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Advice / Job Search / Resumes

Ask a Recruiter: Are Chronological Resumes Still Important These Days?

photo of person on computer by Caiaimage/Sam Edwards/Getty Images
Caiaimage/Sam Edwards/Getty Images

Dear Recruiter,

My questions are: Is a chronological format still preferred to a functional resume? And, is it still preferred that resumes aren’t longer than one page?

ISO the Basics

Hi ISO the Basics,

These are good questions! To answer your first one: Yes! In most cases, recruiters only have a few seconds to view your resume when reviewing a stack they’re considering for a position, so a skills-based resume is not ideal. Having your experience outlined in chronological order makes it easy to get a quick read on your career history. The last thing you want to do is make them try and piece it together themselves—there’s just no time for it.

Your experience and outline should be concise, so the viewer isn’t left questioning what you’re currently doing or have been exposed to. A functional resume that focuses on skills and experience without a clear chronology makes it hard to see what the applicant has actually accomplished and what they’re hoping to do.

Keep in mind: This document serves as the ultimate snapshot of your career journey. If you’re concerned about a lack of experience, you’ll want to account for this in your cover letter by highlighting your relevant skills or projects you’ve worked on. This is especially true if you’re switching industries and want to demonstrate transferable skills.

To answer your second question, the answer is also yes. For me, 100% yes. Whether you’re a recent grad or applying for a senior-level position, you should have a one-page resume. By personalizing it for each position and company you apply to, you’ll no doubt be able to delete items that aren’t relevant for the given role, which ought to help you keep it from spilling over onto a second page.

Once you’ve been working professionally for a few years, you can begin to slim down or remove your collegiate experiences (internships, clubs, and activities) that you needed to take up real estate before you had full-time roles to feature.

If you’re still struggling, focus on pairing down bullet points (quantifying when possible is always best!) and selecting only the most relevant responsibilities associated with each position. Another trick is to customize the format and structure, making sure the font isn’t too large, especially for your header. Career expert Lily Zhang has several other tips for cutting it down.

Lastly, don’t be afraid to enlist the help of a friend or a career coach to get a fresh pair of eyes and to see if there’s any “fluff” that can be taken out, so you’re left with only the strongest content.

This article is part of our Ask an Expert series—a column dedicated to helping you tackle your biggest career concerns. Our experts are excited to answer all of your burning questions, and you can submit one by emailing us at editor(at)themuse(dot)com and using Ask a Real Recruiter in the subject line.

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