I’ve had many clients who’ve asked whether using a functional resume is a good or a bad choice.
Before I answer that question, it may help to know what a functional resume is:
1. It focuses more on a candidate’s skill, knowledge, abilities than where the individual achieved or learned them.
2. The Professional Experience or Work History section only lists the employer’s name, city, state and dates of employment. There are no bullets or duties listed.
3. It contains exactly the same information as a reverse-chronological resume (the most popular format) but the organization of data is different (see #1 and 2 above).
So, should you use it?
Drawbacks of a Functional Resume Format
As a hiring manager, I see functional resumes on a daily basis and they don’t give me the immediate information I seek. Someone may state in the skills section that they’ve sold a billion widgets and increased profits by 15%, but they don’t say where this happened or when. Was it at their current position or the one they held way back when? There’s no way for me to know and I don’t have the time to figure it out.
Neither do most hiring managers, which is why the functional format is very unpopular with employers.
Functional Formats Flag Candidate Deficiencies
Most HR people know that individuals who have employment gaps, are job hoppers, haven’t worked in awhile and are transitioning careers are going to use the functional format to try to hide these deficiencies. Rather than that happening, the functional format makes them glaringly apparent.
So what do you do if you have a spotty employment history and can’t use a reverse chronological resume to prove your worth?
Try opting for a combination resume – it’s part functional, part reverse chronological. You’ll list your most stellar/relevant skills in a functional section beneath the opening summary, followed by the professional experience section in a reverse-chronological format. It’s really the best of both worlds.
In Career Transition? You Still Don’t Have to Use a Functional Format
If you’re in career transition, rather than using a functional format, you could still stick with the reverse chronological presentation but break up your professional experience into two sections. The first (and most important) would be labeled Relevant Experience (you’ll list those jobs that are the most germane to the current position you seek). Following that would be another section entitled Other Experience (here you’d put all other experience you’ve had).
Either of these formats is far superior to the functional format that makes a hiring manager or recruiter work to find data. In this economy, you don’t want to do that.