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 format, and emphasize the important skills and traits you already have. Arrange your skills by type, with four to five examples of your best achievements and experiences within each group.
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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 place the spotlight where it belongs: on the skills you have that matter.
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    • You’re making a career shift
      If you’re changing careers or taking on a job that’s different than what you’ve had 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
      By focusing on top skills and accomplishments relevant to the position, a functional resume format downplays employment gaps in your career. However, if you have substantial “holes” in your work experience, you should be prepared to explain them to a potential employer.

What’s the Difference Between Functional Resumes and Other Resume Formats?

Functional Format

  • Summary of your top qualifications up top
  • Detailed sub-sections for your skills
  • Includes relevant training and non-professional activities

Chronological Format

  • Focuses on work history
  • Good fit for those who can show off extensive career experience
  • Includes relatively brief list of key skills
  • More chronological format tips

Combination Format

  • Features a balanced blend of skills and work history
  • Emphasizes relevant skills and work experiences, rather than a full rundown of both
  • Appropriate for workers who have a few years of relevant experience, are changing careers, or are returning to the workforce after time off
  • More combination format tips

5 Tips for Making the Most of the Functional Format

1. Focus on Qualifications in Your Summary.

Other resume formats feature career highlights in the summary statement. In a functional resume, use the summary to zero-in on your top qualifications. Highlight skills the employer is looking for. For example, if you’re applying for a social worker position, and the 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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2. Arrange Your Skills by Important Themes or Topics.

Skills come in all shapes and sizes — and one of the advantages of the functional format is that you can group skills under subcategories. First, provide a “Summary of Qualifications” section that gives a rundown of your most noteworthy abilities in a few bullet points. Then create separate skills categories that cover these abilities in more detail (e.g., “Technical Skills,” “Soft Skills”). Always gear your skill sections to address the specific job. For example, if you’re applying for a web development position, you could create a skills section for “Software” where you list all the programs you’re proficient with.

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3. Mention Relevant Projects and Activities. Even if you don’t have much professional work experience to feature, you can make a good case for your abilities by featuring relevant internships, personal projects or extracurricular activities. For example, if you’re applying to an accountant position, you can include details on a volunteer job in which you helped manage finances. Create a separate category titled “Activities” or “Projects” for these examples. Providing details on how you’ve deployed important skills in these activities and personal projects can be just as useful as describing past professional experiences.

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4. Work History: Just the Facts. In your work history section, just list the company, your job title and employment dates. Skip bullet points and describe your achievements — this approach helps downplay the lack of experience and gaps in employment. Instead, look for ways to present concrete accomplishments through your skills. For example, if you volunteered at a county fair and interacted with visitors, you could write “Managing customer service and satisfaction at large public events” as a primary skill.

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5. Keep Your Layout Crisp and Clean. Many employers consider the functional format to be a bit unorthodox, but as long as make sure your information is clearly organized, and each section labeled clearly, you should be good to go. Just use our resume examples and templates on this page as a guide, and follow these layout tips.

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Functional Resume Examples for Different Job Fields

Administration:
Administrative Assistant

Focus on your knowledge of important software such as Microsoft Office or Outlook, and go into detail on soft skills such as communication, organization and multitasking.

Child Care:
Babysitte

List any activities or volunteer work you’ve participated in which display 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).

Culinary:
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. Include recognitions you’ve received for your cooking (e.g., participating in cooking contests).

Customer Service:
Customer Service Representative

Display skills that relate and communicate to clients and customers, and build successful business relationships. Don’t forget to include abilities in areas such as account maintenance and dispute resolution.

Food Service:
Bartender

While drink mixing skills are valuable, make sure you also list skills related to working with and supervising teams, managing supplies and inventory, and keeping dining areas clean and organized.

Graphic and Web Design:
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. If you have a portfolio site, include it in your contact information.

Healthcare Support:
Medical Assistant

Focus on communication skills, empathy and other intangible qualifications that are necessary for working with patients, as well as specific medical training and/or certifications.

Human Resources:
Human Resources Assistant

Emphasize your ability to function as part of a team, and take on organization and clerical work in areas such as office supplies and personnel records, as well as your skills in interacting with employees and job candidates.

Inventory Management:
Warehouse Worker

Present a mix of practical skills, such as the ability to lift heavy objects and knowledge of inventory tracking software, and soft skills, such as a strong work ethic and time management.

Law:
Legal Assistant

Stress any training you’ve had in law and legal principles, feature important skills related to legal work such as writing and research, and include administrative abilities such as maintaining records or schedules.

Maintenance:
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.

Retail:
Cashier

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

For even more resume examples for all types of jobs and industries, visit our resume examples section.

Functional Resume FAQ

1. Do functional resumes really work?

Some claim that employers have soured on functional resumes, finding them too confusing. Some even suggest that applicant tracking systems (ATS) have trouble scanning functional resumes. The fact is, functional resumes aren’t ideal for every job situation, but if you’re a first-time job seeker, or have valuable skills and training that far outweigh your career highlights, the functional format is a useful, valid way to present your qualifications. Just remember to follow the tips above for constructing your resume, and make sure it’s error-free. You’ll also increase your chances of passing ATS by using a professionally designed template to house your resume.

2. What should be included in a functional resume?

While a functional resume contains all the major sections you would find in other resume formats, such as a summary statement, skills, work experiences and education sections, the primary focus of a functional resume is on skills and qualifications. Build up your skills section, grouping skills under themes (e.g., technical knowledge, soft skills, or practical skills), and include details in your education section about any specialized training or certifications you have. Your goal is to create a resume that demonstrates to employers that you have the right “tools” for the job. For a step-by-step breakdown of what to include, see this tips article.

3. How long should a functional resume be?

Look to limit your resume to two pages in length, at most. Since functional resumes are built around skills and qualifications, you should focus on organizing your skills into crisp, concise bullet points and phrases, and creating a summary statement that shows how you fulfill the specific requirements of the job. For more tips on resume length, see our article Writing the Perfect Resume in Two Pages, and for more resume writing advice, check out our How to Write a Resume article.

4. What template should I use to create a functional resume?

Your resume’s “look” will be determined by what you want to illuminate (e.g., prime skills, or your training and education), and the job you’re applying for. A job with an Internet start-up or a company that relies on out-of-the-box thinking will probably favor a modern or creative template that’s more modern, while a professional template suits jobs with a more traditional or conservative industry. Whatever your needs, we have over two dozen templates you can customize to build the right functional resume with the right look.

5. How do I write a functional resume if I’m a stay-at-home mom?

Lest you think you don’t have many skills to feature in a functional resume, just remember: Being a parent is one of the hardest jobs there is! It requires multitasking, patience, problem-solving, conflict resolution, time management and other valuable skills that can apply to a host of careers. Review the posting for the job you’re interested in, pinpoint the job requirements, then highlight skills you have that fulfill these requirements. For example, multi-tasking is a prime trait of a successful employee in administration. For more tips on how to prepare your resume for a variety of different job situations, visit our career center.

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