This is where you bring your reader up-to-date with what all you've done with your career. Most recruiters I know strongly prefer a chronological format. Why? Because it's important to them to not just learn what you've been up to, but to understand when you did what. This means that I do not recommend functional resumes.
For example: Let's say a company is looking for a CAD/CAM drafter and they've got a big project coming up to earthquake retrofit a bunch of bridges. You've worked on projects like that as well as have helped with architectural drawings for high rises, pump houses and site development. You've also done product drawings in a manufacturing environment. The recruiter and hiring manager are going to want to know when you've done what and what tools you used when in order to determine if you can jump right in and help out or if you should at least be able to tackle their work with minimal ramp-up time. So, if the last firm you worked in was the one designing bridges and they used the same tools as the recruiter's company, you'll most likely get a call. If your most recent experience was in the manufacturing environment, you might not be considered for this assignment.
"Aha!" You say. "Good reason to use a functional resume." Not really. At some point the recruiter will still figure out what you did when and for whom. They're just going to be irked with you for making them dig out the information. In fact, I know several recruiters who refuse to talk to a candidate until they've received a chronological resume. They'll call the candidate, but tell them to send a chronological resume and then they'll get back to them.
If you're afraid the information you want someone to see is buried too far down in your history, you might consider putting a short bulleted functional or skills list below your summary. But, making your whole resume functional won't generally work.
The important work the chronological portion of your resume should do for you is to build a clear image in the reader's mind of who you are and what you've done. It's your accurate personal history or story. It should start to build confidence that you make reasonable decisions, follow-through on your commitments, are promotable and have learned and have experience with the skills needed for the job someone's trying to fill. It should also build confidence that you are a truthful, well-organized individual with good communications skills.
What is the chronological information you need to include?
Put your job experience in order, starting with the most recent and work your way backwards. When talking about each experience:
Include dates from and to
If someone's told you to leave the dates off, I strongly urge you to not take their advice. The only times I've heard this suggested is if you're an older candidate, if you've only been at jobs a few months at a time, or if there's a gap in your employment history. Getting resumes with dates left off gives recruiters another excuse to weed you out of their stack of other candidates and "round file" your resume. It sets up an instant red flag. "What's this guy hiding?" they think. No one really wants to deal with problem candidates. Please consider — no matter what you put on your resume, it's part of the hiring process to see how much of it is true. If you're worried about being an older candidate and think you can cover that up by not including dates on your resume; the recruiter will figure out about how old you are when you walk through their door. If you've jumped around a lot, the recruiter will find that out. Ditto if there's a gap in your work history. Better to address any short term assignments or gaps head on, avoiding any nasty, uninformed assumptions. Were your short-term assignments contracts? Say so. Did the company close shortly after you got hired? Say so. Did you take a sabbatical to pick up an MBA? Say so. Did you take time off to care for an ailing family member? Say so. It's much better for the recruiter or hiring manager to understand these issues up front than to assume that you got fired, spent time in jail or just don't like to work.
Can't remember all of your dates? Call up your former employers' personnel departments and ask. Or, if you're embarrassed to do so, run a background check on yourself to find out. HireRight.com, for example, provides for an employment verification. They'll contact your previous employers for you for a small fee.
Started work in the 40's? You don't have to include your entire job history. Just the portion of it that pertains to the job you seek. But also keep a complete resume on file in case someone asks. I've seen a couple of companies demand this level of detail. And, if you've only recently picked up the most relevant job skills? Include some of your other employers as well, being sure to highlight similar skills that should help build a strong case for you.
If you've worked for two or more companies at a time, explain that in your write-up.
If you've worked for the same company on two or more occasions, explain that as well. Being hired back is generally considered a good thing. List each occurrence where it belongs in chronological order.
The name of the employer
If you started with one company and got transferred to another during a merger, include both company names. You might spell out that you got picked up in the merger.
If you worked for a company through a third party, you might want to mention that. If you worked for an agency for several different companies' assignments, for example, you might want to group those under the agency's name. It's a good way of minimizing the look that you jump around too much. And, if the agency liked what you did well enough to keep putting you to work for other clients, that makes a positive impression.
If the company simply changed names? Put both names, explaining the company's name changed.
Want to keep the company confidential? Include a description of the company instead of its name. For example: Instead of saying Weyerhaeuser, you might say "Large international forest products manufacturer." If you're not sure how to word a description, go to the company's website & see how they describe themself. Tailor that for your purposes.
If you've worked for companies with well-respected and easily recognizable names and logos, you might consider using copies of the companies' logos on your resume. It's a quick way to communicate your experience and provides some graphic relief to your resume. Keep in mind, though, some companies might not appreciate your use of their logo in this fashion. If you have the ability to check into that before peppering your resume with logos, you probably should. Most applicant tracking systems aren't fond of logos.
What your job title was
It's OK to use a generic job title if it's accurate and more widely understood. For example: At one point in my career my job title was "User Interface Coordinator." No one really knows what that means and people usually come up with the wrong ideas, some of which are quite embarrassing. What I did at that point in my career was work as an Employee Liaison. I no longer look for that type of work, but when I did my resume used the more accurate and informative generic job title.
If your job title was less significant than the work you did, stick to what your job title was. For example: If your job title was Supervisor and you really did the Department Manager's job, stick to Supervisor. Explain in the text about that job what all of your duties were and the reader will get the picture.
If you were an acting something-or-the-other, it's perfectly OK to use that as a job title. For example: Acting VP.
Employers may use background checks to verify your dates of employment as well as your prior job titles. Please keep this in mind so that you don't provide too many surprises. You don't want employers to think you've inflated what your job was in order to look better. Employers might decide you're not truthful enough to hire. Be prepared to explain yourself if there's a difference between your resume and your background check or other employment verification.
Where your work was located (if relevant)
A simple city and state will suffice. Include the country if outside of the US.
Including locations might be advisable if, for example, you're looking for a sales position and you want to show you know the territory very well, you'd like to show you're probably not adverse to relocation or to extreme climates (you can take the heat in Phoenix or mountains of snow in Buffalo) or you have other location-specific skills (local laws, customs, languages, business practices, etc.) that you'd like employers to know about.
A description of the type of business the employer is / was in (if needed)
You can't always assume everyone knows what kind of company you worked for from the company name. They might not recognize it. A short description will clue them in. Refer to the company's website if you're uncomfortable coming up with a description on your own. But, be sure the description has application to the kind of job you seek. Employers like to hire candidates who have worked in environments where they have had the opportunity to pick up skills they can use in their new position.
If you give a description for one company, you probably ought to include a short description for all.
A description of what you did, being sure to reference your skills inventory, stories, facts and figures
Here's where you can begin to incorporate some of your stories, facts and figures. You'll use this to show that you have successful and meaningful experience with the skills the employer seeks.
Describe your job, focusing in on those things in which you believe the employer will most likely be interested.
Check skills off of your lists as you reference them. This will help you to not miss mentioning an important skill.
Talk about what you yourself personally did. Recruiters hate to read phrases like "was responsible for," "participated in," or "was a team member for." What activities did you do to take care of your responsibilities? What was your exact participation? What role did you play in the team?
If you're in a technical position, you might want to list the skills used in a job at the bottom of each chronological item. Coders and programmers, for example, sometimes list the application packages or programming languages used and on what kinds of systems. Recruiters find that quite handy! And, they might make you more findable.
If you're in PR, advertising or marketing, be sure to list your past clients and/or industries with which you have the most experience.
Write your complete chronological history. Decide how much of it you will use on the resume you plan to send out. Keep a copy of a version of your resume that contains your entire history for back-up.
Carefully edit yourself. Did you use any of those phrases recruiters hate to see? If so, how can you improve that? Did you make sure that you referenced all the pertinent skills you possess? Did you substantiate your claim to having those skills? Is everything on your resume factual? If someone checks up on you, will they discover that you really did all that great work? Have you plugged all your time span gaps?
Still not sure how well you're communicating? See the suggestions at the end of the last exercise for gathering feedback. Try them out on your chronological information.
BTW........by now you're probably wondering how long your resume should be. Most likely more than one page. If you've got a great career history, don't try to cram in down to one page. And, tiny type spread from one printable margin to the other isn't readable and recruiters will round file you. Editing out the pertinent details loses your impact and, sometimes, your findability. Most recruiters I know prefer to see more information, not less. Provided, of course, you've managed to get their attention in the first place. But, if you're starting to exceed four pages, consider cutting back. Do you really need the last couple of employers to be on your resume?