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In every area of life, trends come and go. But—
There are those all-time classics that are never out of style. Think about the little black dress or the ‘68 Shelby Mustang.
That’s what a chronological CV is for the hiring industry.
The paradigm of job search. The go-to format for nearly every candidate.
Want to know what makes it so special? Not sure how to write a reverse-chronological CV?
In this guide:
- The best chronological CV definition & a breakdown of its advantages.
- An easy-to-use chronological CV template to fill in with your information.
- Chronological CV examples that will show you how to write yours.
- Expert hacks for writing the most effective reverse-chronological CV out there.
1. What Is a Chronological CV & Who Should Write One
Let’s cover the very basics first.
(Reverse) Chronological CV Definition
A chronological CV (or actually a reverse-chronological CV) is the most common and universal of the three standard CV styles. Its focal point is the work history section in which you outline up to 15 years of your most recent employment, listing positions in descending chronological order and outlining your key responsibilities.
A chronological CV template consists of the following sections, usually in the below order:
Chronological CV Template—Order of Sections
- CV header with contact information
- CV profile (summary or objective)
- Work experience
- Additional activities
Here’s a reverse-chronological CV example so you can see what it looks like in practise.
Sample Chronological CV
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What makes the reverse-chronological CV format so good?
First of all, it highlights what matters most to recruiters: your work history, with a focus on your most recent employment.
That’s why recruiters prefer this format over the other ones. And your professional future is in their hands, so you better play by their rules.
Secondly, the chronological CV layout is most likely to pass an ATS test. See, nowadays most large companies (98% of Fortune 500) use algorithms and bots to scan CVs before they reach human decision-makers.
Those bots look for keywords such as:
- Job titles
- Employment dates
- Names of educational institutions
And a reverse-chronological CV makes all of the above prominent and easy to parse.
Feel like you should write a good ol’ classic chronological CV?
You’re probably right! Let’s look into what types of candidates can benefit from writing a chronological CV most.
Who is the reverse-chronological CV best for?
- Students and entry-level job seekers.
- Mid- to senior-level candidates.
- People applying to corporate jobs.
- Candidates looking for a position within the industry they currently work in.
In other words, virtually everyone.
See, the chronological CV is such a great format mostly because it’s versatile. It doesn’t matter if you’re a rookie or a seasoned pro. What’s more—
You can adjust this CV structure so that it fits your needs. I’ll explain that in detail in the following section.
Are there other CV formats I can pick?
The two other typical CV formats are:
- Functional CV which focuses on skills over work history.
- Combination CV which, as the name suggests, is a hybrid of the chronological and functional CV formats.
If you’d like to take a closer look at the two other options, see our dedicated guide comparing a chronological vs functional vs combination CV and make a fully-informed choice.
But (don’t say I didn’t warn you), you’ll most likely end up with a chronological CV format anyway. And it will be for a good reason!
Now, let’s walk through how you can make the most of each section of a chronological CV. Read on for tonnes of examples and actionable tips.
(Plus, as a bonus, at the bottom you’ll get a ready-to-use fill-in-the-blanks rev-chron CV template you’ll be able to adjust in minutes.)
2. How to Write a Chronological CV Step by Step
If there’s any downside to the chronological CV setup, it’s that your CV might end up looking too similar to those by other candidates.
Add a bit of extra value to each section. It’s not that hard—let me show you how.
1. Create a good CV header for your chronological CV
- Your full name
- Job title
- Phone number
- Email address
- (Optionally) Personal website and additional social media handles
Pretty simple, right?
If you need more detail, read our in-depth guide to creating a standout CV header.
2. Write a good CV profile: summary or objective
It’s that short-and-sweet paragraph at the top of your CV.
The purpose of a CV profile is to provide an overview of your qualifications and expertise plus present a few highlights of your career.
Got 2+ years’ experience in your field? Your CV profile should be a professional summary that focuses on accomplishments and shows how you’ll translate those into success in your prospective position.
Barely starting out on your career?Put a CV objective statement at the top of your reverse-chronological CV. Showcase skills that you’ve mastered so far and explain how well you’ll fit in.
Whichever one you pick, here’s a universal formula to follow:
- Start with an adjective that describes your professional self.
- Follow with years of experience.
- List 2–3 relevant skills.
- Name-drop the company you’re applying to and explain what you have to offer.
- List a few of the most job-relevant accomplishments.
These examples show you how a CV profile works in practise.
Professional profile on a chronological CV: examples
The first one comes from a senior marketing specialist CV.
See that? Specific information on the candidate’s skill set and solid examples of achievements that back those skills up.
Now, see a sample CV profile that doesn’t quite tick all the boxes.
Not awful, true.
But it doesn’t include anything special other than generic qualifications most candidates for that position will have.
3. Describe your work experience to show you’ll do the job well
Here comes the key component of every reverse-chronological CV template.
The work history section. It’s the most prominent part of the whole CV. One that makes or breaks your chances.
Here’s how to craft a millennium-falcon-like experience section on a chronological CV:
- Start with your current or most recent position, then follow it with the one before it, then the previous one, and so on.
- Limit yourself to up to 15 years of professional experience. Leave off all positions older than that.
- In every entry, include your job title, company name, dates worked, and up to 6 bullet points detailing your duties and achievements.
- Focus only on what’s relevant to the position you’re targeting—it’s called “tailoring” a CV to match the requirements of the job on offer.
- Don’t dwell on what you did. Highlight how well you did it. If you have quantifiable accomplishments, show them off.
- As you go back in time, use fewer and fewer bullet points. Your most recent professional activity is what really matters to recruiters.
Alright, let’s see a good and a bad example of presenting your work history in a reverse-chronological CV layout.
Work experience on a chronological CV: examples
Here’s a top-notch work history section sample taken from a CV of a data scientist.
The job to which she’s applying requires skills in machine learning, data mining, and model development optimization.
And here’s a less-than-perfect sample from a PR specialist CV.
Night and day. The good example fits the job like Spandex. Plus, it lists specific, verifiable achievements. Recruiters would have to be crazy to not call her up for an interview.
The bad example? It lacks details, is vague, and just plain boring.
4. Make good use of your education section
For most candidates, listing education on their chronological CVs is a sheer formality.
If you have over 2 years of relevant experience in your field, make your education section brief and to-the-point.
- Major (and minors, if you have them)
- University name
- Graduation date
Like in this example:
Education on a chronological CV: example
BSc in Mathematics; Minor in Italian
The City University of New York, Brooklyn, NY
Recently graduated and don’t have a solid work history to show off yet?
Do two things—
First of all, make your education section the main selling point of your chronological CV. Put it above the work experience.
Secondly, add more details about your educational background: list relevant coursework, honours and awards, extracurricular activities, and other achievements.
You can learn more by reading our guide to perfecting your education section.
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5. Present your most job-relevant skills
Make a skills section that clearly stands out from the rest of your CV. List between 5 and 10 skills relevant to the position you’re targeting.
Don’t just cram your chronological CV with a random set of skills. Go about it this way:
- Start with a spreadsheet, or even just a sheet of paper if you’re a more analogue type. List all your professional skills.
- Read the job description carefully. Identify skills-related keywords (usually, you’ll find those under “Requirements” or “Required qualifications” in the job ad). Note those keywords down.
- Go back to your list. How many skills match? I’m sure quite a few! That’s your reverse chronological CV’s skills list.
- Mix your “hard,” job-specific skills with a few soft skills (e.g. communication, interpersonal skills, active listening). Soft skills matter more and more to employers. Plus, numerous studies confirm soft skills have a huge impact on the results we achieve at work.
Master the art and science behind putting skills on a CV with our dedicated guide.
6. Add “extra” sections to prove your value
Like I said above, the only potential flaw of the chronological CV setup is that it’s just sooo common and almost formulaic.
Sure, you’ve already learned how to max out each standard part of your CV. Time for one extra step—
Create an additional CV section and enter a few of your proudest professional “wins.”
Check out these ideas.
Additional sections for a chronological CV: examples
- Industry awards
- Conference participation
- Volunteering experience
- Thought leadership/social media influencing
It’s a perfect example of show don’t tell. All of the above will make your key qualifications much more believable.
And voila. Follow the above steps to create a job-winning chronological CV.
Before you start writing your CV, though, I’ve got a bonus for you!
If you’re pressed for time, you feel free to use the handy template below.
Copy it, add your own details, and you’ll have a perfectly-structured chronological CV in minutes.
3. Reverse-Chronological CV Template to Copy, Tweak, and Use
[Dependable/detail-oriented/creative/another adjective that describes you][Your Job Title] with [Number of Years] years of experience in [coordinating projects/inbound marketing/front-end development/another key area of your expertise] seeking to join [Target Company Name] to help boost all of your major KPIs in the upcoming months. In my [current/previous position] with [Company Name][boosted sales/cut costs/improved processes/other relevant achievements] by 30% year-on-year.
- [Achievement #1]
- [Achievement #2]
- [Responsibility #1]
- [Responsibility #2]
- [Responsibility #3]
- [Achievement #1]
- [Responsibility #1]
- [Responsibility #2]
- (Optional) Relevant coursework
- (Optional) Extracurricular activities
- (Optional) Academic achievements and awards
- [Skill #1]
- [Skill #2]
- [Skill #3]
- [Skill #4]
- [Skill #5]
- [Skill #1]
- [Skill #2]
- [Skill #3]
- Conference participation
- Additional training
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Here’s a recap of how to write a chronological CV:
- Include your contact information at the top.
- Write a good CV profile: a summary or an objective.
- List your work history in the reverse-chronological order, highlighting achievements over responsibilities.
- List your highest degree of education.
- Include a good list of your most relevant skills.
- Add extra sections such as conferences, publications, certifications, or additional training.
Questions? Concerns? Need further help? I’m here to listen and respond. Drop me a line in the comments and I’ll get back to you double-quick!