Functional resumes, often called skills-based resumes, emphasize an applicant’s relevance for a position based on skills and accomplishments while de-emphasizing employment history. Direct work experience is woven into an applicant’s professional story through individual sections on qualifications, skills and specific achievements.
When to Use a Functional Resume
You should use the functional resume format if:
You have never had a job.
You are a current college or high school student or are a recent graduate with little work experience.
You are applying for a job outside your field or industry.
You have gaps in your employment history.
You have frequently changed jobs.
You should NOT use a functional resume format if:
You want to show career advancement.
Your skills and experience closely match the job description. In that case, it’s better to use a chronological resume.
Advantages of the Functional Resume Format
The functional resume has many advantages for job seekers who fall outside of a traditional, steady career path, as well for those who wish to emphasize their skills over their work history.
Consider the following examples as someone who would use a functional resume format.
Joel Hamilton, Food Service Manager - Unique Resume Template
Joel Hamilton is a food service manager with five years of combined experience working as a hotel food service manager, a room attendant and a valet, all at different hotels. He wants to apply for a front desk manager position at the hot new hotel in town everyone’s talking about. To have the best chance at that job, he should highlight the customer service experience he gained in his previous roles because it ties his varied positions together and is directly relevant to the front desk manager job he wants.
Joel chose a two-column functional resume format, shown below, because it allowed him to tell employers briefly and clearly why he is qualified for the role. His professional summary, skills and education work together to tell his professional story in an eye-catching and appealing way, and while Joel lists his previous employers, his former titles take a backseat to his abilities.
Aubry Diaz, Veterinary Technician - Classic Resume Template
In the next example, Aubry Diaz, a recent graduate of a veterinary technician program with little experience, can utilize the functional format to highlight her job-related training and soft skills, and to show how she applied those skills to gain experience in the field.
Her functional resume, like Joel’s, puts her qualifications upfront, so employers can focus on her abilities rather than her limited experience as a veterinary technician. Aubry’s summary of qualifications leaves no question that she has basic knowledge of the job, and by tying her professional skills to direct experience in the field, she conveys her capabilities for handling various functions of the job.
What are other advantages of the functional resume format?
Its summary, qualifications and accomplishment sections provide ample opportunities to add keywords that appeal to applicant tracking system (ATS) software, which categorizes and parses resumes for relevance before a human sees it.
It puts your most relevant work qualifications upfront so hiring managers can easily find them.
It can hide employment gaps or short job stints while emphasizing your abilities.
It can help you stand out from the competition because the format is not commonly used.
Disadvantages of the Functional Resume Format
The most obvious disadvantage of a functional resume is that it is somewhat challenging to write. This is mainly because you have to show your value through your skills and achievements instead of through your direct work history.
One way to do this is to quantify your achievements with numbers whenever possible. For example, “Increased online sales by 42 percent in three months” is an achievement with measurable results. Such objective details help tell your story in a way hiring managers can easily read and understand.
Other disadvantages of the functional resume format:
It’s not commonly used, and therefore not many hiring managers are accustomed to seeing it. This could make it difficult for them to scan your resume in six seconds.
Not all ATS software is set up to easily scan a functional resume, so you have to be diligent about using pertinent keywords.
It might rouse suspicion from some hiring managers that you are trying to hide something because it de-emphasizes your job history.
What to Include on a Resume When Using the Functional Format
A functional resume typically contains the following career and skills information, in the order shown:
Your contact information, including your name, address, telephone number and email address.
Skills: A section with a bulleted list of technical and soft skills relevant to the job.
Achievements: A section that demonstrates your skills through measurable accomplishments and the results of each.
Your work history in a short summary, including where you have worked and when, in reverse chronological order.
Your education, including the school attended, degree earned or course of study and any honors or awards received.
6 Tips for Using the Functional Resume Format
Keep the following in mind when creating a functional resume:
Review the job description closely and then tailor your skills and accomplishments for the job. Use concrete examples that show results. Don’t ever be vague!
Use keywords from the job description to make it past the company’s stingy ATS. According to Emily Lawson, certified HR leader and LinkedIn author, you must use some of the exact words from the job description, with a focus on job titles (e.g., “administrator” as opposed to the more common “supervisor” if the former term is used), technical skills (e.g., “QA” or “ROI”) and certifications (e.g., “CPA”).
List the skills most relevant to the job first and never exaggerate. According to Glassdoor, most hiring managers can easily spot embellished skills.
Aftab Ali, journalist for The Independent UK, advises job seekers to avoid overused phrases such as “works well independently” in your skills section.
Use a clean layout that is easy to follow.
Write a strong cover letter to expand on your technical and soft skills, accomplishments, and other credentials, such as volunteer experience. This can ease any worries the hiring manager might have about your work history by emphasizing your value.
Functional Resume FAQ
What is a functional resume format?A functional resume brings your skills and expertise front and center. This contrasts with a chronological resume, which emphasizes your work history. If you lack experience or are changing careers, the functional resume format is a good choice as it accentuates the specific skills you can bring to a job, rather than your job history.
Who should use a functional resume?
If you have gaps in your work history, plan to transition into a new career field, or are a first-time job seeker, the functional resume is an effective format because it highlights your transferable skills.
For example, an administrative assistant who specializes in customer service skills can position himself for a sales position by emphasizing those qualities in a functional resume, rather than his lack of job experience in the sales industry. Candidates with an extensive job history in the same career field should consider a chronological format, which places more significance on a robust work experience section.
How do I write a functional resume with no experience?
Focus on your skills and your objectives. Using the employer’s job description as a guide, express what kind of position you want in your summary, and then feature relevant skills in your skills section, paying particularly close attention to technical abilities the job requires.
If you have specific academic or extracurricular achievements that relate to the job, make sure to include them in your education section, or create an “awards and honors” section to feature them if needed. Internships are also valuable to mention, as they prove you know how to handle yourself in a work environment.
What will employers look for in my resume?
Above everything else, employers want candidates who can prove they are qualified for the job — that means stressing the skills that will make a positive impact on the position you are seeking. As mentioned above, research the job position and pick out keywords that apply to you, and include them in your resume.
You should also write a strong summary statement that shows you understand the job, and expresses your confidence in being able to perform it. Your summary can be reiterated and expanded upon in your cover letter.
Which resume can be used to cover employment gaps?A functional resume is a great choice, as it underscores the important skills you can bring to a job, rather than the experience (or lack thereof) you have with the industry. Another option you can look into is the combination resume, which features both your work experience and skills — this format is useful if you’ve performed work that relates to the new job, even if it’s not extensive.
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