When Do I Use a Chronological Format?

Showcase Your Experience

Knowing if and when to use a chronological resume can give you an edge over your job competition.

So you want to know everything there is to know about a chronological resume? Before you tackle that specific type of resume, it will help if you do a very brief review of the basics.

A resume is a marketing brochure for your product -- you. You want to use it to convince a potential employer to offer you an interview so that they can take a closer look at you.

If you don't get the interview, you don't have a chance to close the sale (get the job). So you need to make your resume appealing. That means it is absolutely necessary that you choose the right type of resume.

There are four key things that a resume does, says Martin Yate, author of the best-selling book Resumes That Knock 'Em Dead.

The first thing is, "To package and sell yourself into that job as a commodity," says Yate. "Because that's what you are in the world of work -- you're selling yourself like Coca-Cola is sold."

You have to think of your qualifications -- your skills and experience -- as the features of your product. The type of resume you choose will either showcase you or emphasize your negative features.

The second thing a resume does is open the door to a company. Most companies require a resume.

Third, a resume provides a road map for the interviewer. It's a starting point for questions that look more deeply into what you can offer the company. The type of resume you present must focus the interviewer on your strong points.

Finally, "[it] is a reminder to the interviewer after the interview as to who you are and what you have to offer," says Yate. "Which means your resume is your most powerful spokesperson after the interviewing is done and you're long gone."

Make sure the type of resume you choose makes you memorable for the right reasons.

A chronological resume is one that puts the focus on your job experience. The other popular type, called a functional resume, puts the focus on your skills.

A chronological resume has three essential sections:

1. Identification -- Provide your name, address, phone number and e-mail address.

2. Work experience or relevant experience -- Starting with the most recent, list the jobs you've had.

3. Education -- If you haven't graduated from high school yet, mention your expected date of graduation.

In addition, there are some optional sections that you can include in your chronological resume --that is, if they are appropriate to help you sell yourself.

Many experts suggest including a section listing your affiliations or interests. "It gives the employer a full view of who you are as a person, as well as skills that might not be work experience but that might translate into a job you're looking for," says Ritskes.

Have you earned some awards or been recognized for special achievements? Then you might consider adding a section called accomplishments or honors.

"If you've done something that stands out, put it there," Yate says. "If you've got enough to have a section named after it, hey, rock on. Go for it. If you've been an honors student for six of the last eight years, put it in there."

One last optional area that might be included is job objective or career objective. "I highly recommend an objective," says Eric Ritskes. He is an employment officer with Human Resources Development Canada. "It's not necessary, but it shows that you're goal-oriented."

Look at the advantages of a chronological resume.

It highlights experience. So for someone whose best selling point is lots of experience, the chronological resume is an advantage. It gives you the opportunity to show actual employment experience, with the additional advantage of showcasing volunteer work and other experience relevant to the job being applied for.

So what are its disadvantages?

The chronological resume does have its disadvantages. The main one is the reverse of its biggest advantage. Since it does highlight experience, if you haven't had many jobs, it will simply highlight your lack of experience. That's just the opposite of the effect you are shooting for.

When should you use a chronological resume?

Penny Debrowski is a student employment coordinator with the University of Manitoba. "I usually recommend it to students in situations where they've got relevant experience for the job they're applying for."

If you've got relevant, recent experience for the job you're applying for, go with a chronological resume. If you have little or no work experience, or your work experience doesn't relate to the job you're applying for, it's probably best to go with a functional resume.

Ritskes says most high school students don't -- and shouldn't -- use a chronological resume.

"I would say 80 to 90 percent of them don't," Ritskes says.

"You'll find with some high school students, by the time they hit Grade 12, they've already had three or four jobs, and a chronological resume might work perfectly for them."

Look at your options and choose the best type of resume for you. Remember that you are trying to sell a product: yourself. Choose the resume that will showcase your product to its best advantage. You want to highlight your product's features, to get a potential employer to give you an interview. Then use that interview to get the job.

After you have created your first chronological resume, plan to add to that chronological resume for the rest of your working life.

"When you create a resume, it's a pain in the neck to do," Yate admits. "And if you really don't like doing it, tough noogies, because you've got 50 years of doing it ahead of you. So you might as well do it right the first time and build on it."


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