The Reverse Chronological Resume Format


“Order is heaven’s first law,” said Alexander Pope. A resume provides order to our career. The reverse chronological resume is the most common resume format in use today. It is the one most favored by recruiters and employers. It is a common form of executive resume writer samples or professional resume outline examples that you will find. It is one type of achievements resume. Consider it the default resume format.

Like any other choice made in the job search process, each resume format has advantages and disadvantages. Reverse chronology works perfectly well for many, if not most, job seekers. In some fields, it is almost an outright requirement. However, it is not right for everyone and job seekers should understand what the format entails and its advantages and disadvantages before making the choice.


A reverse chronological resume begins with the applicant's name and contact information, followed optionally by a short statement of the applicant's objective or a concise summary of the applicant’s professional identity. The following section simply sets out the candidate's employment history over time, working backwards from the most recent position. As a general rule, there is no need to go back further than 15 years unless that would leave out something spectacular, and, in that case, a different format might be a better choice to begin with.

Each position in the chronology should include job title, company information and the dates of employment, followed by a one-sentence description of your role and a few bullet points devoted to accomplishments in that role. As the resume goes further into the past, the descriptions can become less detailed.


  • This is the form employers know best. Nothing about it will leave them scratching their heads.
  • In a difficult job market, employers spend as little as 15 seconds on each resume. Reverse chronology is easy to skim.
  • If your work history demonstrates increasing responsibility and professional growth, reverse chronology demonstrates this with great clarity.

  • Fields that are wedded to formality and tradition, like law and banking, expect resumes to reflect those qualities. Anything other than a reverse chronological format is likely to be viewed with skepticism.


- With its clear focus on dates, the format calls attention to gaps in employment or to positions that are unusually short-lived.

- It can also emphasize long periods without significant advancement, leaving the impression that the applicant is stuck at a given level.

- If you are targeting a position that does not naturally follow from your recent work history, reverse chronology gives little opportunity to make a case for your candidacy.

The reverse chronological format is most effective for candidates with steady work histories that show consistent growth in a given field. The format can be very effective in spotlighting impressive recent employers and job titles. Job seekers with employment history gaps and short stays, or those with too many positions that do not demonstrate a consistent upward trajectory, should consider a functional resume or a hybrid format.


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