Much like a hiring manager reading your resume, I’ve only got about 6 seconds to catch your attention with this blog post, so I’ll tell you straight away:
In most cases, you’ll be better off arranging your resume in a logical order than sticking to the old fashion chronological arrangement.
Because the time we have to make an impression on the resume reviewer is so finite, your most relevant experience needs to be at the top of your resume. This means, if you are applying to a job as a Professional Tap Dancer, and you’re currently working as a Lion Tamer, but three years ago, you were touring around the world, tapping with the National Tap Dancing Society, the tab dancing job goes above the lion taming job, even though it’s not as recent.
Not only does the first job need to catch the reviewer’s attention to prevent you from being thrown in the electronic “no” pile, but the first job also sets the tone for how they view the rest of your resume.
Are you a Tap Dancer with some impressive alternative skills working with lions? Or are you a Lion Tamer who used to tap dance? The job at the top of your resume is your brand. Make sure it’s the right brand for the job you want!
I know I explained the previous section beautifully, but I must add a caveat. We cannot simply throw chronology to the wind and list our experience in a dimension where time and space are fluid. We have to provide some structure for the resume reviewer so they don’t feel like they're lost in a bad dream while they’re reading our resume.
This is where we get creative with our headings.
Traditional job applicants generally use the tested “Work Experience” and “Volunteer Experience” headings to organize their jobs. When we’re trying to bring our most relevant experience to the forefront of our resumes, all we have to do is customize the heading to suit our needs. Once we have the headings, we can list our experience chronologically within them. For example:
TAP DANCING EXPERIENCE
Tap Dancer July 2011 – June 2015
National Tap Dancing Society Montreal, Quebec
- Something about tap dancing impressively
- Something else impressive
Assistant Tap Dancer May 2010 – July 2011
Tap Dancing Society Montreal, Quebec
- Something about helping others who were tap dancing impressively
- Something else impressive
ADDITIONAL PERFORMANCE EXPERIENCE
Lion Tamer July 2015 – Present
Toronto Zoo Toronto, Ontario
- Tamed the most ferocious of Lions
- Taught sign-language to 3 lion cubs
It’s that easy, people. By providing headings, you help the reviewer follow your story, even if it’s not in chronological order. And by using the title “TAP DANCING EXPERIENCE”, instead of just “WORK EXPERIENCE” we’re branding ourselves loud and clear, “I am a TAP DANCER!”
*As a side note, you may be thinking... is Assistant Tap Dancer a real position? Does the Toronto Zoo offer a Lion Taming show? Can Lion cubs learn sign-language? The answer to all three questions is in your heart.
FAQ’s of Logical vs. Chronological Arrangement
Can I make a specific heading just for one job, even if it’s the only job I have worked that makes sense with that heading?
Yes. If the experience is relevant to the position for which you are applying. If it’s not directly relevant, you can lump other experience under an “ADDITIONAL WORK EXPERIENCE” heading.
What do I do about LinkedIn, where the work experience is automatically listed in chronological order?
This is where you can use your headline and summary statement to brand yourself. By default, your headline will be the same as your current job; however, we are free to edit this as we please. Use these two areas to talk all about how much you love tap dancing (or whatever it is that you love).
I can’t think of an appropriate heading for my relevant job. What should I do?
If you can’t think of a good job, or you want to run one by me, shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org, and I’ll help you come up with something, free of charge!