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What is a Functional Resume?

A functional resume emphasizes skills and qualifications that can make a positive impact, with your abilities grouped under major categories (e.g., “Administrative Skills” or “Software Skills”).

Some claim that employers aren’t enamored with functional resumes or can even have trouble scanning them. But if they aren’t ideal for every job situation, they’re a useful, valid way to present your qualifications if you’re a first-time job seeker or are switching over from another career field.

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

Functional Resume

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

Chronological Resume

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

Anatomy of a Functional Resume

Anatomy Resume Functional

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  1. Summary
    This 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.
  2. Summary of Qualifications
    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 in which you helped manage finances.
  3. Professional Skills
    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
    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
    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).

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 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.

Functional Resume Examples

Use these examples for popular jobs as a foundation for your resume, or visit our resume examples page for dozens more job and industry-specific examples.

Babysitter

Babysitter Functional

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).

Bartender

Bartender Essence Functional

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.

Cashier

Cashier Original Functional

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.

Cook

Cook Cool Functional

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 Representative

Customer Service Functional Insightful

In this example, 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.

Graphic Designer

Graphic Designer Cool Functional

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.

Maintenance Technician

Maintenance Technician Insightful Functional

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.

Medical Assistant

Medical Assistant Centered Functional

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.

Restaurant Server

Restaurant Server Functional Remarkable

This example 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.

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. Answer 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.

    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”).

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    Mention relevant projects and activities.

    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 on how you’ve used important skills in these activities and individual projects can be just as impactful as describing past professional experiences.

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    Keep your resume to a concise length.

    Aim for a resume that’s 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. 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.

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