September 29, 2008

The Great Debate - Should students ever use a chronological resume?

Have you worked for the same company for an extended period of time?

Have you been involved in one industry for much of your working life?

Are you looking for a job that's closely related to the one you currently have?

If you've answered "Yes" to any of the above questions, than a chronological resume might be right for you!

Usually, I recommend that students and youth stay away from chronological resumes because they can be very limiting.

For one thing, they emphasize experience, which is something many students simply don't have. As well, they do not allow for you to talk about your soft skills (e.g. communication or teamwork skills) as they focus solely on experience.

However, for some students who have been working for quite some time, a chronological resume can pay dividends. This is especially true if you are applying for jobs within a similar industry.

For example, if you are applying to working in the Cashiers Office of a local grocery store and you have worked as a cashier in two different stores for the past two years, than a chronological resume might be for you. In this case, you could list your job titles along with additional responsibilities you were given.

Or let's say you are applying for a job after staying with a company for an extended period (and experiencing a promotion or two), a chronological resume can work for you too. In this scenario, a chronological resume can instantly highlight the promotion you received, which can be a great starting point for a discussion during an interview.

Below is a sample version of a chronological resume for Joe Worker. He is applying for a technical support job after having three similar jobs within the last three years. He has opted for a chronological resume so that his experience is highlighted, as they position he wants demands at least two years of technical support experience.

If you're like Joe and think a chronological resume will work for you, remember these simple things:

1) Ensure that it's formatted in an eye-catching way and contains your name, address, phone number, and e-mail address. Don't use funky fonts - stick with Arial, Times, Verdana, or Tahoma.

2) Do not list any skills under headings like "Skills", "Highlights" or "Qualifications" - a combination resume draws on your experience and not your skills.

3) If you are staying within the same industry, do not bold your employer, but instead, bold your job title. The change in font will immediately draw an employer's attention to similar jobs that you've already had. You will notice in the sample resume above how this is done with Joe's most recent job at Tech Help Call Centre.

4) If you are switching jobs after staying with the same company and experiencing a promotion, list the company, and each job needs to be treated separately. Start with the most recent job title and then list the one you held before the promotion/increase in responsibilities. You will notice in the same resume above how this is done with Joe's two positions he held at at Dynamo Computing.

5) Keep additional information to a minimum. As I've said, a chronological resume really highlights your experience, so talking about awards you've received or volunteer programmes you have been a part of can diminish the impact that your experience will have. As well, chronological resumes tend to get long and since space is at a premium (keeping your resume within one to two pages), avoid using these space-fillers.

Essentially, chronological resumes should only be used by those who are staying within the same industry or job field when moving jobs.

If this doesn't apply to you, I'd recommend sticking to the more flexible combination-style resume that I've talked about before.

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