Functional resumes emphasize an applicant’s relevance for a work position based on skills and accomplishments while de-emphasizing employment history. Also called “skills-based” resumes, functional resumes thread job applicants’ work experience into an applicant’s professional story.
Anatomy of a functional resume
Resume Now’s certified resume writers recommend that people should organize their functional resume in the following order:
Your contact information. It should include your name, city, state, ZIP code, telephone number, email address, and links to your LinkedIn profile and professional website.
A professional summary or an objective statement. Immediately highlight your top qualifications for the job with a brief, strong introduction here.
The first skills section. Written in a bulleted sentence list, call this section your summary of qualifications, skills, relevant skills, professional skills, technical skills or soft skills, depending on your chosen resume style and what you want to add. Your skills should match the job description closely.
An optional second skills section. Also written out in a bulleted list, you can title this section to match the type of skills you include. The title and abilities listed in this section should be different from the first section, as shown in the image above, but you still have to make sure that they match the position. Don’t forget to mention how you used each skill and how it made an impact (use data metrics, sales figures, etc.).
A Professional Skills section. The most important feature of a functional resume, this section refers to three of your strongest and most relevant skills for the position you are now seeking. Like the work history section of the combination and chronological resume formats, your functional resume "Professional Skills" section should use quantifiable metrics to highlight what you accomplished in your previous positions utilizing these skills.
Your work experience, if you have any. This section should be a reverse-chronological list that includes company names, dates you worked (by month), and a bulleted list of measurable achievements with the results of each. But if you don’t have any experience, it’s OK to skip this point — the functional format is structured in a way that it doesn’t hurt you.
Your education. This part should include the school you attended, the degree earned or course of study, and any honors or awards received. There is no need to add dates.
Key additional information. Add any relevant volunteer time, school certifications, or impactful community leadership activities, awards, languages and licenses if you have them.
When to use the functional resume format
5 Tips for writing a functional resume
Keep the following in mind when creating a functional resume:
- Use concrete examples that show real results that can be proven. Don’t ever be vague because you will definitely be asked about these.
- Use the exact words from the job description to make it past the company’s applicant tracking system (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., Project manager II), technical skills (e.g., “QA” or “ROI”) and certifications (e.g., “CPA”).
- List the skills most relevant to the job first and be honest. Use only the words that pertain to the skills you have and add abilities that aren’t in the job requirements, too. Employers want well-rounded applicants.
- Avoid overused phrases such as “works well independently” or “good communicator” in your skills section and your summary or objective statement. Even if those statements are correct, it’s best to find other ways to write them if you want to stand out, according to resume experts.
- Write a strong cover letter as a companion to your resume. It’s a great way to emphasize your applicant value because it allows you to expand on your credentials and tell the hiring manager how you plan to use them for the company.
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Advantages of a functional resume
The functional resume format has advantages for job seekers who fall outside of a traditional, steady career path or want to emphasize their skills. Our resume writers say the following four points are the most important:
- 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.
- It puts pertinent qualifications upfront so hiring managers can see them easily.
- It can hide employment gaps or short jobs while emphasizing what you’re capable of.
- It can help you stand out from other job applicants because most don’t use this format.
Disadvantages of a functional resume
While the functional resume format is beneficial to some job seekers, it does have some drawbacks.
- They can be a bit challenging to write. Since you have to show your value through your skills and achievements instead of through your direct work history, you have to think about which words best describe your abilities. Because these are your most powerful marketing tools in a functional resume, you have to make them count! So be choosy when deciding which ones to highlight.
- Your achievements need to shine right alongside your skills. One way to do this is to add accurate numbers to your accomplishments. For example, “Increased online sales by 42% in three months” is an achievement with measurable results. Such objective, can’t-be-denied details help tell your employment story in a way that hiring managers can easily read and understand.
- Hiring managers get resumes in this format less often, so it might be difficult for them to scan. To counter this issue, always write clearly and concisely, use bullet lists, and be specific. You can do it!
- Not all ATS software is set up to scan a functional resume. So, remember to be diligent about using keywords from the job description.
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 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.
Are functional resume formats frowned upon by recruiters?
Sometimes, if they are recruiters who assume the worst. They might believe that job applicants who use this format are trying to hide something about their employment history. But most recruiters understand that some candidates, such as those who are still in school, have never had work experience, and who are changing positions and industries, have qualifications that merit a functional resume. Those recruiters will look past the format and at the applicant's skills and related accomplishments.
Should I list related skills together in a functional resume?
Yes! Listing related skills together in a functional resume helps employers see you have the appropriate skills to do the job. You can list them by theme, such as “Technical skills,” “Customer service qualifications,” or “Leadership credentials,” for example.
Is the functional resume format ATS-friendly?
The functional resume format can be ATS-friendly if you use it properly. While most ATS software is programmed to “read” the more common chronological format, it also scans resumes for keywords based on the job description. While you don’t want to overload your resume with every single word from the job description (this will come across as completely inauthentic and lazy to employers), you should name the exact skills they are looking for if they apply to you.
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