Is a Reverse Chronological Resume Right for Me?

Published on: 17 October 2018 Last updated: 10 September 2019

The reverse chronological resume is the most common resume format out there, but is it  impactful? Today’s hiring landscape requires you to not only provide recruiters with information, but package it in such a way that they remember you in the sea of applicants that come across their desk. Everyone is reduced to a piece of paper when it comes to your resume, so how can you make your piece of paper as effective as possible?

See the benefits of the reverse-chronological resume and examples of how others have used it in their job application process below.

Explaining the reverse chronological resume

The name is self-explanatory. The reverse-chronological resume describes your work experience in reverse-chronological order. This means describing your most recent job first and moving backwards in time for every subsequent position. The format comes with a general expectation of flow, with your resume header coming first, accompanied by a personal summary, your experience, your skills, and then any other subsequent section. While this is convention, it’s certainly not law. You can keep the spirit of a reverse-chronological resume without sticking to a restricting structure.

What are the benefits of using a reverse-chronological resume?

Provides a clear narrative of your career

Inconsistencies in someone’s career history is one of the first red flags recruiters will notice. Especially when recruiters devote just 6 seconds for initial screenings, this can cause your resume to be overlooked. The recruiter is interested in the story of your career – including what brought you to this current position. This can play into your culture fit and your impact on team dynamics within the organisation.

Enhancv Is a Reverse Chronological Resume Right for Me? reverse chronological resume

When getting his job at HEB (one of the largest grocery retailers in Texas), Jonathan used the reverse-chronological format to highlight his journey into operations from data analytics. This allowed recruiters to estimate his skill level and recognise his commitment to the area.

Lines up with expectation

Sometimes the traditional route is best. This can come into play when applying to large organisations with standardised application forms or those who rely on Automated Tracking Systems (ATS). With the reverse-chronological resume being most common, it’s easily analysed by ATS and gives the recruiter exactly what they’re looking for. The recruiter can easily identify what you worked on most recently and compare how that experience compares to what you’ll be doing. As the saying goes, you’re only as good as your last performance.

Big names play in your favor

One of the advantages of using this format is it places emphasis on the organisations you’ve worked at previously. If you’ve worked with some heavy-hitters in your industry, this can create a great impression on the recruiter and separate you from the crowd.

Enhancv Is a Reverse Chronological Resume Right for Me? reverse chronological resume

On Eric’s marketing executive resume, he mentioned working for Disney as a marketing coordinator. In this, he discusses liaising with other major brands including Coca-Cola to extend the Disney brand. Discussing your impact on major organisations (especially one as large as Disney) shows the recruiter your ability to manage high-pressure circumstances and gives insight into the level of ability you bring to the table.

What can you lose when using a reverse-chronological resume?

Gaps in your resume become more noticeable

With any resume that relies on your chronological timeline, any gaps in your year become more apparent. Especially when presenting your most recent job first, it can be a red flag for the recruiter that your most recent job was several years ago. This can lead to many questions the recruiter might not even spend the time getting an answer on. “Do they still possess the same skills they had X years ago?”, “Will they be able to adapt to the current market?” and so on.

Tip: One way to overcome this difficult is to describe other projects or skills you’ve built up between the present and your most recent experience. Oriol highlighted courses in business management in his business analyst resume.

Harder to navigate through different sectors

Suppose you have experience in both music and marketing. If you’ve spent the last five years pursuing jobs in music, but are now looking for a new job in marketing, sticking to the reverse-chronological resume format can make your experience seem irrelevant. This can make it harder for you when moving through different areas you’re skilled in.

Not optimal for starting out

With prior experience being the crux of this resume format, it’s going to be difficult to write your first resume with the reverse-chronological guide. For this reason, this format may not be suitable for those starting their first job or applying for volunteer positions for the first time.

The Truth About Reverse Chronological Resumes

Reverse-chronological resumes are far from one-size-fits-all. In reality, your resume should be tailored to the position you’re applying to. This may mean describing a less recent job first on your resume as it’s the most recent job relevant to the position you’re applying to. While this format is great for organising your experience (assuming you have any), it’s arguably an outdated system.

Using Enhancv’s resume builder, you can describe your previous experience in modular segments that can be moved as pieces to any place on your resume; so positioning is streamlined. In general, you’ll benefit from organising your resume by relevance and impact, not by date.

Enhancv Is a Reverse Chronological Resume Right for Me? reverse chronological resume

Dean O'Reilly

Psychology student with keen interest in academic research. Currently exploring the world of marketing distribution and content creation with Enhancv to help people get closer to the job of their dreams. Read more about my journey to Enhancv on Fast Company or Gay Times.

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