Fundamental Components Of A Chronological Resume

Rachel Schneebaum

In this article, I’ll list and briefly explain the different sections you can include in a chronological resume. Before beginning, I just want to note that a chronological resume is the most common type of resume, and it’s the standard resume desired by most employers in most fields in today’s job market. (That said, there are other resume types you might want to consider, depending on your field and your job history. If you’re not planning to write a chronological resume, then some of the following information might not apply to you, and it’s worth checking out advice for other resume types.) Some of the following sections are necessary components of any resume, while others are optional.

1. Contact information

Including your contact information is absolutely essential in any resume: after all, if your employer can’t reach you, it’s impossible for you to get an interview or job offer! Your contact information should be easy to find and easy to read: preferably the very first section of your resume. This section should include the following information:

  • Your name
  • Your address (note that you don’t have to include more than a city and state if you’re worried about identity theft; if you get an interview or if you make it to the offer and negotiation stage of the job application process, you can provide more details at that time)
  • One email address (remember to use a professional looking email address)
  • One phone number
  • If you’re a college student, you might also want to include a school address—although this isn’t required

2. Focal point

A good resume should include a focal point that gives employers immediate information about the position you’re applying for, as well as what you offer as a candidate for that position. Your focal point should always be the next section in your resume, immediately after your contact information. An early focal point catches the attention of a potential employer and makes it more likely that they’ll continue to read the rest of your resume. (For more information about this section, check out our article about how to create a focal point for your resume.)

3. Major Accomplishments

Your accomplishments are some of the most important information that your resume provides. A “major accomplishments” or “key accomplishments” section is where you’re most likely stand out from other applicants with similar backgrounds applying for the same position. In addition, an easily accessible list of your most relevant and/or impressive accomplishments gives your potential employer specific information about what you can do, what you can offer their company as an employee, and what makes you special. Listing your most important accomplishments early in the resume makes it more likely that your potential employer will be impressed and interested enough to continue reading. Since this is a chronological resume, make sure your accomplishments are listed in reverse chronological order (that is, starting with the most recent).

4. Work History

A “Work History” (or “Professional Experience,” “Employment,” “Experience,” etc.) section should list your previous positions in reverse chronological order. For each position, make sure you clearly list the company name, job title, dates of employment, and location. Under each position, list the accomplishments (rather than, say, job duties or responsibilities) you achieved at that position. When listing your accomplishments, use a bulleted list format rather than writing them out in paragraph form. Make sure you use action verbs when describing your achievements; you should also try to include as much specific information (including numerical information, if possible) and as many industry keywords as you can. (For more information about this section, check out our articles about tracking your accomplishments and using keywords in your resume.)

If you are a professional with at least several years of full time employment under your belt, the “Employment” or “Work History” section should be the next section of your resume, directly after your “Key Accomplishments” section.

If you are a college student or a recent grad, however, this section should follow your “Education” section. In addition, rather than calling it “Professional Experience” or “Employment,” for example, you can just title this section “Experience.” This broader title will allow you to include experience and leadership roles in university teams or clubs, volunteer organizations, internships, and other positions that aren’t strictly professional employment. (For more information, check out our article about how to improve your resume as a new grad.)

5. Education

This section should include school(s) attended, dates of attendance, degree(s) earned, and major(s)/minor(s). Again, if you attended multiple schools and earned multiple degrees, these should be listed in reverse chronological order. (Note: do not include high school information unless you are a current college student.) You should also list any honors or awards you received, including, for example, scholarships, Dean’s List commendations, Phi Beta Kappa induction, departmental honors, etc. If you are a recent grad, you can also note your GPA: however, this isn’t necessary, so only do it if your GPA is particularly impressive! (Do not include your GPA if you’ve been out of school and working.)

If you are a new college graduate, your “Education” section should follow your “Key Accomplishments” section and precede your “Experience” section. Otherwise, if you’re a working professional, the “Education” section should follow your “Employment” section.

6. Affiliations/Interests

This section is optional; you should only include it if you feel that you don’t have enough experience and accomplishments listed in your resume’s previous sections. If you do choose to include this section, though, you should only list professional affiliations and interests that somehow relate to the job you want (because they require similar skills or involve similar information, for example).

7. References

This section is optional as well. Some people think a “References” section is completely unnecessary; others like it as an “end of resume” marker. If you do include a “References” section, it should be no more than a brief statement that references are available upon request. Do not actually list the names or contact information of your references here! Most online applications require a separate form with your references’ information. In addition, employers usually don’t bother checking your references unless you’ve reached the interview stage of the application process.

About The Author

Rachel Schneebaum

Rachel Schneebaum is a PhD candidate in philosophy, with a graduate minor in cognitive science, at the University of Arizona. She graduated from Williams College in 2009 with Bachelor of Arts degrees in both English and Philosophy. Rachel hopes to more effectively help students decide on, prepare for, and eventually succeed at their dream jobs.

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