Resume: Chronological or Functional?

A TMC graduate messaged the Career Guy with a question on resumes. She had seen references to a skills-based resume, and wondered about my thoughts.

There are two primary forms of resume–chronological, where experience is listed most recent to oldest; and functional (or skills), which emphasizes strengths and accomplishments in a separate section and lists experience briefly at the bottom.

Here is what I told her:

I researched this in the past and suggestions vary. (There are not many hard facts in careering, but lots of differing opinions). My own conclusion is that employers prefer to see a chronological resume. However, that is hard to do if you have NO prior relevant experience. In that case, one must do the best they can with a functional/skills resume.

Functional might also be helpful if one has many smaller jobs, each with some relevant input. Chronologically, it’s hard to get strengths to stand out in a long list. Instead, strengths/qualifications can be gathered together in a skills section, followed by some chronological history. It’s what I call a hybrid resume.

Some have said that a cover letter can be a powerful introduction to a resume, and can be more helpful if the resume is weaker.

There is also something called a Q Letter, which one grad has found to be very effective. It starts out as a cover letter, then branches into two columns: Your Requirements and My Qualifications. If you meet or exceed the important job requirements, this highlights your strengths. It’s also eye-catching because it’s different, short and to the point.

The Career Guy is available throughout the summer to help anyone–students, graduates, family & friends of TMC–with job-related advice or helps.

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