Chronological vs. Functional Resumes

Three out of four hiring managers say they prefer chronological resumes.


Every job hunter knows: If you have gaps in your work history, if you are trying to change careers, if you’ve had too many jobs, or you've got too much experience, all you have to do is organize your resume according to skills rather than dates of employment. This is the “functional,” as opposed to the “chronological,” resume.

[See how to stay positive during a long job search.]

But there’s just one tiny problem: Three out of four hiring managers say they prefer chronological resumes. They’re used to seeing them formatted like this. They like to see a nice, neat career progression, preferably headed “upward.” They are still really hung up on gaps in work history. And, let’s face it, they feel—perhaps justifiably—that job seekers who go the functional route are trying to hide something.

A functional resume can be a red flag. Recruiters in particular may refuse to even read one. So, here’s an idea: Address any potential problems head on. Explain upfront, clearly but briefly, in your cover letter or on the resume itself, why you’ve had gaps in your work history, why you are seeking to change careers, and why your multiple jobs, or years of experience, are pluses instead of minuses.

Most of all, know this: Even if you have a stellar chronological work history, your job hunt should never consist of simply sending out resumes. A resume is actually a pretty small part of a job hunt. The way to find a job is through personal contacts. If you don’t have any, make some.

Start now!

Karen Burns is the author of the illustrated career advice book The Amazing Adventures of Working Girl: Real-Life Career Advice You Can Actually Use, recently released by Running Press. She blogs at


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