ll probably want to know what’ve they been up to lately… Right?
Same with a recruiter.
They’ll be definitely more interested in what you've been doing professionally recently, not what you did at an internship right out of college a decade ago.
And that's why a chronological resume will work best for most career situations.
So to sum up, the advantages of a chronological resume are:
- Most recruiters are more used to reviewing this resume format than any other
- It highlights extensive work experience, promotions, and a stable career path
- Does a better job at explaining your background and skills
- Considered the simplest format and therefore the easiest to use and read
- It’s readable and easy to follow if properly written
How to Write a Chronological Resume?
Here’s a quick run-through of how to write a resume:
1. Start With a Persuasive Resume Objective or Summary
Right below your resume header, you should write a short, yet compelling resume summary or objective, which summarizes your skills, experience and qualifications.
If you’re writing an entry-level resume, your objective statement should explain why you are interested in the job and why you are fit for it.
2. Write an Exceptional Job Description Section
The next part of your resume should be a detailed description of your work history, listed in reverse chronological order.
That means listing your entries by starting with the most recent one.
Expert Hint: The chronological resume layout is more ATS-friendly, which is important to note since most businesses (including the majority of Fortune 500 companies) use an Applicant Tracking System to perform the initial scan of the submitted resumes.
3. Include an Education Section
Listing your education on your resume can set you apart from hundreds of other candidates.
And it’s easy to make it look neat and professional.
The important thing to remember is to list your entries in the same order you listed your previous jobs.
Don’t list everything.
For example, if you have a BA and are currently working on a Master’s degree, you can include two entries, but for most cases, putting your most recent degree should be enough.
4. Craft a Perfect Skills Section
Just below your education, you should include a separate resume skills section that gives a general overview of your hard and soft skills.
Don’t go into too much detail.
Simply listing your skills in bullet points should do the trick.
5. Jazz Up Your Resume With a Few Bonus Sections
Let’s raise your resume up a notch.
If you have something else you’d like to show off on your resume, feel free to include any relevant information that you think will increase your chances of getting that interview:
- Volunteer work
- Foreign language
- Other projects
- Industry blog
And that’s all there is to it!
Now that you know what a chronological resume looks like, let’s move on to the second part of the guide…
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3. Functional Resume Example
As you can see from the example below, in a functional resume, the main focus is on your skills rather than your work experience.
It’s a good idea to choose this resume layout when you have little work experience or want to start a career in a new industry—
This format can help you disguise lack of experience or any employment gaps.
2606 Pinewood Drive
Arlington Heights, IL 60005
Award-winning Executive Chef with 9+ years of culinary experience. Managed a high-volume kitchen of 35 staff members for a restaurant with annual sales of $1.5M. Managed all kitchen operations in an upscale restaurant, serving some of the best-quality Greek seafood in town for more than 300 guests a day. Seeking to fill the Chef de Cuisine position at Le Fou Frog.
- Conceptualized and prepared special dishes and promotional items using organic products.
- Reduced food waste 50% by connecting with local farmers.
- Developed a weekly lunch and dinner menu with options catering to food allergies and diet restrictions such as gluten-free and vegan.
- Purchased food and selected production recipes to ensure consistent quality.
- Efficiently managed and assisted 30+ kitchen staff in producing food banquets, catered events and member dining areas.
- Interviewed, trained, scheduled, and directed culinary staff.
- Ensured adherence to food standards, and oversaw staff welfare.
- Reduced food costs by 17% by estimating purchasing needs and buying through approved suppliers.
- Increased food revenue by $250K in the first year.
- Reduced labor cost by 2%.
- Increased guest satisfaction and loyalty tracking score by 30%.
Ephesus Restaurant, Chicago, IL
Lazy Bear, Chicago, IL
Culinary Arts Program
Institute of Culinary Education
New York, NY
Advantages of a Functional Resume
Many jobseekers wonder how to write a resume if they don’t have a clear employment history, or if they’re writing a resume for a career change.
They might think that they don’t stand a chance against other, more experienced candidates.
Fortunately, there is a solution!
A functional resume is perfect for downplaying any gaps in your work history or for people who want to switch industries, since the section featuring skills for a resume is its main focus.
When to use a functional resume?
- If you have a very diverse employment history.
- If you’ve just finished your education and don’t have extensive professional experience, but have some qualifications or skills gained in school.
- If you don’t have a clear career path.
- If you have gaps in your employment history.
- If you are planning to change your current industry and have the skills to do so, but a traditional chronological resume will not present them as favorably.
What Sections to Include in a Functional Resume?
When writing a functional resume, use this short checklist to make sure you have all the resume sections in place:
1. Introduce Yourself with a Key Achievement
Start with a professional profile that talks about your qualifications and career goals.
Let’s see a couple of examples to get a better understanding of what a correct resume summary should look like:
See the difference?
The first example has the “WOW” effect, while the second one… well… not terrible, but this candidate failed to provide any proof of their skills.
2. Write a Detailed Skills Section
Make sure to elaborate on each skill that you think is important for the role. Use phrases from the job advertisement to ensure your resume is targeted to the specific job.
This example clearly demonstrates the candidate’s most important strengths and elaborates on them.
3. Include a Short Employment History Section
…without expanding it into duties and responsibilities.
This is just to show that you have worked for reputable employers and gained a substantial amount of experience from the opportunities.
Now, by looking at this example alone, we notice that this specific candidate has a two-year employment gap, but with a polished and detailed skills section like the one above, the recruiter might not even notice it.
4. Mention Your Education
Education is always considered as advantage in the employment market, so make sure to mention it in your functional resume.
Expert Hint: If there’s anything else that you’d like to share regarding your education, feel free to include it: your GPA, relevant coursework, extracurricular activities, etc.
5. Use Bonus Sections
Just like with a chronological resume, extra sections (Volunteering, Languages, Certifications, etc.) can help to show the recruiters that you are the right person for the position.
While it’s great to have other hobbies outside of work, leave out any information that isn’t relevant to the position you’re applying for.
That wasn’t that hard, was it?
Now do you know which resume style to choose?
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Let’s wrap it up—
- The two most common resume formats are: chronological and functional.
- Each resume style is suited for different types of candidates and their different career situations.
- Use a chronological resume if you have a clear career path and would like to highlight your work history.
- Choose the functional resume if you’ve had any gaps in your employment history or if you’re switching industries.
Thanks for reading! Got any lingering questions about using a chronological vs functional resume? Perhaps you have some experience in this matter that you’d like to share? Give us a shout in the comments!
About ResumeLab’s Editorial Process
At ResumeLab, quality is at the crux of our values, supporting our commitment to delivering top-notch career resources. The editorial team of career experts carefully reviews every article in accordance with editorial guidelines, ensuring the high quality and reliability of our content. We actively conduct original research, shedding light on the job market's intricacies and earning recognition from numerous influential news outlets. Our dedication to delivering expert career advice attracts millions of readers to our blog each year.