Is a Functional Resume Format Right for You? 

A Functional Resume format has a specific purpose. Ask yourself: are there aspects of your career history you'd rather not highlight? Have you had long periods of unemployment in between jobs, or have you frequently changed jobs? Or are you planning to start all over again in a new industry? Thankfully, there are resume formats for career histories of every hue, including those that don’t appear “perfect” or “normal”.

Remember, the mantra is to market yourself in a clear, creative and convincing fashion. You need to present relevant information that will make a recruiter want to shortlist you. The question is, how do you make an “imperfect” or “unconventional” career history look great? If this is your goal, you may wish to use a Functional Resume format—but do so with caution.

What is a Functional Resume Format?

This might not be the most common type of resume format, but it’s certainly popular with many job-seekers who have career histories pock-marked with long gaps between jobs or frequent job-hopping. Simply put, this format showcases your relevant skills and experience and places them at the core of your resume. It highlights specific and relevant capabilities, NOT your chronological work history. This format uses the Professional Experience section to highlight your abilities e.g. Communications, Problem Solving, Managing, Technology, etc.

What Does a Functional Resume Template Actually Look Like? Click here.

When Should You Use This Format?

Never underestimate the power of a Functional Resume when it comes to getting your foot in the door. If you know exactly when to use it, it could open up opportunities for you even if your career history doesn’t fit the 'norm'.  This resume type is suitable if: 

  1. You have long periods of unemployment in between jobs
  2. You have changed jobs very frequently and are in danger of being classified as “high-risk” by recruiters
  3. You are restarting your career after a long break
  4. You are changing your industry or shifting into a new career

Beware: recruiters will almost certainly ask you about ‘awkward spots’ in your work history at the interview. So, prepare in advance to give a great reply.

When Should You NOT Use This Format?

Though you may find this format very useful for covering up a not so “good-looking” career history, there are compelling reasons why you should not use this format:

  1. If you have a perfect employment history, use the Reverse Chronological format
  2. Recruiters tend to view this format with suspicion. They instantly suspect that the job-seeker is trying to cover up deficiencies, which means they may be more likely to overlook your good points.
  3. This format may not clear the very first gate—that’s the Application Tracking System, commonly used by recruiters for automating the first round of screening and elimination. Despite the fact that this format uses the Professional Experience and Work History sections, it’s not possible for the tracking system to put the relevant skills in the context of the work history.

What Should You Include in This Format?

The following sections can be used in this format:

  1. Name, address and contact details
  2. Brand statement or opening paragraph
  3. Professional experience (highlighting skills, capabilities, accomplishments)
  4. Work history
  5. Qualifications summary
  6. Referees

The “Functional” aspects of your career history are drawn out in the Professional Experience section. This is central to the format and must be used by the job-seeker when marketing themselves. The Work History section then lists the companies the job-seeker worked in, the job titles and the year of service (not the exact date/month).

To summarise: The Functional Resume format can be used if you are left with no other option but to defend or cover up a sketchy work history, or if you are transitioning to a whole new career.

Remember, it is crucial to know what to sell and how to sell. But that’s not enough. You should also know what to avoid and when. You should also know how to mask certain aspects of your work history.

Click here to see what a functional resume template actually looks like.

At Resume29, we share highly effective resume-writing tips that make a positive difference to your job search. Please feel free to return to the Format Resume page.