I have received a number of questions and comments about how to write a functional resume and if one should be used when applying for jobs. To begin, let’s look at different resume formats.
The most common resume format is chronological. As many of us are aware, a chronological resume would outline your professional profile or summary at the top, followed by a chronological listing of the positions you’ve held, companies with which you’ve worked, when you worked there, your duties, and your achievements. The emphasis of the chronological resume is on your experience and achievements.
The functional resume, on the other hand, would highlight your professional profile or summary at the top, followed by more detail around your relevant skills, then a detailed list of your relevant key accomplishments. The bottom of the functional resume is where your list of previous roles and companies would be found. The emphasis of the functional resume is on your transferrable skills as opposed to your experience. As such, they are more commonly used by people who:
- Have large gaps in employment,
- Have made frequent job changes,
- Are changing careers, or
- Are new to the job market.
Which Resume Format Should I Use?
Functional resumes were very popular when I started recruiting in the 1990’s but have since fallen out of fashion – mainly because they are ineffective in landing an interview. There are 3 key reasons for this:
- Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) are unable to read and assimilate the information on functional resumes. With the prevalence of ATS systems, it is critical that you have a resume that is in a readable format. If the ATS can’t read your resume, it will not rank well among the other applications. For more information on how these systems work, you can view my previous blog here.
- Functional resumes raise doubt. Because chronological resumes are so prevalent, when an employer sees a functional resume it raises suspicion. Employers are well aware of the common uses of a functional resume, and as such, a red flag tends to go up when they see one.
- Functional resumes are harder to read. The layout of a chronological resume provides the employer with a greater sense of how you have progressed and grown throughout your career. A functional resume requires the employer to figure out your career story on their own. In the time-strapped world that we live in, the employer is unlikely to work that hard to determine whether or not you are the best fit – especially when there are hundreds of other resumes and candidates from which they can choose.
As an alternative, I would recommend using a hybrid or combination resume. The combination resume would have the same layout as a chronological resume, but instead of focusing on your job duties you would highlight your skills and accomplishments. You can add more context around how your skills positively impacted the organization, department, or your team. If you have gaps in employment, you can include the volunteer positions you’ve held and the skills you developed in those positions. Perhaps you were a stay at home parent for an extended period of time. You can highlight your budgeting, organization, and conflict resolution skills that you would have developed.
In extreme cases (such as extended illness), you can use your functional resume. You may need to rely more heavily on leveraging other job search strategies (such as networking and working with recruitment agencies) to increase your chances of being considered.
I recommend using a chronological resume when applying to jobs. If a chronological resume does not fully capture your skills, however, try using a combination resume. By blending the transferrable skills emphasis of a functional resume with the layout of a chronological resume, you will be better able to position your skills in a way that is palatable for the employer (and their ATS systems).
Your resume is a key piece of your marketing material for your job search. This is the first impression that an employer will have of you and your skills, and as the saying goes: “You never get a second chance to make a good first impression.”
If you have any additional insights on using a functional resume or have any other questions, please leave a comment below. Also, if you would like personalized advice, please feel free to contact me directly.