Writing a Functional Resume

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What is a functional resume?

This type of resume presents your information by placing more emphasis on your strengths and skills instead of your qualifications or work experience. This differs from a chronological resume, which emphasizes your experience. Essentially, a functional resume involves summarizing your potential by listing your abilities, non-work related accomplishments and skill sets.

Benefits of a functional resume

The benefits of using this type of resume largely depend on your particular circumstance. Ultimately, your history, experience, skills, education and objectives determine whether a functional resume is beneficial. The biggest benefits of this resume come into play when any of the following situations apply:

  • You spent a significant amount time out of the work force by choice.
  • You are a graduate of a degree in liberal arts and not much work experience.
  • You have little to no work history or have recently graduated.
  • You have a large number of volunteer or unpaid experiences.
  • You have a work history that covers multiple fields.
  • You are changing career paths.
  • You have gaps in your employment history.

In essence, this resume type lets you control the presentation of information to prospective employers by highlighting the things you most want them to see. Additional benefits of the functional resume include the following:

  • Allows you to show the skills a specific employer seeks right at the start of your resume.
  • Puts your unpaid, volunteer and non-work experiences in the best light.
  • Minimizes work history that is irrelevant to the position for which you are applying.

Drawback of a functional resume

While the benefits of using a functional resume largely revolve around your work history, a lack of either or unrelated skills/experiences, there is one main drawback of using this resume type as well. Some resume reviewers automatically assume that you are hiding something when you choose to use a functional resume. While this is not necessarily true, you are using the format to highlight something other than your work history. Because of this, you must stand ready to defend your choice of resume type and your strengths, skills and experiences.

What to include in a functional resume

The functional resume is built slightly different than than the traditional format. While you still use the four main resume sections, there is additional information as well. At the top of the resume, you start with a heading in the same way you would for other types of resumes that require this section.

Next, you may include an objective; although, this is not necessary. In addition, modern resume writing often allows skipping this step as your objective is usually already identified in your resume cover letter. If you decide to include an objective, make the statement as short, concise and well defined as possible.

The next section, which is also optional, is usually a qualifications section. This summary, or profile, highlights your strongest skills and lays them out for a resume reviewer to see and review quickly. If you incorporate this section into a functional resume, make sure to stick with between 3-5 qualifications. This section must stay geared toward the position for which you are applying, so if you are applying for multiple jobs, it is a good idea to tailor this section to each specific job.

The bulk of your functional resume falls under the next heading: key skills. In this section, you want to identify three main categories that encompass a skill set covering multiple positions in your work history and experiences that required the development or use of certain skills and that highlight how those skills show your strengths. This is not just a recitation of facts; this section requires that every skill you list is adequately backed up with details. Similarly, you should avoid overused resume words that are not backed up with facts. For example, you might identify the following as three skill sets to include in this section: communication, coordination and leadership.

After the skills section of the functional resume is your work history. You have two options when it comes to displaying your work history. You can list previous positions in reverse chronological order with employment dates included. Conversely, you can also choose to display work history in order of relevancy to the position you are seeking. Under this format, you do not have to include employment dates. Simply list your title, the name of your employer and the city or the employer for each job. Including the dates of employment is optional.

A functional resume is finished up with an educational qualifications section and a volunteer/special activities section, if applicable. Include the name of any degrees, the institution where the degrees are obtained and the date the degrees were received. For volunteer or special activities, such as community involvement, simply list what you did, any organization that was involved and the period of time you were involved.

Tips for writing a functional resume

While writing a functional resume, you should keep a few things in mind. Apply the following tips to ensure your resume makes the maximum impact on those who review it and translates into interviews.

Tip #1: Place your references on a separate sheet that is not sent with your resume.

Tip #2: Make sure to consider carefully whether a one- or two-page resume is the best option for your functional resume.

Tip #3: Use standard resume formatting in a functional resume unless creativity is a highly valued skill to the position for which you are applying.

Tip #4: Highlight skills that are transferable to the applied-for position.

Tip #5: Include activities/hobbies only if they are relevant to the position you seek.

Tip #6: Avoid, at all costs, exaggerating or embellishing your skills or accomplishments in a functional resume.

Tip #7: Consider compiling a larger list from which you can select certain skill sets on a per-job basis to line up your skills better with differing positions if you have more than three transferable skill sets.

Between the benefits of this resume type and the flexibility in presenting information, a functional resume provides a viable solution to putting the focus on your best skills.