The Functional Resume
The standard reverse chronological resume does not suit everyone, even though it is a common choice for most professional resume outline examples, executive resume writer samples, and achievement resumes.
The reverse chronological choice works best for a candidate with a stable work history and steadily increasing responsibility and achievement in a single field. It can be a poor choice for a candidate with gaps in employment or a history of frequent job changes, since it tends to highlight the very issues that the candidate would prefer to minimize. Chronological layout is equally unhelpful if the current job search represents a shift in the candidate's field of work, a return to the workforce after a long absence or another major change.
Candidates who do not fit the neat mold of the chronological resume can create a functional resume instead. The functional resume has its own strengths and weaknesses, but it can be tailored to make the most of a work history that has strayed from the beaten path.
A functional resume puts the focus on skills and accomplishments, not history per se. It starts like any resume, providing name, contact information and an optional summary or statement of objective. It then lists broadly categorized skills, responsibilities and achievements. Since this format is short on chronological detail, the relevance of each category to the specific position must be immediately apparent to an employer giving the resume a quick scan.
While chronology is subordinate to function, every employer expects to find a work history somewhere in the document. Here, it can follow the functional section in the form of a brief, even bare bones, list: title, employer and dates of employment.
- The candidate sets the agenda, emphasizing the skills that the candidate wants to highlight.
- Each of the chosen skills can be phrased as a direct response to needs specified by the employer.
- The functional resume does not call immediate attention to the candidate's weaknesses or work history issues.
- The format allows the candidate to highlight skills and accomplishments that did not necessarily arise from paid employment.
- The list of categories can come across as empty business jargon that an employer will simply dismiss. To avoid this, concrete, quantifiable evidence must support each skill as much as possible.
- Since employers give so little time to each resume, anything that adds complexity or departs from the norm tempts the employer to move on to the next candidate.
- By its nature, the functional resume does not directly link skills to specific jobs.
- Creating a good functional resume is much more difficult than creating a chronological resume. It is especially important to match skills specifically to the targeted job.
Employers are well aware of what the candidate may have been thinking when choosing this format, so the resume may have to overcome suspicions that do not apply to the chronological resume. That obstacle is not insurmountable, but it does mean that the functional resume has to work harder to succeed. It needs preparation, analysis, creativity and thoughtful drafting to get its point across.