How Do I Read This? Chronological vs. Functional Resumes

Chronological vs. Functional Resumes

“How do I read this?”

It’s the first thing that enters a recruiter or hiring manager’s mind when scanning 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 the 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 through your career history. These resumes include the name of the employer, your position, dates of employment, and the job duties, activities, skills, and accomplishments 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 emphasize 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 workforce for a while, 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 Ideal Layout of a Chronological Resume

The layout of a chronological resume is fairly traditional and seeks to highlight your “marketing pitch” by signaling to recruiters what you do, where you want to head professionally, and how you can add value to a new company in a streamlined manner that can pass the 6-second test. 

Remember to customize your summary and objective sections according to every job so that you mention the right keywords and objectives that align with the job posting. Indeed, over 75% of recruiters use some form of applicant tracking software (ATS) that weeds out resumes that seem irrelevant to the job, and it does so by being programmed to scan for certain keywords. 

When creating your chronological resume, ensure that you include job-specific keywords that you find in a job description’s qualifications section. Include the stand-out keywords seamlessly and naturally within the resume text, so that it passes the approval of both the software and the human eye. 

The following are the main sections to include in your chronological resume:

  • Name, current position title, and contact information
  • Summary and objective
  • Professional experience
  • Education and certification
  • Skills and abilities 


The Functional Resume: Let Your Skills And Accomplishments Shine

The functional resume emphasizes 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 harder to read for an employer who is not familiar with this type of format.

How to Format a Functional Resume

Since functional resumes function more so on skills than past work experience, highlighting your skills and abilities should take precedence in this type of resume. 

To format your functional resume, organize your information in the following order:

  • Name, job title, and contact information 
  • Overview of professional skills and abilities 
  • Awards, scholarships, and certifications
  • Education, former training, and work history


Since your prior work history may be quite different from the type of work you are currently seeking, it is best to include it with your education experience as the last section of your resume. That way, it will only support your application and not detract from your desire to highlight your transferable skills.

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, especially given the 6-second time frame that is often used to scan each resume. 

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.

The Different Types of Resumes to Consider

Now that you know more about the traditional resume difference, what about the nontraditional resumes that are all the hit in the tech and creative industries? Perhaps you’re an artist, a creative, or a freelancer, and would like to express your creativity through an infographics resume or a video resume that is more targeted to your field. In that case, these are the top nontraditional resume types to consider:

Infographic Resume 

Did you know that an average person learns and retains information better visually than through words? That’s where infographics come in! Infographic resumes help showcase your professional journey in a visual way that is easy to understand and that attuned to the readers’ empathy and understanding in a powerful way. If done correctly, infographic resumes are attention-grabbing, easy to scan and understand, and can showcase your creativity, personality, and uniqueness to hiring managers. 

Do keep in mind, however, that including infographics instead of text in a resume is not recommended, since your resume will most likely be subject to hiring managers’ applicant tracking systems. Therefore, make sure to write out all the important information, including the main keywords, and include the infographic as an explanatory supplement that makes all that information more digestible and influential.

Video Resume 

Video resumes are becoming more and more popular, especially in industries where personality, communications, and customer relations are key to success in a job. Video resumes are effective, since they are memorable, stand out from the crowd, and can showcase that you are an out-of-the-box value asset. They can also more readily showcase your persuasion skills, creativity, and whether you would be a cultural fit within a company.

Although video resumes are truly recommended for certain industries, they should still be treated as a supplementary addition to your written out resume that is often scanned by recruiting software to weed out non-qualified candidates. Overall, the power of video resumes lies in showcasing more of what you can bring to the table and in standing out in a very competitive industry. 

Portfolio Resume 

If you are a technical or a creative wizard and are looking for work that is based on technical expertise, perhaps a portfolio resume that showcases your skills through projects, commissions, and interactive visuals would be more suited for your industry. To create a portfolio resume, you can use an online platform that is suitable for your industry niche that will showcase your work in a stylized and customized manner. 

When choosing this type of resume, it is also important to send it over with a cover letter (or a one-paragraph note that pitches your experience to each job in a targeted way). This will personalize your portfolio and will show recruiters why and how you want to use your abilities in a new professional setting.

Resume Expert Advice

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.

Capstone Resume Services is one of the top resume writing services in the U.S., known for its free personal consultations, affordable resumes and cover letters, and effective LinkedIn profiles Learn more here. Get in touch with us today, commitment-free and get the help you need!