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You know what’s so special about the reverse chronological resume?
It proves that some good things never change.
In every area of life, trends come and go, but there are those all-time classics that’ll never fall out of fashion, such as the little black dress, the 1968 Shelby Mustang, and...
...the reverse chronological resume layout. The reverse chronological resume is like the HR industry’s classic Bialetti Moka Express coffee pot: it’s been used since time immemorial and yet lost none of its charm.
And why’s that?
In short, because it's very usable, will survive trial by fire and make recruiters want to talk to you.
If you’re thinking “oh, but it’s so common, unimaginative, and looks like all the other resumes,” you might actually be right.
But only because you don’t know what to do. Yet.
Time to learn how to dress up your reverse chronological resume so that it stands out from the crowd. Do it right, and you will land that dream job!
This guide will show you:
Here's a sample resume for a project manager made using our resume builder.
Want to save time and have your chronological resume ready in 5 minutes? Try our resume builder. It’s fast and easy to use. Plus, you'll get tips and right vs. wrong examples while writing your resume. See 20+ chronological resume templates and create your resume here.
Sample chronological resume made with our builder. See 20+ chronological resume templates and create your resume here!
A reverse chronological resume highlights your work history. You list your most recent or current position first. Then you work your way back in time to include previous jobs in reverse chronological order - hence, the name of this resume format.
It’s the most common resume format and it’s arguably the best resume layout for most candidates.
Because it saves the recruiters’ time. And their time is precious.
The recruiters and hiring managers want to know if you’ll perform well in your new job. They verify this by looking at your career journey: the positions you held, the companies you worked for, and duties you performed.
The purpose of a reverse chronological resume is to serve all that information on a silver platter.
ProTip: Nowadays, many employers use Applicant Tracking Software (ATS) for scanning job applications. The ATS extracts key information about your career and looks for resume keywords in your resume. The ATS has been designed, primarily, to read reverse chronological resumes. So if you submit a resume in this format, you can be sure that the ATS won’t choke on it.
When is a reverse chronological resume advantageous?
Have a look at the differences between three resume formats: combination, functional, and reverse chronological.
|Reverse Chronological Resume||Functional Resume||Combination Resume|
|Chief focus||Work experience / Education||Skills||Skills and work experience|
|Work experience section||At the top, relevant||At the bottom, irrelevant||In the middle, relevant|
|Skills section||In the middle, relevant||At the top, relevant||At the top, relevant|
|Layout||Professional and traditional||Non-conventional, confusing||Professional and creative|
|Application Tracking Software (scannability)||Scannable||Non-scannable||Scannable|
|Main advantage||Easy to read, universal||Conceals flaws in work history||Emphasizes and validates skills|
|Main weakness||Very common, might require tweaking||Suggests you're hiding something||Suitable for few candidates|
|Good for||Virtually all candidates||Creative jobs, Military transitioners, Candidates who don't want to seem overqualified||Career changers, experienced professionals|
|Not ideal for||Career changers||Students, experienced professionals, career changers, entry-level candidates||Entry-level candidates, students|
When is a chronological resume not advantageous?
As you can see, the only potential shortcoming of the reverse chronological resume layout is that it seems basic and unoriginal.
But that’s an opportunity.
Read on and we’ll show you how to make easy tweaks to your basic chronological resume so that you have the best resume format out there.
Want to learn more about other resume formats? Think you could benefit from focusing on your skills? Read our guide: 3 Resume Formats: How to Choose the Best One [Examples]
The whole point of resume formatting is to organize the content you want to include for the recruiter’s convenience.
You need to divide your resume into specific sections.
Here’s a checklist of all sections a basic reverse chronological resume template has to include, from top to bottom:
Reverse chronological resume sample made with our builder - See more templates and create your resume here.
That’s pretty obvious, right? You want your resume to make the recruiters call you for an interview, but they need to know how to reach you.
In the contact information, enter your:
ProTip: In your contact information section, you should include a link to your LinkedIn profile. Don’t have one yet? Well - get one! Almost 9 out of 10 recruiters expect you to be on LinkedIn.
This section is an introduction to your resume. Its purpose is to present you as the perfect candidate for the job.
A resume summary highlights your career progress and achievements.
A resume objective, in turn, shows what skills you’ve mastered and how you’d fit in.
In this section, enter a list of your former positions in reverse chronological order. Your current or most recent job is at the top of the list, followed by previous positions.
Usually, all you have to do in this section is to file your highest degree of education. Enter the name and location of your school, your major, and the graduation date.
In this section, list your skills relevant to the job opening: the languages you know (because these are always worth mentioning), IT skills, job-specific skills, and, last but not least, your transferable skills a.k.a. “soft” skills.
All of the above sections are must-haves. But those don’t add up to a perfect chronological resume - just a decent one.
Additional sections can turn a decent chronological resume into a perfect one.
Here are some ideas for an additional section to put on your resume:
And there you have it - a complete reverse chronological resume outline.
ProTip: Resume file format matters! It’s usually a good idea to have your reverse chronological resume in PDF - this way you make sure that your resume layout stays intact. But remember to double check the job description and make sure the employer accepts PDFs. In case they don’t - send a Word resume.
Want some more expert tips and examples on how to structure your resume sections? Read our guide: “Resume Sections to Include on Your Resume: Guide (+20 Examples)"
The recruiters are very busy people. They have to review hundreds of resumes every day. Do you know how long, on average, they take to scan one?
During those 6 seconds, they’re going to look only at the top third of your resume. That’s why you have to put the most relevant information up there. Only then will you catch the recruiters’ attention.
How to make it happen?
Let’s break down three key strategies to boost your chronological resume so that it gets you the interview:
3.1. First of all, write a perfectly crafted resume summary or resume objective. "How To Write A Resume Summary: 21 Best Examples You Will See” AND “+20 Resume Objective Examples - Use Them On Your Resume (Tips)”
Which one to use?
If you have job-relevant work experience, go for the resume summary. Highlight the most important aspects of your career and your qualifications. A resume summary is like your “elevator pitch.”
If you’re an entry-level candidate, a career changer, or if you’re writing a student chronological resume, use the resume objective. Tell about your skills that will make you perform well. Focus on the benefit your employer will gain by hiring you.
Our resume builder (you can create your resume here) will give you tips and examples on how to write your resume summary or any other section. You can easily copy them straight into your resume - it will save you a ton of time.
Inside Uptowork’s resume tool you will find tips and examples for your resume
Here’s another useful trick to help have the best chronological resume in the pile:
3.2. Add measurable achievements to the descriptions of your past jobs.
How to do it?
Let’s say you’re applying for a social media manager position. In your current job, you designed a Facebook marketing strategy to help improve online sales of one of your clients.
Here’s how to show it off in your work experience section.
Work experience entry on a chronological resume sample:
Key achievement: implemented a new Facebook marketing strategy to help increase the fan base from 3,000 to 12,000 in 4 months which boosted the monthly online sales by 49%.
ProTip: Quantify whenever possible. “5+ years experience,” not “extensive experience,” “reduced costs by 25%” not “significantly reduced costs.”
Want to learn more about listing your achievements on a resume? We have a dedicated guide for you: “Achievements to Put on a Resume - Complete Guide (+30 Examples)”
3.3. Tailor your resume to the job description
Here’s a brutal truth:
To maximize your chances of landing an interview, you need a separate resume for each job application.
Because the recruiters don’t have time to read your whole resume. Instead, they will look for very specific keywords [LINK: how to put keywords on a resume] that show you’re the right candidate.
Don’t stress out, it’s really easy to find them!
Those keywords are always listed in the job ad. They’re going to be called “responsibilities” or “duties.”
If you read a job description and see tasks that you’ve done previously in your career, you have to mention them on your resume.
Not sure how to list all your work experience on a reverse chronological resume template? Want to learn what jobs to include and what to leave out? Read our guide: “How to List Work Experience on Your Resume [+20 Examples”
We’ve got some good news for you! More often than not, listing your education on a reverse chronological resume is easy.
Still, there are some standard rules on how to do it. And you have to follow them.
The common advice is to mention only your highest degree of education.
The standard education section entry in a reverse chronological resume format includes:
Alright, but what should you do if you’ve graduated from a prestigious college and want to show it off, or you’re writing a student chronological resume and have little relevant work experience?
In such case, we have two tips for you:
Want to see some more tips to help you write the best reverse chronological resume education section? See our guide: "How to Put Your Education on a Resume [Tips & Examples]"
At the end of the day, it’s your skills that make you a great professional, right?
So make your reverse chronological resume emphasize and showcase your skillset.
Start with a worksheet: list all your skills that are relevant to the job you’re applying for. These will usually land in one of the three categories:
Then, read the job description carefully. Look for skills-related keywords such as “MS Office proficiency”, “written communication”, “multi-tasking” or “timeliness” and highlight them.
Remember when we mentioned tailoring? Here it comes again!
You need to match your skills from the worksheet to those your future employer expects.
Need some more examples of chronological resume skills? Want to perfectly polish your skills section? Read our guide: "+30 Best Examples of What Skills to Put on a Resume (Proven Tips)"
Recruiters across all industries have one common worry:
Most job seekers lie on their resumes.
So show the recruiters that, unlike others, you mean business.
On your reverse chronological resume, put additional sections that validate your value as a candidate.
If you’ve got certifications relevant to your field - enter them on your resume.
If you’ve published articles in industry journals, tell the recruiters about it and, if possible, add links to your pieces.
Participated in professional conferences? List them on your chronological resume.
Run an industry blog? Perfect! Put the URL on your resume.
If you’re writing a student chronological resume and don’t yet have industry-related achievements, your resume can still benefit from an additional section:
For instance, you can add a hobbies and interest section.
Your hobbies show that you’re a good cultural fit for the company. And, nowadays, it’s becoming more and more important for the employers.
ProTip: Once you’ve sent out your resume, don’t forget to follow up! It shows that you’re genuinely interested in the job offer and not just applying to anything you see. And some employers won’t even consider your application if you fail to follow it up with an email or a phone call.
Want to see some ideas on what hobbies and interest can help you break the ice on your interview? See our dedicated guide: “+20 Best Examples of Hobbies & Interests to Put on a Resume (5 Tips)”
Whatever career stage you’re at, the professional reverse chronological format of a resume is a good choice for you. Remember about the key strategies we covered and you can be sure to start landing interviews:
Tailor your resume to the job description. When reading the job ad, look for keywords related to your responsibilities and skills. Make sure to use those keywords on your resume.
If you have little or no work experience, use a modified reverse chronological resume for fresh graduates: put your education section above your work experience and elaborate more on your coursework.
Quantify your achievements whenever possible and use action words.
Finally, show that you’ve got another string to your bow by adding an additional section: show off your certifications, publications, industry awards, volunteer experience, or hobbies and interests.
Would you like to learn more about how to make your reverse chronological resume template fully advantageous? Not sure how to list your professional achievements in reverse chronological order? Give us a shout in the comments and we’ll answer your questions!
Michael is a writer and a resume expert at Uptowork. When he's not busy passing on career advice, he's probably somewhere out there swinging a tennis racket, reading Russian poetry, or enjoying his triple espresso.