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What is a functional resume?

A functional resume is a resume format that focuses on highlighting skills and qualifications instead of work experience. Your abilities are grouped under various skill sections, such as “Summary of Qualifications” and “Professional Skills,” where you explain what it is you can do. The goal of a functional style resume is to show the employer that you have the skills to get the job done, even if you lack work experience.

Some claim that employers aren’t enamored with skills-based resumes or can even have trouble scanning them. It’s important to note that a functional resume is an incredibly useful and valid way to present your qualifications if you’re a first-time job seeker or are switching careers.

What’s the difference between a functional resume format and the other resume formats?

Functional resume

  • Summary of your top qualifications up top
  • Detailed subsections for your skills
  • Includes relevant training and nonprofessional activities

Chronological resume

  • Highlights work history and achievements
  • Good fit for those with substantial career experience
  • Includes a relatively brief list of key skills
  • More chronological resume format tips

Combination resume

  • Balanced blend of skills and work history
  • Emphasizes relevant skills and work experiences
  • Appropriate for those with a few years of relevant experience, are changing careers or are returning to the workforce after time off
  • More combination resume format tips

Sections of a functional resume format

Systematic Administrative Assistant Resume Example

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  1. Summary
    A resume summary is your chance to explain why you’re the best person for the job. Highlight your best skills and expertise in a few sentences, matching your abilities to what the employer is looking for. If you don’t have much work experience, are changing careers or applying for a goal-oriented job, you might want to consider using a resume objective in your skills-based resume instead.
  2. Summary of Qualifications
    Like the functional resume sample above, give examples of how you’ve used your top skills. Think beyond standard full-time jobs — if you excelled in an internship, a volunteer position, a personal project or an extracurricular activity, they’re all worthy of being mentioned. For example, if you’re applying for an accountant position, you can include details on a volunteer job you helped manage finances.
  3. Professional Skills
    Follow this example of a skills-based resume and group your skills under major categories that address what the job needs. For example, if you’re applying for a web development position, you could create a “Software” category where you list all the programs you’re proficient with.
  4. Work History
    The work history section of a functional resume looks a little different. List companies you’ve previously worked for, your job title and employment dates. Your major achievements at these jobs (and the skills you’ve used in reaching these accomplishments) should be featured in your summary of qualifications and professional skills sections.
  5. Education
    In your skills-based resume education section, feature your highest academic credential (e.g., diploma), including the institution’s name and location. Add any certifications, advanced courses or training that can contribute to success on the job (e.g., project management certification for a product manager position).

Functional resume templates and examples

Use these functional format resume examples for popular jobs as a foundation for your resume or visit our resume examples page for hundreds more job and industry-specific examples. We also have dozens of resume templates, from professional resume templates to creative and modern, as well as free downloadables you can use to create your skills-based resume.

Functional resume example for babysitter

Like in this skills-based resume sample, list any activities or volunteer work you’ve participated in that displays your ability to monitor and take care of children, as well as a mix of intangible skills (such as patience and flexibility) and practical skills (First Aid and CPR).

Functional resume example for bartender

While drink mixing skills are valuable, make sure your functional style resume also lists skills related to working with and supervising teams, managing supplies and inventory, and keeping dining areas clean and organized.

Functional resume example for cashier

List activities or part-time work where you’ve had to display a good customer-service attitude in your functional resume and include practical skills that can help you excel, such as basic math or familiarity with payment apps.

Functional resume example for cook

Stress abilities that show you can thrive in fast-paced work environments (such as teamwork or efficiency), as well as any cooking specialties you have. If applicable, make sure your skills-based resume includes all recognition you’ve received for your cooking (e.g., participating in cooking contests).

Functional resume example for customer service representative

In this functional resume sample, the job seeker makes a compelling case by presenting past activities that utilize valuable skills for a customer service role. The candidate also points out important soft skills that make up for the lack of professional experience.

Functional resume example for graphic designer

Feature key software you’re proficient with, such as Adobe Photoshop and consider adding a “Portfolio” section where you can list top examples of work you’ve done. You should also include a link to your portfolio site. If you’re writing a functional resume for a career change, include a good mixture of soft skills like organization and time management and explain how you’ve used your creativity to create designs.

Functional resume example for maintenance technician

List your vocational training as part of your education section, with the title “Education and Training,” and highlight specific skills and knowledge you’ve gained through training in your skills-based resume.

Functional resume example for medical assistant

Select one of our functional resume templates to focus on communication skills, empathy and other intangible qualifications that are necessary for working with patients, as well as specific medical training and certifications.

Functional resume example for restaurant server

This example of a skill-based resume highlights summer jobs and volunteer work that shows the candidate already has plenty of solid experience, even if it’s not full-time employment. As with the other example, soft skills that relate to customer satisfaction come to the fore.

When to use a functional resume

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    You’re a first-time job seeker or don’t have much work experience.

    Don’t have a lot of career accomplishments under your belt? Use the functional resume format to emphasize the important skills and traits you already have. Categorize your skills under major areas of expertise (e.g., “Organizational Skills,” “Logistics”), with four to five examples of your best achievements and experiences within each area.

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    The job places more importance on skills than experience.

    If the job doesn’t require heavy experience and places a premium on specific skills, then the functional resume will put the spotlight where it belongs: the skills you have that matter.

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    You’re shifting to a different career.

    If you’re changing careers or taking on a job that’s different from what you’ve done in the past, a functional resume helps you emphasize the right qualifications and achievements. Focus on transferable skills — abilities you’ve demonstrated in other jobs that are important for different jobs and industries.

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    You have employment gaps.

    A functional resume format downplays employment gaps in your career by focusing on top skills and accomplishments relevant to the position. However, if you have substantial “holes” in your work experience, you should be prepared to explain them to a potential employer.

How to write a functional resume

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    Make your summary an “elevator pitch” that focuses on qualifications.

    The summary is your first, best chance to make the right first impression, so make it short and sweet. Start your skills-based resume by answering the most important question: Why are you the best person for the job? Zero in on your top qualifications and feature skills the employer is looking for. For example, if you’re applying for a social worker position, and a central requirement is “always putting the client first,” then an appropriate summary statement could read: “Dedicated, client-focused social worker, with keen ability to actively listen, set boundaries and empathize.”

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    Arrange your skills by important themes or topics.

    This is where the employer will see your professional accomplishments. As we explained earlier, the functional resume focuses on skills instead of work experience, so unlike the combination and chronological formats, you will be able to group skills under subcategories and organize them in different sections.

    • Use the “Summary of Qualifications” section to present up to three skills that you’ve learned or used in projects, extracurricular activities or internships that relate to the job you’re applying for, and briefly expand on them, just like our skill-based resume samples.
    • Dive further into your most-used skills in the “Professional Skills” or “Relevant Skills” section. These are job-specific abilities you’ve attained through practice, education and repetition. For example: Photoshop, editing, translation or budgeting.
    • Create a bulleted list of your soft skills. These are personal traits or intangible abilities that are not tied to one specific job or industry. For example: well organized, communication, critical thinking or problem-solving.

    If you’re unsure what these different sections may look like, you can review the functional resume samples on this page.

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    Mention relevant projects and activities in your functional resume.

    Your work history will look slightly different in the functional style resume from the combination and chronological formats. Whereas the combination and chronological resumes feature an extensive work history section with action verbs and bullet points, a skill-based resume will only include your job title, the company name and dates of employment.

    Additionally, even if you don’t have much professional work experience, you can make a good case for your abilities by featuring relevant internships, personal projects or extracurricular activities. Providing details in a functional resume on how you’ve used important skills in these activities and individual projects can be as impactful as describing past professional experiences.

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    Keep your skills-based resume to a concise length.

    Your functional resume should be one page long, especially if you don’t have a lot of experience. The straightforward and brief approach will help your resume get a full scan by recruiters and hiring managers that usually take only a few seconds to read a resume.

    For more resume writing advice, check out our How to Write a Resume article.

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