How do you respond to different sorts of resume formats? Do you favor one type above others? Let’s examine the pros and cons of functional resumes, which can be a great option for those seeking to change careers or focus on skills rather than their work history.

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What Is a Functional Resume?

A functional resume focuses on skills and abilities rather than work experience. Instead of listing previously held positions, the resume highlights skills and abilities (or functions), showing examples of relevant experiences that illustrate them.

Who Should Use a Functional Resume?

A functional resume is not traditional, and is only suggested if there is a specific reason to use it. Recruiters are wary of functional resumes, making it harder on a candidate to land an interview. Read the pros and cons list below to see when a functional resume is most appropriate.

Pros of a Functional Resume

Functional resumes focus less on title, can hide work gaps, and lets the candidate present content for specific audiences.

  • Less emphasis on job titles. For whatever reason, candidates may not want to focus on previous job titles; perhaps they are not accurate or relevant. A functional resume puts the focus on the skills instead of the job.
  • Hides work gaps. If for some reason candidates have gaps in work history, this type of resume helps hide these gaps because it is not arranged chronologically.
  • Geared content. A functional resume can allow candidates to gear the content of the resume to a specific role. This is helpful when previous job titles do not align with desired roles.

Cons of a Functional Resume

Here are a few reasons functional resumes are not as common as traditional ones.

  • Rejected by automation. Many companies use applicant tracking systems to filter resumes automatically. Automated systems often reject a resume if it is not structured chronologically.
  • Red flag to recruiters. Many recruiters see a functional resume as a red flag. It can make it harder for them to understand work history and signals to them that the candidate is trying to hide something.
  • Less common. Functional resumes are less common and are generally less preferred by recruiters and interviewers. This is because, as stated above, many recruiters feel that something is being hidden.

When Functional Resumes Are Appropriate

As stated earlier, a functional resume should only be used in specific circumstances. Here are a few instances when candidates may want to focus on skills and abilities to show their strengths to the recruiter.

Career Change

Because a functional resume focuses on skills, previous job titles have less emphasis. Candidates can highlight skills that are applicable to the career they’re seeking.

Little or No Work Experience

Whether a candidate left the workforce a bit ago or is a college student who hasn’t worked much, a functional resume helps hide the lack of work experience and instead shows skills obtained through other experiences.

Non-Traditional Work History

Some people have a non-traditional work history. This could mean changing jobs and roles often, or could reflect a work history that isn’t typical in your business setting. A functional resume can lessen the impact of a non-traditional work history.

How to Respond to a Functional Resume

Because functional resumes are less common, the initial response is often to turn the candidate down. Here are some steps to help you prepare for and respond to functional resumes.

  • Be cautious of AI. If you use any automation to help you sort through resumes, be aware that it might automatically reject functional resumes. To avoid this, you have a few options.
      • On the job posting/website, encourage chronological resumes. If the candidate wants to use a functional resume, suggest they reach out to you/the recruiter/hiring manager directly.
      • In the AI software, add a selection for type of resume.Have the AI automatically respond to functional resumes differently.
  • Be open-minded. Instinct may make you want to turn away functional resumes, but be open-minded. People who are using functional resumes are not necessarily hiding things, but have different circumstances. Perhaps the candidate had to take long-term time off for medical issues, or is a parent returning to the workforce.
  • Be upfront in interviews. An interview is a great way to bring up your concerns regarding the resume format. Perhaps you feel like the candidate has jumped around jobs too much. Use the interview as an opportunity to professionally approach the subject and gain understanding of the circumstances.

How a Functional Resume Is Written

A functional resume contains the same information as a traditional resume: contact information, education, work experience, volunteer experience, skills, etc. The difference is in the layout. In a functional resume, the body of the text lists role functions and illustrates how the candidate has used those skills or qualities.

Contact Information

Like all other resumes, contact information comes first. The name will be at the top, and usually should be the largest font size. Other relevant contact information includes phone number, email, LinkedIn, portfolios/websites, location, and more.

Summary

This part is optional. Sometimes people add a summary to their functional resume in order to tie their skills and work experience together. A summary statement can quickly show the candidate’s value to the employer.

Skills

Next, skills are listed, specifically the ones that pertain to the job in question. Under each skill, the candidate lists when and how they have demonstrated that skill. Like other resumes, this can include both experiences and data.

This area may be called Relevant Skills, Areas of Expertise, Skills, and Abilities, and more.

Work Experience

Work experience comes after skills. Because all relevant metrics should be shown in the skills section, this need only cover job title, company, location, and tenure.

Technical Skills

Depending on the job, technical skills can be a section that falls under overall skills. Many people like to list them separately, as not all technical skills can be shown by the metrics in the other skills section.

Education

Like other resumes, the education section communicates the candidate’s major(s) and any minors, any awards and notable achievements, and the date of degree.

Anything Else

Other sections may include achievements, awards, volunteer history, and more.

Questions You’ve Asked Us About Functional Resumes

A good functional resume is limited to one page and draws the reader’s eyes to the skills section. It is clear and flows cohesively, even though it is not chronologically ordered. It is aimed specifically towards the job being applied for in order to demonstrate mastery of the necessary skills of the job.
A chronological resume is the most common type of resume. It lists relevant work history with key achievements. Another option is a combination resume, which is a mix of functional and chronological and highlights both work history and skills.

Katie is currently studying at BYU, with a HRM major and Statistics minor. She works there as an HR research assistant and also works as an HR Generalist at a local company, and both jobs provide her with a wide variety of experiences. Katie’s passion lies in HR and People Analytics, where she can discover and use data to help everyone understand and improve the workplace for a universal benefit.

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