Chronological vs Functional vs Targeted Resume Format

Types of Resume You Could Use

Your resume is your opportunity to stand out from the crowd of other job applicants and get noticed by employers. This makes it essential that you choose the best resume format for you that will achieve your purpose of landing an interview. The resume format determines how your information is presented to employers and will generally be one of three types:

The resume format that works best for you will depend on your particular circumstances and the position you are applying for.

Chronological Resume Format

chronological resume formatThe chronological resume is the most popular and common resume format. It will usually contain an objective statement and sections that list your employment history and your education history. Employment history begins with the most recent job listed first and works backwards with the first job you held listed last. Education history is listed in the same manner with the most recently attended school listed first. Educational history will include certifications and special skills. This is the traditional form of resume and the one that employers expect to see. Chronological resumes emphasize job titles/positions over skills. The main pros and cons of using a chronological resume are shown here:

The average time spent by recruiters looking at a resume: 5 to 7 seconds.(According to

Pros of using the chronological resume

  • This type of resume is the most popular among employers and what they expect to see.
  • It can highlight your working history and shows increased responsibility and higher position levels.
  • Works well when you are remaining in the same field.
  • Is good when past job titles match employer job requirements.
  • It is neat, logical and easy to follow.

Cons of using the chronological resume

  • Not good when lacking working experience.
  • Shows employers time periods when you were unemployed.
  • Doesn’t show transferable skills.
  • Shows if you have switched employers and/or fields often.
  • May show jobs you would rather not include.

Functional Resume Format

functional resume formatFunctional resumes highlight your abilities by focusing on skills and achievements rather than positions you have held. They are designed to showcase those skills and experiences that you are most confident with. Instead of a section listing jobs you have had, work experience is included in a “Relevant Skills” section. This allows you to show skills you may have developed through volunteer work or a hobby instead of in school or on a job that wouldn’t show up on a chronological resume. Using a functional resume format allows you to gloss over periods of unemployment or jobs you may not want the employer to be aware of. The main pros and cons of using a functional resume are shown here:

Pros of using the functional resume

  • Is good for highlighting specific skills, knowledge, or abilities.
  • Benefits first-time job seekers and new college graduates.
  • Effective if reentering the job market after an absence.
  • Good when making a major career change.
  • Useful if you have a wide variety of unrelated work experiences or large gaps in your work history.

Cons of using the functional resume

  • Impressive positions and employers are not shown.
  • Bad choice if you lack any specific skills or an expertise in some area.
  • Ineffective if you have poorly defined career goals.
  • Does not demonstrate growth in a field.
  • Poor design for demonstrating experience.

Targeted Resume Format

targeted resume formatThe targeted resume fuses the best features of the chronological and functional resume formats.  It includes a “Relevant Skills and Experience” section where applicants can group the skills that they want to highlight and then list their job experience which is what most employers like to see. A combined resume sample will target a specific job so more effort is required when applying for more than one job, but taking the time to tailor a resume for each company provides a better opportunity to show you are the best person for the job. The main pros and cons of using a targeted resume are shown here:

Pros of using the targeted resume

  • Works well when your work experience differs from your desired career path.
  • Highlights transferable skills from numerous jobs or volunteer work.
  • Effective if your skills are your greatest strength.
  • Effective if the majority of your work had been contracting, freelance, or temporary.

Cons of using the targeted resume

  • The tendency to duplicate information.
  • Not always well accepted in traditional companies.
  • Useless if your skills don’t match the employer’s job requirements.
  • Ineffective if your job titles or volunteer experience are not relevant.

The chronological resume versus the functional resume

It is difficult to say whether the chronological resume or functional resume is better. It will always depend on the specific situation. The chronological resume is more widely accepted but the functional resume allows you to focus on specific skills a position may call for.

In general use the chronological resume in the following situations:

  • Previous job titles match employer job requirements.
  • You have been in your field for a while and intend to remain in the field.
  • Your work history displays increasing responsibility and position levels.
  • Your current or last employer is well known.
  • You have a steady work history with very few breaks or periods of unemployment.
  • Applying to traditional organizations.

Use a functional resume in the following situations:

  • Reentering the job market after an absence
  • When you are a first-time job seeker or new graduate
  • To highlight specific skills, knowledge, or abilities not gained on the job or at school
  • When changing careers to highlight transferable skills
  • When you have different or unrelated work experiences
  • When you have large gaps in your work history

Different resume styles are suited for different situations and no style will be best in every circumstance. You may want to consider developing both a chronological resume template and a functional resume template. In this way, you would have both a chronological and functional resume to use when the situation calls for them. In addition, it will make it easier to whip up a targeted resume example if there is a particular job you would like to apply for when it would be the most appropriate.

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