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What Is a Functional Resume and Is It Right for You?

A picture of someone reviewing a functional resume

A resume is mandatory to apply for almost every job you’ll ever want. And while you know a resume is a summary of your skills and work history, how you format your resume can play a crucial role in whether or not you’re selected for an interview.

A functional resume is a type of resume that emphasizes your skills over your work history. It’s the right kind of resume for some jobs seekers but not for most. Here’s what you need to know about functional resumes:

What Is a Functional Resume?

A functional resume, also known as a skills or skills-based resume, “emphasizes skills over experience,” says Katherine Kelley, CPRW. Unlike a chronological resume, which lists your jobs in reverse chronological order, a functional resume lists your skills, grouping them by category. 

For example, on a chronological resume, the first thing under your contact information is Job X. That would include the dates you held the job, your title, and several bullet points highlighting your accomplishments.

But on a functional resume, the first thing under your contact information is a category of skills, such as “Interpersonal Skills.” Under that header, you’ll include several bullet points about your various interpersonal skills and how you applied them in either one job or several. 

The main difference is that a chronological resume emphasizes your work history. It’s clear where you worked, what you did, and how long you held the role. A functional resume, however, places the emphasis on your skills and deemphasizes where and when you worked.

What Recruiters Think of Functional Resumes 

As a general rule, recruiters only spend six to seven seconds scanning your resume. You want to make it as easy as possible for them to understand why you’re a good fit for the role in those few seconds. Functional resumes make it difficult for a recruiter to do that for three reasons.

1. Can Be a Red Flag

The problem with chronological resumes is they highlight how long you held a job and how long you may have gone between jobs. While attitudes around long-term unemployment are changing, people worry that a gap in their employment history makes them a less desirable candidate — and with good reason.

Though there are many valid explanations for stepping away from paid work, studies show that candidates with resume gaps are less likely to get the job. As far back as 2011, researchers found that people who were unemployed, no matter the reason, were seen as less competent than their employed counterparts.

A 2018 analysis of applications found that people who weren’t currently employed were less hireable than those who were working. And finally, in 2021, even though many people were unemployed for a long stretch due to the pandemic, 77% of job seekers and an astounding 83% of employers agreed that it’s easier to get a job when you already have one. What’s more, the same survey found that 41% of employers say employment gaps affect hireability.

Many candidates are aware of the challenges they face when they have a gap in their employment history, so they turn to a functional resume to highlight their skills and abilities over chronological work history. But this can also cause problems. Recruiters will instantly recognize you’re using a functional resume. “Depending on the recruiter, this format could be seen as a red flag or that the candidate is trying to hide something,” says Kelley.

2. Hard to Connect the Dots

Even if functional resumes weren’t a red flag, most recruiters don’t like them. “It can be more difficult for a recruiter to see where candidates gained the experience in a functional resume format. I have heard that a bunch of times from recruiters!” says Kelley.

Though a functional resume highlights your skills, the formatting doesn’t give you an easy way to connect your skills and experience to a specific job. That makes it hard for the recruiter to figure out where you picked up the skill or when you used it.

So, if “conflict resolution” is one of your categories, the recruiter has no way of knowing if you learned those skills at job A, B, or C. More importantly, they have no idea if you actually used those skills at job A, B, or C. It’s far easier for you to claim you possess a skill when you don’t have to use it in relation to a specific role.

3. Doesn’t Trace Your Path

Recruiters like to see your job history in a chronological format first because it gives them an idea of what your career path has been. Have you moved up the ladder? Taken on additional duties and responsibilities? Did you pivot or change careers? It’s hard to deduce this on a functional resume, and that can be frustrating to the reader.

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When to Use a Functional Resume

So, is there any time you should use a functional resume? Kelley says that functional resumes can have their place when “you have been in the same field or similar field of work and are showcasing this to the recruiter.”

Another time could include when you’re making a significant career change and want to highlight your transferable skills over where you worked (think: an account manager who wants to bake cakes). In that case, you may need to highlight skills you picked up as a hobby or volunteering instead of in a paid position.

What to Use Instead of a Functional Resume

Most people, though, shouldn’t use a functional resume. They tend to stick out, are harder to read, and will frustrate the recruiter. But, if you think a chronological resume isn’t right for you, consider using a hybrid (or combination) resume instead of a functional resume.

A hybrid resume combines the best of a chronological resume with the best of a functional resume. It allows you to place more focus on your skills while still including a chronological work history that gives the recruiter a sense of what you learned and where you used your skills. It also helps show increasing responsibility or how your career path makes sense.

Functional Resume Template and Examples

If you decide a functional resume is the right way to go, here’s how to format it.

The very top of the page is your contact information. At a minimum, that’s your name, email, and phone number. You can also include your LinkedIn profile, any social media handles you think are professional and relevant to the role, and a link to your digital portfolio (if you have one).

Under that is a summary of qualification. This is two to five sentences that explains who you are as a professional and why you’re qualified for the role.

The next section is the skills section, where you group your skills by categories. It looks like this:

Skills

Customer Service

  • Handled inbound calls at a rate of 7 per hour
  • Assisted multiple users via email
  • Educated customers about products and successfully upsold warranties
  • Worked with customers to find an agreeable solution to their concern

Writing

  • Published three 1500+ word articles on site each week
  • Self-edited articles to ensure copy was error-free and met style guidelines
  • Conducted interviews to ensure each piece had a unique perspective

Under that is your work history. But instead of including details about the job, you simply list the name of the company, your title, and the dates you worked there.

Below that, you can include other sections, like volunteer work, awards, or education.

Here’s a functional resume example you can use as a template:

Functional resume template

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