The ultimate purpose of any resume is to land an interview. Many people (both career experts and job seekers) believe that a functional resume will less likely help candidates accomplish this purpose. While the hiring managers prefer reverse-chronological resumes over any other kind, there are situations when a functional resume will be more appropriate though. It is all about showcasing the most relevant experience and skills after all; sometimes, a functional resume is a better way to make your pitch and help hiring managers better understand how your skill set aligns with what the company needs.
The golden rule of resume writing is to customize the document for every single opportunity you choose to apply for. It may well be that there are some jobs you would love to apply for but your work experience doesn't look cohesive at all. Then submitting your one-size-fits-all reverse-chronological resume may be the road to nowhere. That said, a functional resume can sometimes be a great solution…
What is a Functional Resume?
A functional resume (also called a skills-based resume) is the marketing document that places the emphasis on your skills rather than your employment history. Unlike the conventional format, a functional resume highlights the most relevant responsibilities to paint a broad picture of your potential contribution. So if you want to write a skills-based resume, you would single only relevant accomplishments and responsibilities and combine them under one section to help the hiring authorities have a holistic understanding of how you match the requirements.
Obviously, this type of format resembles traditional resumes: it starts off your name, address, and contact details and lists your skills, education, and memberships toward the end of the document. The biggest difference is the main body section. While reverse-chronological and chronological resumes place a great emphasis on work experience outlining all of the job details, a functional format implies a different organization of this section. The work experience section is usually called “Experience Highlights” or “Career Highlights” and it features all relevant skills under different categories (functions). In other words, you select the functions that are relevant and list all your responsibilities under these categories, thus focusing on information that is important for employers. For example, if you are applying for a sales job, one of the categories would probably be “Customer Service”, under which you will list three-six bullet points that demonstrate how you have applied this type of skills in various roles.
We strongly recommend to include the employment history section right after the career highlights section where you list only job titles, company names, and employment dates (see our functional resume sample below).
When Should You Write a Functional (Skills) Resume?
There is a certain risk in using a functional (skills) resume. The thing is that employers often skip past the skills part and go straight to employment history. The reason they do it is that all of the responsibilities and accomplishments provided are usually taken out of the context. Hiring managers want to know the context where you used the skills to get a better idea about you as a candidate. Otherwise, they are forced to draw their own conclusions basing them on vague responsibilities. But like we said before, there are cases when listing your work experience in a reverse-chronological order could do even more harm (see the list below). In other words, a functional resume sometimes may be your best option. So when should you write a functional resume then?
When you have no recent/relevant experience. If a hiring manager notices a recent gap in your work history, it may be a red flag. Therefore, it is better to cover up your recent out-of-work period with something relevant and powerful (for example, your accomplishments). Later the hiring managers will stumble upon the gap anyway but that will be after you present your core strengths and potential contribution.
When you don’t have much to offer in terms of actual work experience. It may well be that you are starting out and didn’t have a chance to develop an extensive work history. That doesn’t necessarily mean you don’t have the drive and the skills needed for the job. A functional resume allows for flexibility and creativity when it comes to experience. For example, you may select some things out of all you did in college, during your volunteering experience or internships, and include them into your career highlights section.
When you are making a career change. Collecting all of the relevant skills and accomplishments under one section is a good idea if you are trying to make a career pivot. In this case, transferrable skills should be driving your job search efforts. A skills-based resume is a good option for those seeking a major career change as its format allows them to show off unique abilities that can be applied in the role never held before.
When your work experience is just a bunch of different things. There are many people who at some point decided to try different things in their professional careers – they took on a variety of roles and job titles. As a result, it is hard to see any kind of consistency or career progression (any freelancers reading this?) on their resumes. Using a functional resume format should help such job seekers organize their experience into a cohesive and relevant story.
A skills-based resume can help job seekers who struggled during their careers to better customize the content to a specific job they are trying to land. Choosing to go with a functional format takes a burden off one’s shoulders as you no longer need to worry about eclectic employment history or job titles that may not sound relevant.
How to Write a Functional Resume?
Now as you know more about what a functional resume is and when you might need it, we can move on to some practical writing tips. We have divided the writing process into several steps so that it would be easy for you to follow.
1. Make sure you need a functional resume
We have already mentioned that there are certain risks associated with choosing this type of format. Therefore, you need to make sure you have a necessity to choose this type of resume before proceeding to the next steps. Check the scenarios above when you might need a skills-based resume – if there is a match, you most likely need a functional resume.
2. Write down and categorize your skills and experience
At this point, you want to write down all of your experiences and skills first. Anything from internships and volunteering to jobs should be jotted down. Then try to categorize the skills and experiences (i.e. customer service, sales, marketing, etc.). Create functions you are good at and list appropriate skills and responsibilities under each of such function (category).
3. Select and organize
If you need a functional resume, it means you will not need all the skills you have. It is a good time to carefully analyze the requirements for your target job and identify your selling points (relevant skills and accomplishments). This should serve then as a skeleton for your resume.
4. Develop a powerful summary section
This is your value proposition and the very first thing the hiring managers will read. If you are still thinking about an objective statement, forget about it. You need a powerful beginning. It is your summary section that should encourage a busy hiring manager to keep reading your resume.
5. Arrange your resume content
Full name, contact details, summary, career highlights, work history, and education are essential resume components. Make sure you list them in the correct order. Feel free to add any memberships, affiliations, additional training or technical skills section if it helps demonstrate your relevant skills and expertise.
6. Proofread and edit
After you drafted your functional resume, make sure it doesn’t have any typos or grammatical mistakes. If you are going to use it to apply for different job openings, make sure you tailor the document before submission.
Functional Resume Example
As you can see, Alex Lee has five jobs. Only one of these employments is directly related to his career goal - working as a Conceptual or Graphic Designer. Unlucky for him, the only relevant job is a freelance type of employment. Therefore, bragging about solid work history and a cohesive career progression is not about Alex Lee. Nevertheless, Alex has some skills to show off as he consistently used them in various roles.
Functional Resume Template
The functional resume template below is meant to help you create your own marketing document. You can simply download the Word file and insert your own information in the sections provided. This can save a lot of time - you won't need to think through the structure and the arrangement of sections. Just make sure you tailor your functional resume to match the requirements of the target job (you can change/add some of the sections depending on the job requirements). It is all about what employer needs, not what makes you look a skillful candidate.
Functional Resumes: Key Takeaway
Functional resumes are not for everybody. They are meant for specific situations when using traditional reverse-chronological resumes is even less effective. Therefore, job seekers need to be careful when drafting their functional resumes – they can either increase or ruin their chances of being invited for an interview. Here are some key things to remember:
- Functional resumes help job seekers tailor their applications when they don’t have a strong work history record
- Functional resumes focus on relevant skills and experiences rather than on relevant job titles and former employers
- Functional resumes can help job seekers with employment gaps and eclectic work history
- The functional format works great for those who need a freelance resume and who had multiple temporary jobs