How Do I Read This? Chronological vs. Functional Resumes

“How do I read this?”

It’s the first thing that enters a recruiter’s or hiring manager’s mind when first picking up your resume. Chances are he or she is expecting a common format, and most resumes (outside of the academic realm) are going to be one of three types: chronological, functional, or a hybrid / combination of these two. Though creativity may be warranted in rare cases, it’s generally recommended that you follow a typical format for your resume, lest you risk confusing or frustrating a potential employer. Read on to learn the differences between these different resume formats, in what situations you might choose one over the other, and the advantages and disadvantages of each.

The Chronological Resume: Your Work Timeline In Reverse

The chronological resume is the most common format. You present your work experience by listing your current or most recent position first, then your previous position after that, and so on in reverse chronological order through your career history. These resumes include the name of the employer, your position, dates of employment, and the job duties, activities, skills, accomplishments and so on that are associated with that job. Those with a seasoned career history will list this experience above their education, whereas a recent college graduate without much work experience might reverse this order.

Chronological resumes place emphasis on the most recent experience, the employer, one’s job stability and professional growth. This resume format is an excellent way to highlight a steady work history, especially if the experience is in the same functional area or industry and also to draw attention to steady growth in one’s career. It’s also easy for the employer to read and follow, especially because it’s a common and familiar format.

Unfortunately for those who are trying to change job sectors or functions, or those who have been out of the work force for awhile, this format can place a spotlight on what’s missing and could leave the employer perplexed as to how you are qualified for the position for which you are applying. In these situations, a chronological format may not be the best option.

The Functional Resume: Let Your Skills And Accomplishments Shine

The functional resume places emphasis on your skills, strengths and accomplishments rather than your places and dates of employment. The abilities and achievements you want to highlight are organized into categories on a functional resume, making this format more flexible for organizing your information.

A functional resume is a common choice for a career changer who wants to focus more attention on his or her transferable skills rather than previous employers or job functions. Similarly, they are often a choice for recent graduates or others who lack paid work experience.

Bear in mind that employers are often suspicious of functional resumes because they are also often used to hide employment gaps. This format also underplays your prior work experience and the employers for whom you have worked, and may be confusing and harder to read for an employer who is not familiar with this type of format.

The Hybrid Resume (Or Combination Resume) : Is It Really The Best Of Both Worlds?

The hybrid or combination resume is similar to a functional resume, but it includes a chronological work history in an effort to combat some of the disadvantages of the functional resume, like suspected gaps in work history. In this format, the skills and accomplishments are generally organized in categories like a functional resume, but then the work history (employer, position and dates of employment) is listed in reverse chronological order after the skills and accomplishments are highlighted.

Like a functional resume, this format has the potential to bewilder an employer, who may find it difficult to understand. This type of resume also tends to be longer, which is another potential disadvantage. However, a career changer who has a steady work history in another field may find this a better choice than a functional resume to highlight both transferable skills and a solid employment background.

Regardless of the resume format you choose, it’s important to remember that easy to find information is of the utmost importance. A hiring manager or recruiter will not take the time to put together a puzzle to determine what you’re all about. Your resume should always paint a clear picture of your work history and abilities. Keep this in mind when choosing your resume format.

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