Chronological vs. functional resumes
A resume is a one- to two-page document summarizing your career objectives, professional experiences and achievements, and educational background.
While there are numerous ways to format your resume, there are two main resume styles: chronological and functional.
As its name implies, a chronological resume is one that lists your experience and education in order, starting with the most recent jobs or achievements. This type of resume is sometimes also referred to as reverse chronological resume, because the order of the listing starts with your current employment. This type of resume preferred – employers will want to know what job you currently hold so that they can better asses your qualifications for the job of your interest.
The same is true for your education; your potential employer would rather know your most recent scholastic achievement. Listing your experience and education in reverse chronological order also shows your potential employer your overall career progress. It also helps in determining the length of employment at each organization, and indicates any gaps in your career (in case of gaps, make sure to address them in your cover letter as to not lead your employer to believe that you are omitting information on purpose).
Chronological resume should list your current job, as well as two to four previously held positions. Don’t skip any employment information on purpose; if your employment history is long, or if you have held jobs further in the past that align well with your current career objective, you can address these qualifications in your professional profile or in your cover letter. Chronological resumes are the most commonly used style, and work best for anyone who has had some professional experience.
Functional resumes focus on your qualifications, not your career timeline. This style of the resume highlights what skills you have, rather than where and when you acquired or utilize them. In other words, instead of listing your experiences by your job titles, your resume will contained sections titled by your skills such as verbal and written communication, customer satisfaction, project management, etc. This resume style is recommended for college students seeking internships or their first jobs out of college, for those with no professional experience, those who have not worked for some time, or for career changers. While potential employers will appreciate the overview of your skills, if you hold any professional experience, consider using the chronological resume, or a combination resume, over the functional format.
A combination resume, although not often discussed, has become a popular format in recent years. As its name implies, it is a combination of chronological resume style and functional resume style. This hybrid style allows professionals to highlight the qualification they have that are critical for the job of their interest, while at the same time listing employment and educational history in reverse chronological order. A word of caution – don’t try to do too much when using a combination resume by going over board with the type and number of sections you include in your resume. It is best to keep the information listed, even in the combination format, to what is relevant for the job.
Same rules apply for each style. Don’t exceed two pages, tailor your resume to your career objective and put your best foot forward in order to get the interview, and eventually the job.