Why and When Do You Write a Reverse-Chronological Order?
Typically, you will want to use the reverse-chronological format as often as possible.
Using this type of resume will automatically give you an advantage.
This is due to the format being highly recognizable by hiring managers.
Reverse-chronological resumes are the standard expected by most employers.
This format is easy to follow and clearly demonstrates a candidate’s experience.
This resume format is especially good to use when applying to entry- to mid-level positions.
The reverse-chronological resume gives you the best opportunity to showcase your experience and accomplishments.
If you do not have much relevant or recent work experience, you may want to consider an alternative format.
Are There Alternatives to Reverse-Chronological Resumes?
When it comes to resumes, there are 3 main formats:
- Reverse-Chronological: A resume focused mainly on work experience.
- Functional: A resume focused on skills, volunteer work, and education.
- Combination/Hybrid: A resume that combines elements of both the reverse-chronological and functional. This format does not place an overwhelming emphasis on any single section.
Choosing between these 3 depends on what experience you have to show.
The following situations may call for the use of a functional or combination resume:
- When a person is returning to work after time away
- If a candidate is still in school or is a recent graduate
- If a professional has decided to change career or industries
Though employers expect to see reverse-chronological resumes, the other two can be just as effective.
It’s all about keeping the format and design simple and easy to follow.
Are you feeling totally lost on which resume format to use? Read our guide on How to Choose the Correct Resume Format in 2021 (with Examples) to learn more!
What are the Main Sections of This Resume Layout
There are four main sections of the reverse-chronological resume:
- Your Name and Contact Information
- Your Work Experience
- Your Education
- Your Skills
The work experience section is often the most prominent on the reverse-chronological resume.
However, the other sections matter as well.
We will go over each of these four main sections to help you understand how to best format your resume.
1. Name and Contact Information
The header of any resume should contain the applicant’s personal information.
- Your name
- Your job title
- Your location
- Your phone number
- Your professional email address
This header will not take up a lot of space on the resume.
Yet, it will be the first thing the employer sees.
Make sure to enlarge and bold your font to help your name stand out.
There are two main formatting options for the header: left-aligned or center-aligned.
A left-aligned resume will have all the information aligned to the left side of the page.
This will include the header and name.
A center-aligned resume will align down the middle of the page.
This can help the name and header to stand out.
However, a center alignment is not often suggested for the remaining sections.
If this is the alignment you choose, only use it on the header.
Here is an example of a header on a reverse-chronological resume:
John Doe, Atlanta, GA
Why It’s Incorrect: In this example, the information is not well-organized and the name doesn’t stand out.
It is best to make the name bigger than the rest of the text.
Bolding and italics can be used to provide better visual organization to the information.
Additionally, the person used an unprofessional email.
This can be a major turn-off to employers.
Technical Analyst in Atlanta, GA
(123) 456-789 | email@example.com
ProTip: Whenever you need to create a professional email, it is best to make one through Gmail. This gives you access to lots of sharing and networking tools. Plus, the Google Workspace is used by many companies!
2. Work Experience
As we have covered, there are 3 main factors to consider when writing your work experience section:
Sometimes candidates will have a lot of work experience, but none that is directly relevant to the new job.
In this case, it is essential to think of ways to tie in your job descriptions to the skills needed for the one you are applying to.
When writing your job descriptions, you should ideally include three bullet points.
These should be short and simple sentences that use action verbs.
If you have quantifiable achievements, these may be included as one of the bullet points.
Here is an example of a work experience section on a reverse-chronological resume:
In this example, the applicant is applying for a job as an office manager at a major firm.
Administrative Assistant, Johnson Law Firm
June 2019 – May 2021
· Helped to lower overall operational costs
· Managed and created schedules
· Handled the bookkeeping
Charlotte, NC | August 2016 – May 2019
· Provided thorough customer service
· Helped customers with complaints
· Worked alongside a team of 20 servers
Why It’s Incorrect: In this example, the applicant does not provide detailed descriptions and uses weak action verbs. There are no quantifiable achievements or captivating details. Plus, the bartending job is not tailored to show transferable skills.
Administrative Assistant, Johnson Law Firm
Charlotte, NC | June 2019 – May 2021
· Reduced operational costs by 15 percent by scouting new supply source
· Managed the travel arrangements and schedules of the top 5 associates
· Optimized the virtual bookkeeping system to be more efficient
Charlotte, NC | August 2016 – May 2019
· Multitasked by crafting drinks, taking orders, and closing tabs simultaneously
· Settled customer complaints with patience and compassion
· Delegated side work tasks amongst the serving staff
In this corrected example, the most recent and relevant job has much better descriptions. For the bartending job, the descriptions have been altered to show skills that are useful in an office setting.
For more ideas on more compelling language to use on your resume, take a look at our list of 350+ Action Verbs to Make Your Resume More Effective in 2021.
The education section of a reverse-chronological resume does not need to be very extensive.
In alternative resume formats, such as the functional resume, education may be more emphasized.
For the reverse-chronological resume, there are only 5 key pieces of information to include:
- Your University, College, or School
- Your Highest Degree of Education (Bachelor’s, high school diploma, GED, etc.)
- Your Date of Graduation
- The Location of the School
- Your Area of Study
In some cases, it may be beneficial to include relevant academic experiences or achievements.
As for listing your GPA, it is recommended to only do so when specifically requested by the employer.
Here is an example of an education section on a reverse-chronological resume:
The University of Central Florida, Orlando, Florida
· Graduated May 2018
· Studied Mass Communications and Business
· GPA 3.7
Why It’s Incorrect: This example is fairly disorganized and lacks visual flow. It includes unnecessary information, such as GPA. Plus, it does not list the actual degree earned.
The University of Central Florida
· Earned a Bachelor’s of Business Administration in 2018
· Double-majored in mass communications and business
· Received letter of recommendation from the Dean
Keep your education section short and sweet on a reverse-chronological resume.
If you are applying to jobs in the realms of science or academia, you will need to expand your education section.
This will likely require you to write a Curriculum Vitae instead of a resume.
Check out our article on What is the Difference Between a CV and a Resume in 2021?
Your skills section is similar to your education section in that it should be short and simple.
Ideally, you should aim to list around 6 skills on your resume.
These should include a mix of both hard and soft skills.
Hard skills are those that require technical knowledge, such as how to use a programming language.
Soft skills are more abstract and emotion-based, such as communication and teamwork.
By including both types of skills, you provide employers with a more well-rounded view of your talents.
Plus, the skills section can be a great place to plug in keywords found throughout the job application and description.
Here are some common examples of hard skills:
- Microsoft Office Suite (Word, Excel, Powerpoint, etc.)
- Google Workspace (Gmail, Drive, Docs, etc.)
- Computer Programming
- Typing Speed
- Cloud Computing
- Project Management
Here are some common examples of soft skills:
- Conflict Resolution
Additional Sections to Consider Adding to Your Resume
There are, of course, extra sections you can consider adding to your resume.
- Resume Objective or Summary: A short statement on your professional experience and goals.
- Certifications or Extra Training: Certifications earned through training programs, such as coding courses or First Aid.
- Awards and Achievements: Quantifiable achievements or awards, such as Employee of the Month or Best Salesperson.
- Unpaid Experience: Unpaid internships or volunteer work.
- Languages: A list of languages the applicant can speak, read, or write fluently.
- Interests: Listing hobbies and interests is especially good for resumes lacking broad work experience sections. Interests can be points of conversation for an employer to bring up in an interview.
When including additional sections on a reverse-chronological resume, be mindful of the formatting.
You want the work experience section to remain the focal point.
You also want to keep a good visual flow by not cramming too much information onto one page.
Pro Tip: In a reverse-chronological resume, your work experience section is the most important. Be sure to take your time writing this section and tailoring it for the job.
How Do You Format a Reverse-Chronological Resume?
When formatting your reverse-chronological resume, keep in mind the following 5 elements:
- Length: Ideally, your resume should fill up one page. This page should have 1-inch margins on all sides.
- Bullet Points: Use bullet points under your headers to create descriptions. This makes your information easier to read and skim over for employers.
- Headings: Use bold and enlarged fonts to create your section headings, such as Work Experience and Education.
- Sidebars: Your work experience should take up the most space on the resume. Creating a sidebar for your education and skills will leave more room for work experience.
- Fonts: Use simple and easy-to-read fonts, such as Times New Roman and Arial. Keep headings between 14 – 18 point size and bullet points between 11 – 12 point size.
Need more help organizing your resume? Check out our post on How to Organize Your Resume with Resume Layout Examples in 2021.
What are Things to Highlight in a Reverse-Chronological Order
With the reverse-chronological resume, work experience is king.
Any accomplishments related to your work experience are the most important information to highlight.
This can include:
- Professional or business-related projects
- Relevant awards and achievements
- Career advancements or promotions
Promotions are particularly important for a reverse-chronological resume.
They help to show a candidate’s commitment, longevity, and work ethic at a company.
For more advice on highlighting promotions, take a look at our guide on How to Show Your Job Promotions on a Resume in 2021.
Now that you have a better understanding of the reverse-chronological format, writing your resume will be simple.
Remember these 5 key takeaways when writing a reverse chronological resume:
- The work experience section is the most important in this format. Focus a good amount of time on tailoring this section for the job you are applying to.
- Always use a professional email. Your email is one of the first things employers see. Using an unprofessional email can get your resume thrown out regardless of how well it’s formatted.
- Use your work descriptions to emphasize quantifiable achievements. This is also where you can highlight promotions, projects, or other work-related accomplishments.
- Don’t overstuff your resume with sections. Allow the work experience section to be the main jewel with the other sections serving as accessories.
- Use Bolding, Font Size, and Italics to help specific parts of your resume stand out.
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