By David Alan Carter

If you’re faced with writing a resume, choosing a chronological or functional resume format is one of the first decisions you’ll have to make. Picking yourself out of one of the following real-life scenarios can help answer the question. First, some quick definitions.

The Chronological Resume Format

The calling card of the chronological format is a detailed work history that is organized by chronology (historical timeline). In most cases, your current or most recent employer is listed first and the timeline flows in reverse chronological order with your most distant position last in the lineup. It’s simple and straightforward. Jobs near the top are presumed more relevant to your objective, and thus are detailed to a greater degree than earlier positions. This chronological work history typically commands the most real estate on the resume, with the education section following, and an objective statement just prior.

The Functional Resume Format

In a departure from a timeline concept, the functional format relies on a categorical, skills-based section to demonstrate your relevant qualifications. It collects the marketable skills you’ve mastered from past work, organizes those skills into three or more succinct categories, and places those categories front and center on the resume. And in doing so, it cuts out all mention of the chronological job listings from which those skills were lifted.

8 Real-Life Scenarios That Call For The Chronological

Check your professional status. If you fit into one of the following groups, then your resume will generally be best served by a chronological format.

  1. Your work history shows progressively responsible experience within the same professional discipline, if that discipline remains your objective.
  2. You’ve worked for impressive employers (i.e. nationally recognized “Blue Chip” companies).
  3. You’re a candidate for a senior management or executive position.
  4. You’re going to be working with an executive recruiter.
  5. You anticipate an international job search.
  6. You’re reentering the work force after an absence.. butremaining in your previous discipline.
  7. You’re transitioning from military to civilian life… butyou’re looking to perform a similar job function (i.e. materials management).
  8. You’re a new graduate… and you have experience in your chosen field.

5 Real-Life Scenarios That Call For The Functional

If you fit into one of the following groups, then your resume will generally be best served by a functional format.

  1. You’ve experienced frequent job changes or you have gaps in your employment history.
  2. You’re changing careers (i.e. warehousing to sales).
  3. You’re transitioning from military to civilian life… and you’re looking to perform a different job function (i.e. from materials management with the military to sales in civilian life).
  4. You’re overqualified for the position you’re now seeking.
  5. You’re a new graduate… and you have no relevant experience in your chosen field.

Might A Combination Format Be Right?

Short answer: yes. In fact, a combination or ‘hybrid’ of both chronological and functional formats makes sense for many professionals. Combining the positive elements of both formats results in a resume that retains its familiarity to tradition (for those who expect and favor a detailed chronology) while focusing initial attention on a skills summary that puts a candidate’s job qualifications front and center for those critical first few seconds of reading. Learning how to effectively combine the two becomes the challenge.

Having trouble working up a skills summary and putting those job qualifications into the most effective language? A professional resume writer can often make a world of difference. But beware, not all writers are created equal. In addition to providing help with resume writing, former recruiter David Alan Carter offers in-depth Resume Service Reviews of the most popular resume services on the Web, reviewing quality of workmanship, spelling out their pricing, and giving each a star ranking. (Note: David’s “Top Pick” actually guarantees interviews.)

Related posts:

  1. (FREE Template) – Functional Chronological Combo Resume
  2. How to Write a Great Resume : How to Pick a Resume Format

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