THE FUNCTIONAL RESUME
Many career coaches recommend something called a functional resume - especially for those changing careers. I disagree - here's why.
In a traditional resume, you place most of the emphasis on your career chronology. You give your job titles, dates and company names and then you describe your responsibilities and accomplishments for each position. You start with the most recent job and work backwards.
Functional resumes are structured very differently. Instead of placing emphasis on career chronology, the functional resume stresses skills and areas of expertise. Instead of listing each position, then providing a job description and then some accomplishment bullet points, a functional resume focuses on skills or areas of expertise (e.g. software development, administration, marketing etc.).
The career chronology comes at the end of the resume and is presented as a simple list of jobs with no details provided.
Here is an example of a functional resume.
Here is another functional resume.
For many years, some career coaches have recommended the functional resume for career changers who don't have relevant experience, or for those people who need to hide long gaps in their employment history. The goal is to draw attention away from these perceived problems and show the reader that you have the skills they need. The only problem with this is that it’s nonsense!
Functional resumes don't work. Because every HR Manager and every recruiter has seen thousands of these things and they know exactly why the functional structure is being used. Trust me. I used to be an HR Manager and I've seen hundreds of functional resumes. I had the exact same reaction every time that I saw one: 'what is this person trying to hide?'
So instead of being wowed by the obvious match between you and the open position, the HR Manager is trying to figure out what you're covering up. If they’re not too busy, they may even skim your resume trying to find out what’s wrong with you (not the desired effect!) but if it’s a busy day, they’ll just throw your resume on the ‘no’ pile.
There is almost always a better way than a functional resume structure. And if there isn’t, it’s because you really don’t have the experience needed for the job, in which case you need to go get that experience (perhaps by volunteering or taking a part-time job) because nothing you do with your resume will fool people that you have what it takes if you don’t. (See our article on making a successful career change for more ideas.)
If you have a challenging situation and are concerned about presenting your skills in the best light, study our resume samples. Go to the library and review the resume samples in other books. Consider downloading my course, The DIY Guide to Writing a Killer Resume or another resume writing guide.
Above all, be creative. Find any way to present your skills other than a functional resume.
To get more tips like these, and learn how to completely transform your resume, sign up for my free resume writing course. We promise never to send sales spam.
Louise Fletcher is the President of Blue Sky Resumes, and Managing Editor and Co-founder of the preeminent careers blog, Career Hub. She is a Certified Professional Resume Writer and many of her resumes have been published in the JIST "Expert Resumes" series. She has contributed to many online publications including About.com, Monster.com, The Ladders, and Net Temps.