A grueling job search is never a fun spot to be in. Not only must you scour the job boards, but you must also create a polished resume, write cover letters, and get your LinkedIn up to date. Today we’re here to help you with one of these things — creating a functional resume.
A functional resume format is different from a chronological format because it focuses on relevant skills rather than particular jobs you’ve held. It’s a perfect option if you’re in the midst of a career change, early on in your career, or have little experience.
In this guide, we’ll talk about the differences between a functional format and a chronological resume. We’ll show you when it’s appropriate to use one format versus the other, go over a few writing tips, and highlight six sections of a functional resume. We want to set you apart from the rest of the job seekers and have your resume sitting on a hiring manager’s desk at the top of the stack.
What Is a Functional Resume?
Functional resumes shift the focus to your applicable skills and experience rather than a detailed chronological account of your work history. A functional resume is formatted to bring your professional skills front and center.
Job seekers will sometimes turn to functional resumes when they have long periods of unemployment, career gaps, or are making a career transition. By highlighting your relevant skills, you call attention to your professional capabilities instead of your employment history.
However, functional resumes can do much more than hide gaps in employment. They allow you to show employers why you’re qualified for a position, regardless of your previous jobs and work history.
Let’s take a look at how functional resumes differ from a traditional resume.
Functional Resume vs. Traditional Resume
A traditional resume, or chronological resume, is formatted to show a reverse progression of your work history. They enable recruiters and managers to scan your resume and see how your career has grown from one position to the next.
Functional resumes de-emphasize how your career has progressed in a particular field or industry. Instead, it summarizes the applicable professional and technical skills you’ve garnered through your previous roles.
Although functional resumes tend to downplay career progression, you can still incorporate a chronological timeline of your work experience. You can include your work experience but choose to leave out timeframes and granular information on each role.
You can even opt to merge a functional resume with a chronological resume. This is called a combination resume. Combination resumes will give priority to your professional skills followed by a detailed account of your work history.
Advantages of a Functional Resume
Functional resumes are a great option for those who are just beginning their careers or primarily have internship experience. They allow you to focus on the skills you’ve attained in a short amount of time.
They’re also a nice way to guide interviewers to what’s important — your capabilities and relevant skills. This is helpful if you’re transitioning from one career or field into another.
If you’re worried your previous work experience doesn’t line up to the job you’re applying to, a functional resume may increase your chances of landing an interview since it focuses on your skills rather than your previous jobs.
Disadvantages of a Functional Resume
Functional resumes can potentially give off negative vibes to recruiters. Some may think that you’re trying to hide certain details on your resume — like unexplained job gaps — because you don’t want employers to find out.
They also don’t do an adequate job showing career progression. Many will turn to functional resumes for this exact reason. However, if you’re trying to show how you’ve grown and gained valuable experience in a certain industry, a functional resume may not be right for you.
Functional resumes don’t work for everyone. Traditional fields tend to shy away from functional resumes. Some industries, like finance or engineering, expect to see a traditional chronological resume. If a functional resume lands on their desk, they may be caught off guard and flip to the next resume in the pile.
Lastly, functional resumes are much less common than chronological resumes and many recruiters prefer the traditional format. But this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try it out. If a functional resume fits your situation, then give it a shot.
Here are six sections you should include in your functional resume.
1. Contact Information
Your personal contact information should be included in any type of resume. This includes your name, phone number, email, and often your home address. You should avoid sharing personal information like gender, ethnicity, or a photograph.
Your name should be the largest and boldest aspect on the page, followed closely by the remainder of your contact information. This section should be at the very top of your resume.
2. Summary Statement
A solid summary section can start your resume off on the right foot. This section should summarize all of your experience in a few bullet points. It should highlight why you’d be a great addition to a team and what makes you qualified for the position.
Having this section at the top of the page will demand a recruiter’s attention and encourage them to read more. Remember, this is your chance to stick out from the rest, so choose your words wisely. You can check out our guide to the resume objective statement, which can give you a few pointers to apply to this section as well.
3. Relevant Skills
The relevant skills section should immediately follow your summary section. This section is the star of your resume and should take up the most real estate.
Determine three to four professional skills that are applicable to the job you’re applying to. Under each of these specific skills, you should list around three bullets detailing professional experience that relates to the respective skill. Under each skill, you should include at least one bullet that is quantifiable.
Some appropriate skills to highlight include leadership, interpersonal skills, or problem-solving skills. For example, you could say “Led weekly team meetings to report sales metrics and improve business processes.”
4. Work Experience
A work experience section is similar to the chronological resume format and will show recruiters a brief history of your employment.
Since you’re trying to draw focus to your applicable skills, you can choose to leave out timeframes if you feel it doesn’t strengthen your resume.
Make sure to include the names of companies, the job title you held, and where each job was located. Also, keep these previous jobs in chronological order.
The education section of a functional resume should remain general and not get too in-depth. You should include the name of the university, college, or high school you attended, along with the date you graduated.
You should also include the degree you received, especially if it directly applies to the position you’re trying to get. Your GPA is optional, but feel free to include this if you think it will help you shine.
6. Awards, Distinctions, and Extracurriculars
The sixth section on this list is optional. If you have awards, certain distinctions, or extracurricular activities that you think will help you stand out, then, by all means, add this section.
If you’re fresh out of college, participation or leadership in student organizations would be a good addition. If you’ve already been in the workforce for a few years, then perhaps include nonprofit volunteerism or other ways you’re involved with the community.
Tips for Writing a Functional Resume
Now that you know which sections should be included in a functional resume template, let’s go over a few tips you can use to create a game-winning resume. They include focusing on relevant keywords, using data to support your experience, and crafting a personal cover letter.
Focus on Keywords
Many recruiters use hiring software that filters applicants through keyword searches. For example, if they’re looking for someone who has sales experience, they may search for “sales associate.”
Include any keywords you think will help you show up in more searches. The most important keywords on your resume can even be bolded and used as headers within your skills section.
Quantify Project Success
Quantifying success in your previous projects will make your resume much stronger. You can plug in data and figures and tie them to your experience wherever you see fit. Recruiters will take note and appreciate applicants who are data-driven.
A bullet point that reads “Increased average monthly sales by 30% in one year” will jump off the page to hiring managers. It certainly beats one that simply says “Increased sales in my first year as manager.”
Talking about relevant projects will strengthen your case for being hired. Focus on your contributions to projects you’ve been involved with. It’s important to recognize the strategy and planning that goes into particular projects along with the specific outcomes, supported by clear data.
Provide a Solid Cover Letter
A strong cover letter is your chance to walk through your experience and explain why you’re a good fit for the role. It should be professional while also injecting a personal touch. You should walk through relevant experiences but also let your personality shine through.
For each job you apply for, be sure to include a custom cover letter. Recruiters will breeze by cover letters that are generic and seem like they could apply to any company. Explain why and how your previous experience will help their specific team.
Build Your Professional Resume
Resume writing is never a fun exercise, but it’s a necessary skill you’ll need time and time again throughout your professional career. If you follow the tips above, you can quickly craft a functional resume and be on your way to your new career.
To alleviate the pain, you should always keep track of your professional achievements at your current role. You never know when you’ll want to apply for a different job or if a lucrative opportunity pops up out of the blue. Good luck with your job search — you’ve got this.