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Chronological Vs. Functional Resumes: What’s Best for You?
May 28th, 2010 by Juliana Weiss-Roessler  Posted in Most Popular, Resume Writing
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get-paid-for-resumeThe most common resume format that people use is chronological, a simple listing of your work history with the most recent position listed first. But this isn’t always the best format to convince an employer to bring you in for an interview.

For some, a functional resume is a better option. This format focuses on skills and achievements and allows candidates to show off their most impressive experiences. The downside? Since this isn’t a common format, some employers are confused by functional resumes or may be suspicious that you are trying to hide a spotty employment record. 

So how do you know if it’s right for you? A chronological format works best if you have a stable, clear career progression through only one or two fields. A functional resume might be a good choice for you if you are…

…just starting out. You may not have relevant work experience, but you can highlight the achievements you made in volunteer work, extracurricular activities, sports, and classes.

…changing careers. You may not have experience in the particular field that you are looking to move into, but you have gained many transferrable skills that can be applied. 

…coming back to the workplace. Maybe you took time off to backpack through Europe or raise your family. Take the focus off the gaps in your employment and back on your relevant experience and skills.

…normally a volunteer worker. Even though most of your relevant experience is unpaid, a functional format may better display how you can be of value to the for-profit sector. Read also: Should You Consider a Volunteer Position When Unemployed and Looking for Work?

…“over-qualified.” If you’re afraid employers will skip over your resume because they are afraid you will be bored in a new position or are seeking a higher pay than you are, this format can help put the focus back where it belongs: on you and your qualifications.

…an older worker. To avoid age discrimination before you’re even in the door, draw attention away from your lengthy job history by eliminating the dates. Read also: Five Job Search Tips for Older Workers

…a job hopper. If you’ve moved around a lot, this can make employers wary of hiring you. 

…not getting enough interviews. For whatever reason, the traditional format may not be doing a good job at selling your skills to a potential employer.

…seeking a promotion. If you’re looking to take a step up the ladder, this can be a good way to highlight the specific achievements you have made that make you management material.

Still not sure? Try both formats. Remember, for the functional format, include as much context as you can to help your potential employer connect your skills with the experience that produced those skills.

Now review both resumes. Without a stated career objective, can you tell what type of job you are seeking and what you would be good at? If so, you’re on the right path to getting in the door for an interview!
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  • Megan

    As a Recruiter, Chronological resumes are ALWAYS preferred and requested by my customers and all hiring managers. They are interested in seeing what you have worked on and if it's relevant to what they are looking for, not just a summary of skills that you have gained over the years.

  • Something to think about. If employers are looking for Chronological Resumes, they might assume you are trying to hide something by going with a Functional Resume. And, if they are looking for an easy way to eliminate folks during the down-select process, you can be eliminated before even talking with the Hiring Manager.

  • Christopher Cossette

    The chronological resume has always been my choice - but now since the job market is extremely competitive, I have switched to the functional and I love this format. I have several versions created for the specific job. I eliminated the dates, I want recruiters and potential bosses to hear first hand from ME about my qualification, not rely soley on a piece of paper.

  • Paula

    Christopher,
    Just be aware, that a resume with no dates at all will be most likely seen as someone trying to hide a spotty employment history and you may not get the opportunity to talk with the employer. If I cannot tell at least in broad strokes how long you have done the jobs or if there are little or few gaps, I won't call you in as the other candidates usually DO have this information.

    With the volume of resumes coming across desks now, you do your self a disservice to leave out key details that can pull you IN, rather than screen you OUT.

    Make it easy for the reviewer to determine that you are a match and invite you in.

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