Chronological or Functional: Which Résumé Type Will Put Your Best Foot Forward?

Question

“I’ve mostly just filled out job applications before, but now I have to make a résumé for the first time. I guess there are multiple types—how do I know what to use?”—Sarah from St. Paul, MN

Answer

While a job application lets you provide the information that the employer wants to know, a résumé lets you decide what information to share and how to organize it.

There are two main types of résumés—chronological and functional.

A chronological résumé is the traditional format, which many recruiters expect to see. It lists, in time order from current to oldest, each job that you have held, what you were responsible for and how it relates to the job you want. A chronological résumé includes dates of employment, whereas a functional résumé may not. This format works best for traditional job seekers who are moving from one role to the next in the same career path and have a steady employment history.

A functional résumé highlights skills without necessarily revealing employment dates. Rather than listing each job, you list your skills and describe how they were demonstrated rather than where or when. The descriptions should also explain how your skills and accomplishments apply to the job you want. While the meat of this résumé will be your skills, you should still list your most recent employers and positions held, but you don’t need to include dates or descriptions. This style is beneficial for people who have gaps in employment history, recent graduates, workers who want to de-emphasize their age and people who are changing careers.

Regardless of which type you use, remember to include these important elements in every version of your résumé:

  • Tell employers who you are and how to contact you. At the very least, include your city, state, zip code and e-mail address.
  • Write a brief summary that tells employers what you can do for them. Tailor this to each job that you apply for, and include keywords.
  • Highlight the things you do well—your skills. State them positively, yet realistically.
  • Chronicle your work history, including, at the very least, your employer, job location and a universally understood job title.
  • List the places and dates of your formal schooling or training, and indicate diplomas, certificates and degrees earned.

Your local Goodwill agency offers numerous resources for job seekers, including resume writing assistance. Type in your zip code at the top of www.goodwill.org and select “Job & Career Support” to find out about services in your area.

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