Chronological Versus Functional Resumes

Resume writing. Whether you love it or you hate, it’s something you’ll probably have to deal with at some point in your life. Many people write resumes with the understanding that it’s the resume that gets them the job. This is a misconception; resumes don’t get you the job, but they can ensure you don’t get the job if you submit a bad one. A resume’s purpose is, instead, to entice hiring managers to interview you. The interview is, ultimately, what will get you the job.

Having said that, a well-written and formatted resume is paramount in a successful job search. Before you begin writing your resume, you will have to decide what resume style best fits your career goals. There are three basic styles to choose from.

Chronological resumes are probably what you think of when you imagine a resume. These documents list your work history and experiences in each position in chronological order, from most recent to furthest away. This kind of resume is best for someone with a bit of experience who is planning on staying in their current line of work. So, if you wanted to move from Manager to Executive Manager, for example, you might lean towards a chronological resume.

Functional resumes focus on skills rather than job experience. These resumes usually include a section titled “Relevant Experience and Qualifications,” or something similar. They might draw from your work history, but a functional resume focuses on transferable skills from both jobs and other experiences. These are really good resumes for job changers or entry level positions. Alternatively, a functional resume is useful for applying for an unusual position that doesn’t necessary have an analogue in your previous experience. These kinds of resumes are also good if you have a significant gap in your work history; the gap won’t be as obvious in a functional resume’s formatting.

There is a third type of resume that is sometimes used, often called a Hybrid resume because it combines aspects of both these resume types. This would be best if you have all the required experience, but it doesn’t come from “typical” job experiences. You can use aspects of the functional resume format to create a resume the highlights your relevant skills without ignoring your prior work experience.

So how do you decide which resume is right for you? There are a few steps. Firstly, you must determine what kind of position you’re looking for. If the position is similar to your current one, or is along the career path you’re currently pursuing, then a chronological resume might be best. If you’re looking to make a career change, or you’re just entering the work force, functional might be a better way to go.

But wait! Before you jump to that conclusion, there are a few more things to consider. Take a look at the companies you’re interested in applying to. If a company’s organizational culture leans towards the traditional, chronological might be more appropriate, whereas a more innovative company culture leans towards the functional. And obviously examine your own work history as well. If your resume would be sparse in the chronological format, or overly full in the functional format, take those things into account. You’re trying to impress a company by putting your best foot forward, metaphorically speaking. That means creating the resume that you feel will best represent your background and experience.

Career Solutions Group specializes in helping people move successfully towards their next career opportunity. If you’re interest in professional help for resume writing, interview preparation, and career direction, email us at We offer free initial consultations and have helped hundreds of career changers make successful transitions.

By: Julia Pillard, Career Solutions Group