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Functional Resume – The Ultimate Guide

Editorial Team | On July 8, 2023

By Emi Leon

In the competitive job market of the 21st century, having a resume that effectively showcases your skills, experiences, and achievements is essential. Yet, many job seekers often struggle with creating a resume that not only catches the eye of recruiters but also portrays them in the best possible light.

That’s where the ‘Functional Resume’ enters the picture. In this comprehensive guide, we will take an in-depth look at functional resumes, why they might be right for you, and how to craft an exceptional one that gives you an edge in your career journey.

Table of Contents

  1. Understanding the Functional Resume
  2. When to Use a Functional Resume
  3. The Structure of a Functional Resume
  4. Step-by-step Guide to Writing a Functional Resume
  5. Tips to Enhance Your Functional Resume
  6. Pitfalls to Avoid in a Functional Resume
  7. Functional Resume vs. Chronological and Combination Resumes
  8. FAQs about Functional Resumes
  9. Conclusion

1. Understanding the Functional Resume

A functional resume, unlike its chronological counterpart, focuses more on your skills and competencies rather than your work history. It’s a strategic tool that highlights your qualifications and professional capabilities, drawing attention to what you can do rather than when and where you did it. The primary goal of a functional resume is to prove your value to prospective employers by showcasing your transferable skills, especially when your work history is not straightforward.

2. When to Use a Functional Resume

Although a functional resume can be beneficial to all, it’s especially effective for certain types of job seekers. These include individuals with:

  • Gaps in their employment history
  • A diverse range of short-term or freelance roles
  • A career change where prior job titles don’t align with their current career goals
  • Limited work experience or recent graduates

3. The Structure of a Functional Resume

A functional resume typically consists of several key sections:

  • Contact Information
  • Objective or Summary
  • Skills Summary or Skills and Qualifications
  • Professional Experience or Relevant Accomplishments
  • Education
  • Optional sections (Certifications, Projects, Volunteer Work, etc.)

4. Step-by-step Guide to Writing a Functional Resume

Step 1: Contact Information

This section includes your full name, professional title, phone number, email address, and LinkedIn profile (if applicable).

Step 2: Objective or Summary

Craft a compelling career objective or summary that highlights your professional goals, key qualifications, and the unique value you bring to the role.

Step 3: Skills Summary

List 3-5 major skills relevant to the job you’re applying for. Under each skill, provide examples of how you’ve demonstrated these skills in past roles or projects.

Step 4: Professional Experience

Instead of a chronological job history, list your achievements and responsibilities under relevant skill categories. The goal is to illustrate your expertise in action.

Step 5: Education

Mention your educational background, including the school name, degrees or certifications obtained, and the years attended.

Step 6: Optional Sections

If applicable, add other sections like certifications, volunteer work, languages, or projects that reinforce your qualifications.

5. Tips to Enhance Your Functional Resume

Building an effective functional resume involves much more than just filling in your contact information and listing your skills. It’s an opportunity to strategically present your professional value in a way that grabs the attention of hiring managers. Below are several tips to enhance your functional resume, ensuring it stands out from the crowd:

Use Powerful Action Verbs and Job-Specific Keywords

The language you use on your resume matters. Start your sentences with powerful action verbs such as ‘achieved’, ‘managed’, ‘led’, ‘developed’, ‘transformed’ etc. to make your accomplishments stand out. Incorporate job-specific keywords that align with the job description. These are the terms and phrases hiring managers and Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) look for when first screening a resume.

Customize Your Resume for Each Job Application

A generic resume rarely makes it past the first round of reviews. Tailor your resume for each job application, aligning your skills and experiences with the specific requirements of the job. The more a resume aligns with the job description, the more likely it is to catch the recruiter’s eye.

Keep Your Language Clear, Concise, and Professional

Ensure your resume is easy to read and understand. Use clear and concise language. Avoid jargon, unless it’s industry-specific and relevant to the job you’re applying for. Remember, your resume is a professional document, so maintain a formal and respectful tone throughout.

Highlight Quantifiable Achievements

Under each skill or in your professional experience section, aim to include quantifiable achievements. These are specific examples of how you’ve applied your skills, represented in numbers, percentages, or other measurable terms. For example, ‘Increased sales by 30%’ or ‘Managed a team of 10 individuals’.

Leverage the Optional Sections

Optional sections can provide additional insights into your qualifications. If you have relevant certifications, volunteer experience, or noteworthy projects, don’t hesitate to include them. These sections can further strengthen your application, particularly if you have limited work experience or are transitioning careers.

Proofread Thoroughly

Never underestimate the power of proofreading. A resume with spelling errors, grammatical mistakes, or formatting inconsistencies can leave a negative impression. Proofread your resume multiple times and consider having a mentor, career coach, or trusted colleague review it as well.

Include a Strong Cover Letter

Though not technically part of your resume, a well-written cover letter complements your functional resume. It provides context for your skills and experiences and allows you to explain in more detail why you’re the ideal candidate for the role.

These tips should guide you towards creating a functional resume that effectively highlights your capabilities and aligns with your career objectives. A well-crafted resume, tailored to the job and free of errors, can significantly increase your chances of landing an interview.

6. Pitfalls to Avoid in a Functional Resume

While a functional resume can be an effective tool for certain job seekers, it’s essential to steer clear of common pitfalls that might undermine your application. Understanding these can help you create a more impactful and successful resume. Here are some mistakes to avoid:

Neglecting to Mention Dates

While a functional resume emphasizes skills over chronological work history, it’s still important to include dates in your education and any work history you choose to include. Omitting dates may raise red flags for potential employers who might suspect you’re trying to hide gaps in employment or a lack of experience.

Using Generic Skills and Clichéd Buzzwords

Avoid generic skills like “hard-working” or “team player” that don’t differentiate you from other applicants. Additionally, steer clear of buzzwords like “synergy” or “go-getter”. Instead, focus on specific, industry-relevant skills and back them up with concrete examples or quantifiable results.

Lack of Customization for Each Job Application

As with any resume, failing to tailor your functional resume to the specific job you’re applying for can be a mistake. Your skills and achievements should be relevant to the job description. Customization shows the employer that you’ve understood the job requirements and can demonstrate how your skills align with their needs.

Overemphasizing Unrelated Skills or Experiences

While it’s important to showcase your skills, highlighting those unrelated to the job can distract from your relevant qualifications. Keep the focus on skills and achievements that align with the role you’re applying for.

Poor Organization or Formatting

A resume that’s difficult to read or poorly organized can quickly deter hiring managers. Ensure your formatting is consistent, your text is easily readable (typically a 10-12 point professional font), and your information is neatly organized under appropriate headings.

Providing Insufficient Evidence of Skills

Merely stating that you possess certain skills isn’t enough. Under each skill listed, provide evidence of how you’ve applied this skill in a practical context. This could be specific projects, achievements, or outcomes from your past roles.

Overloading with Information

While it’s important to showcase your skills and achievements, don’t fall into the trap of providing too much information. Your resume should be concise and focused, typically fitting onto one or two pages. Including excessive amounts of information can be overwhelming and dilute the impact of your key qualifications.

7. Functional Resume vs. Chronological and Combination Resumes

While crafting a resume, understanding the distinct benefits and potential drawbacks of different formats can greatly assist in deciding which one will best convey your qualifications. Here’s a deep dive into the functional resume in comparison with chronological and combination resumes.

Functional Resume

A functional resume emphasizes skills and abilities over chronological work history. This format is an excellent choice for those with gaps in their employment history, career changers, or individuals with a diverse range of short-term roles. However, it’s important to note that this format may not be as well-received by traditional employers or automated screening tools that expect to see a chronological work history.

Chronological Resume

A chronological resume, the most traditional format, lists your work experience in reverse chronological order, with your most recent job listed first. This format is advantageous if you have a strong and consistent work history, enabling you to showcase a clear career progression. However, it might not be the best choice if you’re looking to change careers, have gaps in your employment, or have significant experience in many different fields.

Combination Resume

A combination resume merges elements from both functional and chronological formats. It begins with a skills section, similar to a functional resume, but is followed by a detailed work history, as seen in a chronological resume. This hybrid format allows you to highlight your skills and experiences upfront while also providing the chronological work history that employers often expect. However, a combination resume can be lengthy and may be redundant if the same points are repeated in both the skills and work history sections.

In conclusion, the type of resume you choose largely depends on your personal career history and the specific job you’re applying for. Here’s a quick recap:

  • Choose a functional resume if you want to highlight specific skills over your work history, have gaps in your employment, or are changing careers.
  • Use a chronological resume if you have a strong, consistent employment history with clear career progression.
  • Opt for a combination resume if you want to emphasize transferable skills and have a solid, relevant work history that you’d like to highlight.

Remember, no matter which format you choose, it’s critical to tailor your resume to the job description, include relevant keywords, and present your information in a clear and organized manner.

8. FAQs about Functional Resumes

Functional resumes, although a powerful tool in certain circumstances, often generate a lot of questions due to their unique focus on skills over chronological work history. Below are some frequently asked questions about functional resumes:

Who should use a functional resume?

Functional resumes are especially useful for job seekers with gaps in their employment history, those making a career change, individuals with a diverse range of short-term roles, and recent graduates with limited work experience. By focusing on skills rather than chronological work history, these individuals can present their capabilities in a way that aligns with the job requirements.

Is a functional resume ATS-friendly?

Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) are used by many companies to screen resumes before they reach a hiring manager. Some ATS have trouble reading functional resumes as they are designed to scan for a chronological work history. However, by incorporating job-specific keywords and a clear, organized structure, a functional resume can still be ATS-friendly.

Do hiring managers prefer functional resumes?

This largely depends on the hiring manager and the specific job role. Some hiring managers appreciate the skills-focused approach of a functional resume, especially when it’s relevant to the position. However, others prefer the chronological resume format, as it directly showcases career progression and consistency of employment.

Can a functional resume hurt your chances of getting a job?

In certain situations, a functional resume might raise questions, particularly if a hiring manager assumes you’re using the format to hide employment gaps or lack of experience. However, if you’re using the functional format to strategically showcase relevant skills and you present your qualifications honestly and effectively, it should not hurt your chances of landing a job.

Remember, the goal of any resume, functional or otherwise, is to clearly demonstrate your skills, experiences, and value to potential employers. The key is to select the resume format that best tells your professional story and aligns with the specific job you’re targeting.

How long should a functional resume be?

Regardless of the format, most resumes should ideally be one to two pages long. This provides enough space to detail your skills and qualifications without overwhelming the hiring manager with information. If you have a long list of relevant skills or extensive professional experience, you might need an extra page, but remember to keep the information concise and relevant.

Should I include an objective statement on a functional resume?

While not strictly necessary, an objective statement can be beneficial on a functional resume, especially if you’re changing careers or are a recent graduate. The objective statement should briefly outline your career goals and how your skills align with the company’s needs. Remember, however, to keep the statement concise and tailor it to each specific job application.

Can I include volunteer work or internships on a functional resume?

Absolutely. Volunteer work, internships, or other unpaid experiences can be valuable additions to a functional resume, especially if you’re a recent graduate or changing careers. These experiences can demonstrate relevant skills and commitment to your field. Make sure to present them professionally, detailing the skills you utilized or gained.

What if I have too few or too many skills for the functional format?

If you feel you have too few skills, consider brainstorming more broadly. Skills aren’t just gained through paid employment; they can come from volunteer work, hobbies, sports, or personal projects. If you feel you have too many skills, try to narrow them down. Prioritize the skills most relevant to the job you’re applying for, and those which best demonstrate your abilities.

Should I include references on a functional resume?

Generally, it’s no longer necessary to include references on a resume unless the job description specifically asks for them. Instead, prepare a separate list of references that you can provide upon request. This approach allows you to use valuable resume space to focus on your skills and achievements.

9. Conclusion

Your resume is your professional story. A functional resume is a unique and powerful way to narrate that story, focusing on the skills and value you bring to an organization. It’s a tool that allows you to shift the spotlight onto your abilities and how they align with the job you’re targeting, helping you stand out in a crowded job market.

As we continue to navigate the shifting landscapes of the professional world, it’s more important than ever to have a strong, effective resume. Crafting a functional resume may seem daunting at first, but with the right guidance and a clear understanding of your professional narrative, you can create a document that truly speaks to your capabilities. Let this ultimate guide to a functional resume be your companion in your career journey.

Stay tuned for our in-depth exploration of each section of the functional resume, where we will provide expert tips, do’s and don’ts, and real-life examples to help you craft a stellar functional resume.

About the Author:

Emi Leon is a well-established bilingual recruiter with over a decade of experience. As the Co-Founder and Talent Solutions Director at Palermo Advisors, Emi leverages his unique attributes of flexibility, creativity, and curiosity in every endeavour.

Previous roles as Head of Talent Acquisition at Alto and Senior Technical Recruiter at DistantJob have added to his vast industrial knowledge.

Emi is an ardent advocate of remote work, driven by the power it has to connect global talent with companies worldwide. A proud alumnus of Universidad Central de Venezuela, he earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Organizational Psychology, graduating Magna Cum Laude. His sustained commitment to innovation in recruitment strategies continues to empower businesses around the world.

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