Should You Use a Chronological or Functional Resume?
One of the toughest parts of putting together a great resume is knowing where to start. You’ve got to find a way to present your experience, your skills, your goals and your qualities seemingly all at once. How can you make sense of a mountain of information?
Pretty easily, it turns out. There are two main ways to format a resume — chronologically and functionally. Each one has its own pros and cons, and learning their strengths is the first step in knowing which one is right for you.
Chronological resumes are just what it sounds like: a summary of your work experience arranged as a timeline, usually starting with the most recent job and working backward from there. Each job entry includes the employer, the location, your duration there and relevant information about your duties and successes.
Pros: Chronological resumes are a popular choice in the corporate world, and they’re used by a majority of job applicants. They’re also the kind of resume most HR associates or hiring managers expect. There’s a reason for the popularity. A chronological format is clean and orderly, and it’s easy for the reader to instantly understand where you’re working right now and where you were before.
Cons: Despite the popularity of timeline resumes, there are some drawbacks. By arranging your experience by year, you risk highlighting jobs that you only held for a brief period of time. This can sometimes turn off potential employers, even if your short tenure at a particular job had nothing to do with a failure on your part. A series of quick jobs can make you look unstable or a risky hire.
Chronological resumes can also emphasize gaps in your employment history, whether it’s a gap between positions or a longer period of time when you didn’t have a job at all. There’s nothing criminal about not having a job, but gaps between jobs will need to be explained to potential employers.
Chronological resumes can occasionally feel less personal. The reader’s given a series of jobs, but often no emphasis on particularly important ones, and it can be easy for major accomplishments to get buried toward the bottom of the resume simply because they occurred two or three jobs ago.
Functional resumes are built on your individual strengths and experiences, using your personal accomplishments as a starting point. Instead of jumping in and discussing your current or most recent job, a functional resume begins by discussing your skills and talents.
Pros: A functional resume is the best way to come out swinging with your strengths and skills. It’s your chance to grab the potential employer’s attention with your aptitude and experience, and from there you can take them on a tour of your work history. A functional layout also makes it easier to promote your relevant licenses and certifications instead of listing them at the bottom in a section touting all of your skills, like you’d see on a chronological resume.
Cons: It’s hard for a reader to reconstruct an exact work history from a functional resume. Your qualifications and work highlights are easy to read, but your career path can be a little tougher to understand, since your jobs will be relegated to a short list toward the bottom of the document. This doesn’t necessarily look like you’re hiding something, but it might have the appearance that you’re more eager to talk about what you know than where you learned it. This kind of layout also makes it difficult, if not impossible, to link achievements (raises, expanded duties, etc.) to the corresponding jobs. For an employer looking for those details, a functional resume might be a turnoff.
There’s good news, though: You aren’t tied to one format, it’s a good idea to try them both out and see which one works best for you in the field. You can always change between them, too. Whichever you pick, though, the goal’s the same: to showcase your skills and make a personal connection with the employer.
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