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So, you think a functional resume is the way to go—
It literally serves the recruiter your best skills on a silver platter. And skills are what every employer is badly looking for, aren’t they?
Well, not exactly.
The truth is that by sending a skills-based resume inadequately you may be shooting yourself in the foot, rather than getting a foot in the door.
Luckily, we’re here to help.
In this guide:
- You’ll learn what a functional resume is, and get to see some great templates.
- We’ll show you why using the skills-based resume may not be your safest bet.
- You’ll find out how to write a job-winning functional resume section by section.
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What Is a Functional Resume?
A functional resume, also known as a skills-based resume, is a resume style that focuses on displaying your skills, rather than previous work history. Functional resumes may help you mask employment gaps and they come in handy when your experience isn’t directly relevant to the position.
Here’s how the functional resume format differs from the other two most popular ones:
- Functional resume—highlights your skills
- Chronological resume—highlights your work experience
- Combination resume—highlights your skills and ties them to your experience
If you’re looking for more information on each of these, read our detailed comparison of the three most popular resume formats.
2. Functional Resume Template: Is It a Good Idea to Use This Resume Format?
This is what a typical functional resume template consists of:
- Personal Information
- Resume Objective
- Skills Summary
- Work Experience
And here come two functional resume examples:
Mary J. Elliot
Results-driven UCLA graduate in English Literature seeking to leverage over two years of professional experience as a freelance writer and brand ambassador. Experienced in developing various types of online and offline marketing content (my portfolio here). Eager to join Pivot Media as a PR specialist to assist in developing digital PR solutions.
Experienced in writing various types of PR and marketing content, including press releases, long-form articles, blog posts, reviews, brochures, and emails. Can deliver up to 16 full-length articles of ca. 3K words monthly.
Proficient at conducting effective and efficient in-depth research into brands, market trends, etc. Able to cooperate with clients from various industries.
- Social media
Familiar with all major social media platforms, including LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter or Google+. Managed and optimized ad campaigns on each of these.
Able to devise innovative solutions to various types of challenges. Collaborated with creative directors and graphic designers on producing and implementing several ATL and BTL campaigns.
- Time management
Outstanding at coordinating multiple responsibilities at the same time. Able to effectively plan and prioritize tasks to deliver results within tight deadlines.
Nike Inc., Los Angeles, CA
Self-employed, Los Angeles, CA
UCLA, Los Angeles, CA
MA in English Literature
Sample Functional Resume
Communicative and collaborative digital artist and illustrator with a BA in Fine Arts from the University of California, Berkeley. Experienced in creating a large variety of creative online and offline projects, including visual presentations, publications, and communications (go to my portfolio). Would love to join University of California staff in the role of Art Director to execute and oversee the design and creation of digital and print collateral.
- Design concepts and software
Proficient at developing effective and engaging visual communication campaigns. Delivered 10+ end-to-end projects that required planning, designing (Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign, and Acrobat), as well as contacts with vendors.
- Communication and mentoring
Advanced interpersonal communication skills including active listening and teamwork skills, as well as the ability to effectively provide advanced design advice and consultation to clients on all aspects of visual communications.
- Presentation and organization
Excellent at devising broad design ideas, presenting them to clients and stakeholders, as well as producing results on time and within budget.
- Creativity and practical design skills
Able to deliver imaginative and efficient solutions to a variety of design challenges. Exceptionally knowledgable about production processes for various types of media and vendor requirements for different products. Expert knowledge of design principles and practices, including typography, color palettes, layout, and materials.
Quick learner, able to swiftly gain comprehensive insights about the company, including its vision, mission, goals, as well as objectives. Thrives in a fast-paced, challenge-driven environment.
Explainer Inc., Santa Cruz, CA
University of California, Berkeley, CA
BA in Fine Arts
Apparently, each of the examples above has everything a recruiter needs: a nice resume objective, comprehensive summary of key skills, as well as the experience and education sections.
Well, there’s a big problem.
There’s no evidence of any of these skills in the entire document.
In fact, each skill description is so vague that with some minor modifications it could be used by just about anybody else.
Recruiters dislike the functional resume template.
First off, it’s difficult for them to skim.
According to the latest study by The Ladders, recruiters spend only about 7 seconds scanning a resume, and they look for job titles first.
A skills-based resume, as the name rightly suggests, doesn’t focus on job titles but… skills. And this isn’t exactly what recruiters want to focus on initially.
More than that—
For 92% of the recruiters surveyed in Jobvite’s Recruiter Nation Report, it’s the candidate’s previous job experience that’s the number one hiring factor.
Well, the functional resume template does its best to conceal career history, and draw the recruiter’s attention to the candidate’s skills.
Again, it’s not what recruiters appreciate.
Last but not least—
More than 98% of Fortune 500 companies use ATS software to initially scan candidates’ resumes.
The sad truth is that the functional resume format is very likely to fail the initial scan, so at the end of the day no human reader will ever have a chance to even see your resume.
Why’s that so?
ATS software assesses your aptitude by looking for information about your job experience in very specific places on your resume.
Just go back to any of the functional resume examples above and look at the work experience section.
Well… that’s exactly what the ATS sees—
Avoid using the functional resume format if you’re applying for corporate openings. A traditional chronological resume will work much better in such cases.
If you decide to write a functional resume, use it as a “networking resume,” or make sure you send it directly to the recruiter’s inbox.
The question is:
Who might benefit from using a functional resume?
The functional resume template may work for:
- Creatives who treat a resume as an addition to their portfolio
- Candidates applying to small companies where no ATS has been implemented
- Military transitioners who want to show how their skills are of use in the civilian context
- Career changers whose work history may not be entirely relevant to the job
- People who don’t want to come across as overqualified for some reason
So, unless you fall into one of the four categories above, don’t use a functional resume template.
3. How to Write a Functional Resume
Here’s how to write each section of your functional resume to make the most of it:
This section of your functional resume is to let the recruiter get in touch with you.
Put your name, phone number, and email address.
If you have a personal website or an online portfolio, you can put the URL here as well. It’s also a good place to add a link to your LinkedIn profile.
Expert Hint: Before you put a link to your LinkedIn profile, learn how to use LinkedIn like a pro.
If you don’t know how to go about writing this section, follow the structure you see in the samples above.
A resume objective is a short paragraph that comes up top and tells the recruiter what skills you can offer and how they’ll benefit the company.
Look at the samples above to see what it should look like.
Your resume objective is also a good place for a link to your portfolio if you haven’t included it in the personal information section.
Expert Hint: Don’t write a resume summary for your functional resume. Resume summaries focus on your previous experience, not skills.
Obviously, the most important section of any skills-based resume.
The key to getting it right is to focus on the skills relevant to the job offer. If you don't know how to identify such skills, read our guide on how to choose the best skills for your resume. The functional resume samples above show you how you can describe your skills.
Expert Hint: It’s not enough to simply list your skills. Tell the recruiter how proficient you are, and in what circumstances you have used a given skill. Also, try to express them in numbers.
The experience section on a skills-based resume is very short. All you might want to put here are the company names, job titles, and dates worked.
You’re under no obligation to put any dates here.
This is one of the reasons why the functional resume format is often used by people with gaps in employment. And, truth be told, the recruiters are aware of this and that’s why this resume format might become an instant red flag to some of them.
The skills-based resume templates above show you what the work history section with and without dates looks like.
Expert Hint: Remember, the chronological resume’s experience section is its central part. Functional resume brings your skills in the limelight.
Just like the job experience section, it’s not the most important part of a functional resume.
It’s enough to list the university name and location, and the degree earned. Putting dates is advisable but optional.
Again, the skills-based resume examples show you how the education section with and without dates could look.
When making a functional resume, remember:
- A skills-based resume focuses on your skills, not your career history.
- It usually consists of the following sections: personal information, objective, skills summary, work experience, and education.
- Functional resumes are suitable for creatives, military transitioners, career changers, and those who don’t want to look overqualified.
- The safest way to submit a functional resume is by sending it directly to the recruiter.
- Hit the ground running by downloading one of these free MS Word resume templates or Google Docs resume templates. If you have no idea about what to put in your resume, check out these resume examples for every profession.
Do you have any questions about how to make a functional resume? Or maybe you’d like to share your advice on when you should write a functional resume? Give us a shout out in the comments below. We’re always happy to help!