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Fundamentals of a Good Chronological Resume for Job-Seekers

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by Randall S. Hansen, Ph.D.


You probably have no more than 30 seconds to convince a potential employer that you deserve an interview. A resume summarizes your accomplishments, your education, and your work experience, and should reflect your strengths.


What follows is an outline of a typical chronological resume -- best suited for most job-seekers.


Not sure what kind of resume you need? Check out one of other expert resume articles in our Resume Resources for more details.


Key Components of a Standard Job-Search Chronological Resume:




    It is essential that a potential employer can reach you.


    This section should include your name, address (city and state is sufficient in this age of identity theft), one phone number, and one e-mail address. If a college student, this section might also include a school address and a permanent home address.


    Resume Focal Point


    Every resume needs a focal point -- a device (or set of devices) that instantly tells a hiring decision-maker what job or type of job the candidate seeks and what his or her top selling points are. See the menu of available devices in our article, Your Job-Search Resume Needs a Focal Point: How Job-Seekers Can Add Focus to Resumes.


    Key Accomplishments


    Your resume should lead off with a section that highlights your key accomplishments and achievements. Think of this section as an executive summary of your resume; identify key accomplishments that will grab the attention of an employer.


    This section should summarize (using nouns as keywords and descriptors) your major accomplishments and qualifications


    This section can also be labeled "Professional Profile," "Summary of Accomplishments," "Key Skills," "Summary of Qualifications," "Qualifications Summary," or "Qualifications." Consider using our Resume Professional Profile/Qualifications Summary Worksheet.




    For new college grads, this entry should be your next. For others with full-time work experience, this section should follow your experience section.


    This section should include school(s) attended (including years of attendance), majors/minors, degrees, and honors and awards received.


    For new grads only: If you decide to list your GPA, make sure to use the GPA that puts you in the best light -- either overall GPA, school or college GPA, or major GPA. Read more on the GPA issue, as well as many other common questions from college job-seekers in our Frequently Asked Resume Questions for College Students/Grads.


    Professional Experience


    This section can also be labeled "Experience, "Work History," or "Employment." We like using experience -- especially for new college grads, because experience is broader than work history, allowing you to include major school projects that showcase your skills and abilities.


    This section should include company name, your job title, dates of employment, and major accomplishments. List experiences in reverse chronological order, starting with your most current experience.


    List your accomplishments in bullet format (rather than paragraph format). Avoid discussing job duties or responsibilities. Consider using our Accomplishments Worksheet.


    If you don't have a lot of career-related job experience, consider using transferable skills to better highlight your work experience. Consider using our Transferable Skills Worksheet for Resumes and Cover Letters.


    Finally, make sure to make use of action verbs when describing your accomplishments.




    This section is optional; include it only if you have room on your resume for it. Items from this section are often used as an ice-breaker by interviewers looking to start an interview on an informal basis.


    This section should only include professional memberships and non-controversial activities/interests.




    Many experts say this section is passe, but if you have space, include it. If nothing else, this section signals the end of your resume.


    This section should only include a statement saying references are available upon request.


    Do not include the names of your references on your resume. Make them a separate sheet; see our Sample Job Reference Lists for Job-Seekers.



Questions about some of the terminology used in this article? Get more information (definitions and links) on key college, career, and job-search terms by going to our Job-Seeker's Glossary of Job-Hunting Terms. Founder Dr. Randall Hansen Dr. Randall S. Hansen is founder of Quintessential Careers, one of the oldest and most comprehensive career development sites on the Web, as well CEO of He is also founder of and He is publisher of Quintessential Careers Press, including the Quintessential Careers electronic newsletter, QuintZine. Dr. Hansen is also a published author, with several books, chapters in books, and hundreds of articles. He's often quoted in the media and conducts empowering workshops around the country. Finally, Dr. Hansen is also an educator, having taught at the college level for more than 15 years. Visit his personal Website or reach him by email at randall(at) Check out Dr. Hansen on GooglePlus.



For other free professional resume resources, including tips on other formats, resume-writing do's and don'ts -- and much more -- visit the Resume Resources section of Quintessential Careers.


Resume Samples: Interested in seeing some excellent resumes? Then follow this link to some Sample Professional Resumes.




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