While the standard reverse chronological resume format works for the majority of people, there are certainly instances where a functional resume may be a better fit. The functional resume format allows you to highlight your transferable skills most prominently.
This article will cover what exactly a functional resume is, whether or not you should use one, and some tips and examples to help you get started creating your own functional resume.
What is a Functional Resume?
A functional resume (also called a skill-based resume) utilizes a format that focuses heavily on your professional skills, as opposed to a timeline of your work history. In the functional resume format, your skills will be grouped together under categories rather than under your past job titles. Each skill category contains hard skills as well as soft skills, with a few bullet points under each one to further describe your skills and provide examples.
Who Should Use a Functional Resume?
There are a few specific job searching situations where a functional resume format may be the most flattering or represent your qualifications most accurately, such as:
- You are aiming to change careers and do not have much (or any) work experience that’s relevant to your new industry.
- You are a student or a recent graduate and do not have work experience to list.
- You have multiple and/or long gaps in your professional history.
- You have developed your professional skills outside of your past workplaces, e.g. in school, certification courses, through mentorship, etc.
- You work in a creative industry where your portfolio and skills are most important. For example, your work history may only include something like ‘Freelance Graphic Designer, 2014-present’ but you have gained skills and experience in many different styles from a variety of projects.
- You are overqualified for the position, such as if you were previously a CEO and are now applying for a lower level job.
- You are transitioning out of the military and your work history is classified or too complicated or specialized to present clearly on a resume.
Ultimately, if you feel that your skills and qualifications appear a bit lackluster or underrepresented when listed in the typical reverse chronological format, consider showcasing your skills with a functional resume instead.
However, keep in mind that a skill-based resume is more difficult to scan, both by hiring managers (who spend an average of 7 seconds looking at each resume they receive) and by applicant tracking system (ATS) software. If you are applying to a large company that you know will use an ATS, you may want to opt for another resume format.
Other Resume Formats
If none of those descriptions apply to you or you are concerned about ATS scannability, consider using one of the two other most popular resume formats:
Generally speaking, employers and recruiters prefer standard reverse chronological resumes because the format allows them to quickly scan your past job titles, qualifications, and when and where you developed your professional skills. So, if you have a relatively straightforward career path, experience within your niche, and are applying to another job within your industry, it’s best to stick with a reverse chronological resume.
A hybrid or combination resume blends the reverse chronological and functional resume formats. Skills are listed at the top and organized into categories, followed by work experience listed in reverse chronological order.
A combination resume is a great option if you have plenty of work experience but there are gaps in your work history, or if you are targeting a very niche position for which both skills and experience are important. However, this type of resume is the most difficult to create, so it’s best to stick with one of the other two types unless you have an unusual work history and/or you are applying to a very specialized job.
Tips for Writing a Functional Resume
If you’ve decided that a functional resume format is your best option, here are some tips to help you get started:
Start With Your Name and Contact Information
As with any resume format, start with a heading that contains your full name and contact information, including your email, phone number, address (or at least your city and state), and your website and social media links if applicable.
Include your Job Title in a Resume Headline
A resume headline is a brief snippet that sums up your work experience, including your most recent job title and your achievements, certifications, and key skills. This headline grabs the attention of potential employers and encourages them to keep reading the rest of your carefully crafted resume.
Your resume headline can be placed in your header just under your name, or it can be incorporated into your resume summary or resume objective as the title of that section.
Add a Resume Summary or Resume Objective
Your resume summary or resume objective should come next. Use a resume summary if you have plenty of skills, experience, and accomplishments to highlight. Opt for a resume objective if you do not have substantial work experience, you are looking to change careers, or you are aiming to gloss over some gaps in your work history by showcasing your skills and other achievements.
Group Your Skills into Categories
Now it’s time to highlight your skills. Generally, it’s easiest to group your skills by theme or divide them into categories. Refer to the job description for ideas of what types of skills to include and how to group them – it’s always a good idea to customize your resume to each job that you apply for.
Once you’ve established your skill categories, list a few skills for each, supporting the skill with short descriptions that further explain your skills or show how and where you acquired them.
When listing your skills on your resume, always try to frame each one in terms of impact and quantifiable results. For example, instead of saying that you are ‘experienced with making high volumes of sales calls,’ write that you ‘completed 150+ calls per day with over a 25% conversion rate.
Mention Your Work Experience
Even though your work experience isn’t the focal point of your resume, it’s still a good idea to include your past positions below your skills. You can present this simply as a list of past roles and omit the date ranges, so any gaps are not immediately highlighted. Or, if you have shorter gaps, you can opt to include only the years of employment but not the months. Be sure to include your past job title, the name of each company you worked for, and the location of the company.
For example, your work experience section could look like this:
- Shift Manager, ABC Food & Drug, Redmond, WA
- Cashier, ABC Food & Drug, Redmond, WA
- Bagger, XYZ Grocery, Snohomish, WA
Include Your Education Details
Under your work experience, outline your educational background, including the name of the schools and/or universities you attended, the dates you studied there, your area of study, type of diploma or degree you earned, and any other relevant achievements.
If you are a student or recent graduate, you may want to highlight additional education details in lieu of work experience, such as:
- Your GPA
- Coursework that’s relevant to the job
- Your minor if you have one
- Study abroad experience
- Whether you are in the honors program
- Awards such as making the Dean’s List or President’s Honor Roll
- Membership in business fraternities or academic honor societies
However, if your education details are not relevant to the job or could bring up questions for potential employers, you may choose to leave this information off your functional resume.
Optional Resume Sections
Finally, if you still have room on your single-page resume, you can include optional functional resume sections, such as:
- Additional skills that you didn’t include in your main skill sections
- Other accomplishments that aren’t directly related to your work history
- Volunteer experience
- Hobbies and interests
Functional Resume Skill Section Examples
Here are a couple of examples of ways to structure your skills section on a functional resume:
Customer Service Skills Section Example
- Consistently received scores over 95% on customer service feedback surveys
- Provided quality customer assistance and in-depth product knowledge
- Two-time ‘Employee of the Month’ for providing stellar customer experiences
- Exceeded sales goals every month by an average of 15%
- Successfully upsold customers regularly by recommending products that met their needs
- Completed an average of 25 or more customer transactions per day
- Consistently kept store displays stocked and attractive
- Managed inventory and handled daily shipments of new products
Graphic Designer Skills Section Example
- Worked on an average of 15 projects per year providing overall graphic design services and layouts as well as producing digital visual content
- Directed product photoshoots for incorporation into print marketing materials
- Over 10 years of experience creating stellar work with Adobe Creative Suite
- Created project-defining artwork for projects spanning four industries
- Designed characters, atmospheres, objects, and style guidelines for clients
- Worked closely with clients to create digital art pieces that exceed their expectations
- Created illustrations for a variety of projects including manuals, children’s books, and gift wrap products
- Collaborated easily with teams both remotely and in person to create cohesive work
A functional resume can be a great way to showcase your skills and abilities over your work experience. Arranging your skills into categories or themes helps potential employers see exactly what you have to offer. Although reverse chronological resumes remain the standard option, functional resumes can work to your benefit in certain job searching situations.
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