Writing a Functional-Style Resume

Anyone looking for a job is likely to know what the main parts of a resume are i.e. that it should show the applicant’s contact details and have sections on education, key skills, and work experience. An applicant’s career history is usually the main focus of a resume, with employers’ names and the positions held listed chronologically in reverse order. While this may be a standard format, it does not suit every candidate.  

Anyone who has gaps in their employment history or has changed jobs frequently may not find this format ideal. For example, where a candidate has held a number of contract or temporary positions or has done a lot of job-hopping, this style of resume tends to draw attention to that fact, which can alarm some recruitment managers. Similarly, this conventional style may not suit candidates looking to change career or secure an entry-level job since they are not likely to have much relevant experience in the field they are targeting. One solution to these situations is the functional-style résumé because this is more focused on the applicant’s skills than their employment record.   

A functional résumé allows the applicant to group their skills by theme rather than in a chronological list showing the jobs they held. When this is combined with an attractive cover letter, it can get the applicant invited to interviews they may otherwise have been overlooked for.   

Why a Functional Resume Can be Effective

Highlighting one’s experience in skills-order rather than in employment-date order has a number of advantages. For instance, if you have been absent from work for a time, a functional-style resume is a good way of selling yourself according to the knowledge and skills you acquired when you were in work. If you are changing career completely, the best way to show you have transferable skills and to highlight these is a format that allows you to put them first.  

Some recruitment experts say a functional résumé makes it easier for a potential employer to assess a candidate’s suitability for a given position. They would argue that since it is difficult for most individuals to understand and articulate the number of transferable skills they have, it is therefore much more difficult for a recruitment manager to figure these out at a glance.  

As well as helping the applicant hone in on the particular skills an employing organization needs, this style of resume helps eliminate redundancy, especially when describing positions that are similar.

If, for instance, an individual has been repairing computers for a number of short-term or one-off clients, it is better to list these skills under the heading ‘computer technician’ than list the various clients or contracts. This format reduces repetition and it can help keep the résumé shorter.   

However, do not make the mistake of thinking you can avoid listing your career history entirely. Prospective employers or recruitment managers will still need to see your employment record, even if this is not the main focus of the résumé. This section can be placed beneath ‘key skills.’

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As one expert says, "The aim of this style of résumé is to showcase the applicant’s skills first and foremost.” This gets the attention of a hiring manager before they examine your employment history.    

However, résumé experts also acknowledge that seasoned recruiters are likely to spot this presentation strategy. Although it is not strictly seen as deceitful, the applicant should be ready to answer questions about their employment record.  

How to Write a Functional-Style Resume

Irrespective of which résumé writing style you choose, there are still two important questions it must address. Are you capable of doing the job and can the recruitment manager or employer work effectively with you?

These two questions are the essential ingredients a recruitment manager looks for in an applicant so it is vital these matters are answered in your résumé.

There are a number of ways you can address these questions when you are creating a skills-based or functional-style resume. A lot of experts recommend that candidates find a way to showcase some successes and/or specific accomplishments from previous jobs as a means of demonstrating their unique skills and abilities. You could, for example, refer to some special contribution you made to a project or a difficult problem you solved. 

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While skills may help a person do a job, it is participation in projects that show an individual’s ability to contribute towards achieving business overall goals. A personal input to projects and their passion go a long way in deciding whether new colleagues can work effectively with them and this can also be considered a skill.