The Pros and Cons of a Reverse Chronological Resume
By Indeed Editorial Team
Updated October 31, 2022
Published September 7, 2021
The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.
When you’re looking for a job, it can be helpful to understand how your resume might be interpreted by hiring managers or recruiters. The most common resume format is a reverse chronological resume, as it offers an easy-to-read format. If you're in the process of creating a resume, learning more about this type of resume can help you make yours more effective. In this article, we explain what a reverse chronological resume format is, explore the pros and cons of using it, discuss how to write one, and share tips for making it as effective as possible.
What is a reverse chronological resume?
This type of resume lists your work history and accomplishments, starting with the most recent. Similar to functional and combined resumes, reverse chronological resumes follow a set of rules, such as quantifying your accomplishments, including a skills section, and are concise for faster readability. This format provides some key differences that can enhance your chances of receiving an interview. To help you determine whether using a resume in this format is the right option for you, it helps to understand the pros and cons of this format.
The pros of a resume in reverse chronological order
Here are the pros of using a resume in reverse chronological order:
Provides a clear view of your career path
When you list your work history in reverse chronological order, you tell the story of your career path. You show where you started, how you advanced and what you are working to achieve. It is an effective method of demonstrating your professional growth to prospective employers.
Meets recruiters' expectations
Most employers are more familiar with reverse chronological resumes than functional resumes. This resume format has been the standard for years in most industries. Using a traditional format can benefit you as a job candidate, especially when a company uses Automated Tracking Systems (ATS) or standardized application forms.
If you are a professional with consistent work history, this format highlights your competency. It conveys your continual development of skills. It also lets the recruiters know that your skills and knowledge are up to date in your current field.
The cons of a resume in reverse chronological order
Here are the cons of using a resume in reverse chronological order:
Includes unrelated work
It is common to have some positions in your resume outside the current field you are pursuing. This is more noticeable when that position is your most recent job title. A practical solution for this is to find transferable skills or accomplishments related to the job posting. Once you determine what these are, include them below the job position. That way, you can demonstrate that what you were able to accomplish in an unrelated field is transferable to the one you're pursuing.
For example, suppose your latest job was in retail, and you're pursuing a new career at a restaurant as a server. Your customer service, communication, and interpersonal skills are transferrable as both roles require these skills. Customer testimonials or a good reference letter from your supervisor can help further emphasize these skills and expertise.
With a resume in this format, the gaps in your job history are more apparent, especially when the gap is for several years or following your latest job position. A solution is to include on your resume any relevant volunteer work, personal projects, or certifications you gained during your time without a job. Think about your skills and growth during this time, and how these factors can add value to the company or job you want.
For example, suppose you left your job in IT to study, and there is an employment gap of two to three years in your resume. Connect the knowledge you gained and developed in your studies to the job posting.
How to write a reverse chronological resume
Here are the steps on how to write a reverse chronological resume:
1. Include your name and contact information
This section is the header of your resume. It features the information that prospective employers or recruiters use to contact you. Start with your first and last names, email addresses, and location. It is unnecessary to include your postal address in your location.
Depending on the job posting or field of work, you may include links to your portfolio, social media profiles, or blog. Only do so if you think these additional resources add value to your candidacy. Make sure the email you include is professional and includes a simple variation of your name. If you don't have one, consider creating a new one for your job search. That can also help you keep track of your applications more efficiently.
2. Write a summary
What you include in this summary is usually the first impression you make to hiring managers. The appropriate length is between two to three sentences long. Remember to be concise. Review the job posting to ensure you write your work experience, accomplishments, and goals in a way that aligns with the hiring company. The goal is to increase interest and encourage the prospective employer to want to learn more about you.
3. Write a professional history
This section is the most important one on your resume. It shows prospective employers that you are a good fit for the job. List your job experience in reverse chronological order, including job title, company name, achievements, and the dates of employment. It's standard to include your job history from the past 10 years. Remember to quantify your accomplishments to provide recruiters with a measurable statistic of the value you can add. For example, if you helped a company increase sales, quantify it by stating that you "increased company revenue by 40%." Measurable statements help your chances more than vague ones.
4. Include education details
The education section includes your program's name, university or college name and the years of attendance. If you think it is relevant, you may add honours or accomplishments.
If you are a recent graduate with little work experience, you may include the education section above your job history. That way, you can demonstrate the level of knowledge and experience you acquired through your education first. Some entry-level jobs may prioritize education over work experience.
5. Write a skills section
List your hard skills first, which are measurable abilities and knowledge of software or other specific devices. Examples of hard skills are bookkeeping, coding, or foreign language skills. If you have any industry-specific certifications, this is the place to include them. Then list soft skills, which are non-measurable abilities, such as interpersonal skills, work ethic, leadership skills, and project management.
It helps to include your proficiency level for each skill. Recruiters can better measure your abilities if they know whether you are at a beginner, intermediate, advanced, or expert level. Remember to highlight the most relevant skills in relation to the job posting, as that can increase your chances of getting an interview.
Related: Hard Skills vs. Soft Skills
Tips for writing a resume in reverse chronological order
Here are some essential tips you can keep in mind when writing and reviewing your resume:
Keep it one to two pages long
When your resume is one to two pages long, it is much easier and quicker to read. Reducing it to one page is even better but can be challenging when you have an extensive job history. The goal is to help recruiters read your skills and qualifications in the shortest time possible.
Create distinct sections
To maximize the readability of your resume, it helps to add clear separations between each section. You can add sub-headers, ensure enough spacing is present, and include lines between the sections. The goal is for recruiters to scan your resume and assess your qualifications quickly.
Use a simple font
Pick a font that is simple and easy to scan. You can use a font size that is 11 or 12 points for the body, and the headers can be 14 or 16 points. If you want to use two different font sizes, one for the body and another for the headers, that is appropriate, but ensure the two styles complement each other.
Related: The Best Fonts for Your Resume
Most resumes use the standard black and white colour palette, which is an appropriate and effective practice to follow. When you add colour to your resume, it helps to create attention to your document. Be subtle in your colour inclusion by picking one that complements your resume and creates a visually satisfying contrast. Remember to make sure the information is still easy to read.
Use PDF format
Save your resume as a PDF file rather than a word processing document. That can help maintain the design and layout of your resume while also securing your information from being altered. Unless the job posting specifies the type of file they want resumes, send your resume as a PDF.
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