Job Search Secrets: Chronological vs. Functional Resumes

There are always debates about resumes. How long should they be? How should they be organized? Should they be in plain font or bolded and bulleted?

Employers recently surveyed (2005) reported a distinct preference for chronological resumes over their functional counterparts. Often, resume experts suggest a functional format that emphasizes skills, experiences, and accomplishments and relegates sequential employment history to a footnote. While employers are obviously interested in what you have done in your working life, they also want to know where and when you did it.

The skills and accomplishments of 20 years ago, however impressive, are only questionably relevant to the workplace of the 21st Century. Long before they schedule an interview, they want to know where you last worked and for how long. Frequent job changes are a red flag suggesting that you might be a misfit, a problem, or you simply quit when finding yourself in an uncomfortable position.

You can combine the best aspects of both by listing your work history chronologically but including descriptive language for each position that is based on a functional model – concentrating on what specific activities you performed and the quantitative results of your efforts. (And keep it as short and meaty as possible, eschewing bold font and bullets that scan poorly into the standard company resume database.)