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How & When to Use a Functional Resume

When you need to show rather than tell

Woman with a camera

Image courtesy of Alexandre Chambon

What is a functional resume?

A functional resume is one of the three main resume types, the other two being chronological and hybrid. It focuses on the applicants skills rather than specific jobs they've had.

Who needs a functional resume?

The skill-based format of the functional resume is particularly useful for recent graduates and those who don’t have a lot of (or any) work experience relevant to the position and for professionals changing career paths. It’s also helpful to applicants re-entering the workforce, who, on a chronological resume, would have work history gaps as the first thing a recruiter would see.

Read more: 19 Dos and Don’ts for Crafting Your Best Resume

Essential elements of a functional resume

From the top, a functional resume is different than a chronological one. In her video, Noelle Johnson, founder of an online interview preparation company My Interview Buddy, says it starts with an objective statement or summary.

That’s an “overview of yourself and what you’re looking for and what you bring to the table,” Johnson explains. Next, you highlight your top four or five skills which should include examples of past achievements; however, the job at which you acquired those skills is not relevant.

Read more: How Long Should Your Resume Be? 8 Resume Myths, Busted

Isaiah Hankle, Ph.D., founder of Cheeky Scientist, an industry training platform for academic Ph.D.s, says a functional resume is the format that gets applicants with doctorates hired as industry professionals. He calls it a “relevancy resume,” because you’re calling out the information that’s most relevant to the employer and the job you’re applying for.

For example, Hankle recommends putting your transferable and technical skills in bold, with your job titles secondary to that. Listing graduate and academic titles in addition to universities can actually be confusing to hiring managers, most of whom don’t have doctoral degrees.

Former teacher Kari Word says most teachers are familiar with and have used chronological resumes. When they want to change professions, however, they need to turn it into a skills-based resume. For instance, teachers going into the instructional design and training development industry would change their work history section into a skills section, making sure to align the skills with the job they’re applying for.

Read more: How to Make a Resume for Your First Job

After the objective, you’ve got the relevant experience section, which could also be called Achievements. This section is segmented into subheadings. For instance, teachers have the skill to present relevant information to learners. This could become a bullet point under the subheading Facilitation. Teachers collect, retain, and use student data. This could become a bullet point under the subheading Data Analysis.

Sample functional resume

Below is part of a sample functional resume, provided to InHerSight by Noelle Johnson, for a teacher seeking to change careers. It includes the objective at the top, with the applicant’s summary of skills next. The resume would be completed with the usual work experience section, listed in reverse chronological order, followed by education and any additional skills or certifications.

Functional Resume layout example

Read more: What in the World Is a CV? Should I Be Using One?

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By Stephanie Olsen

Contributor

Stephanie Olsen is a freelance writer and copy editor. She writes about everything from women’s issues in the workplace and Ethiopian coffee culture to facilities management and expatriate life. Laughs uproariously at her own jokes.  

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