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Functional Resume Format: Focusing on Skills and Experience

8 of 12 in Series: The Essentials of Preparing a Resume

The functional resume format focuses on portable skills or functional areas and ignores chronological order. The functional resume style omits dates, employers, and job titles in its purest form. It is oriented toward what the job seeker can do for the employer instead of narrating history.

Because employers don’t like it when you leave out the particulars, contemporary functional resumes list (but downplay) employers, job titles, and sometimes even dates by briefly listing them at the bottom of the resume.

Choose areas of expertise acquired during the course of your career, including education and unpaid activities. These areas become skill and functional headings, which vary by the target position or career field. Note any achievements below each heading. A few examples of headings are: Management, Sales, Budget Control, Cost Cutting, Project Implementation, and Turnaround Successes.

List the headings in the order of importance and follow each heading with a series of short statements of your skills. Turn your statements into power hitters with measurable achievements.

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Strengths and weaknesses of this resume format

The following are the strengths of the functional format:

  • A functional resume directs a reader’s eyes to what you want him or her to notice. It helps a reader visualize what you can do instead of when and where you learned to do it.

  • The functional format — written after researching the target company — serves up the precise functions or skills that the employer wants. It’s like saying, “You want budget control and turnaround skills — I have budget control and turnaround skills.”

  • It uses unpaid and nonwork experience to your best advantage.

  • It allows you to eliminate or subordinate work history that doesn’t support your current objective.

Weaknesses of the functional format include the following:

  • Because recruiters and employers are more accustomed to the reverse chronological resume format, departing from the norm may raise suspicion. Readers may assume that you’re trying to hide inadequate experience or educational deficits.

  • Functional styles may leave unclear which skills grew from which jobs or experiences.

  • This style doesn’t make a clear career path obvious.

  • This format doesn’t maximize recent coups in the job market.

Who should (and shouldn't) use this resume format

This resume is heaven-sent for career changers, new graduates, ex-military personnel, seasoned aces, and individuals with multitrack job histories, work-history gaps, or special-issue problems.

Job seekers with exemplary backgrounds and managers and professionals who are often tapped by executive recruiters should avoid this format.

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