IT Employment

The pros and cons of a functional resume


Functional resumes focus on a person's skills and experience, rather than on his chronological work history. (Here is an example of a functional resume.) You would use a functional resume for a couple of reasons:

  • Your background is varied and doesn't add up to a focused career path
  • You want to move into a field that is totally different from the one where most of your experience lies
  • You have large gaps in your work history--months or years where you were not employed
  • You've held a lot of jobs in a few years and you don't want to give the appearance that you're a job hopper
  • You're fresh out of college and want to spotlight your knowledge and not your work experience

Keep in mind, however, that there are a few drawbacks to a functional resume:

  • Some job boards, like monster.com, don't accept them
  • Headhunters tend not to accept them
  • Suspicious hiring managers sometimes think job candidates who use functional resumes are trying to hide something
  • It's important to put some skills in context with a specific job. If you have database management experience, for example, it carries more weight if you can associate it with a specific job you held for a few years, rather than just listing it as a skill. To a hirer manager, just listing it as a skill could mean you merely read a book about it.

If you can avoid using a functional resume, you should.

About

Toni Bowers is Managing Editor of TechRepublic and is the award-winning blogger of the Career Management blog. She has edited newsletters, books, and web sites pertaining to software, IT career, and IT management issues.

15 comments
Old Man on the Mountain
Old Man on the Mountain

I recently removed my past work history, not for the usual reasons, but because too many online applications will read the resume and then force you to manually enter information about each one. Although I don't have many employers compared to some, I spent the past decade+ with the same firm, which is enough for most employers (or so I'm told). And many of my previous employers no longer exist. However, I have added a footnote that says I will provide additional work history upon request.

BloggerRadio
BloggerRadio

Personally, I like the advice in: "Don't Send A Resume" Author: Jefferey J. Fox ISBN: 0-7868-6596-2 And secondarily, HR is the second most useless role in corporate America (in my humble opinion). 2nd only to cleaning bird droppings from coo-coo clocks. So is posting your resume to online resume sites like Monster & CareerBuilders, unless you enjoy identity theft and making all your personal business public (regardless of the safe guards, etc ... it gets back to those HR characters, who are often as discreet as NYT journalists).

elnpayne
elnpayne

The article has some good points which should be carefully considered

Questor1
Questor1

It seems Ms. Bowers takes the wrong track on whether a functional or a chronological resume should be used - the real answer is to use both! Resumes that combine the elements of functional or chronological resemes are often called "hybrid" or "combination" resumes. Any resume, IMHO, should talk about key facts such as who you worked for, how long, what you did, how you did it, and what was the result. As a person gets older and more experienced a simple chronological resume often does not highlight their skills and experiences. However, a purely functional resume sometimes seems too "fluffy" with not enough emphasis on where work experienced was gathered and applied. These are reasons why most people should create a hybrid resume that combines both functional and chronological resume styles - hybrids allow resumes to highlight the unique skills and abilities they possess and learned or applied at work. More companies interest may be developed in a job candidate when a more well-rounded resume is presented that gives a better picture of a persons skills, abilities, and work history .

jamesstewart
jamesstewart

I disagree. I've had more success with a functional resume. Actually, it's a combination with the first page descibing my accomplishments and second and third describing my past work history, education, professional training, and associations. And, as a manager, I disagree with your perception that hiring managers think candidates are hiding something with a functional resume. I do not think that at all. I carefully review the content rather than the format.

Dr_Zinj
Dr_Zinj

If you're a jack-of-all-trades and have worked in a myriad of different jobs, then a tailored, functional resume listing only those relevant skills and results works well, IF you know the specific position and company you are applying to for the job. I am seeing a considerable amount of agism in hiring practices and salary negotiations now that I'm in the 50's group. (Yes, I know that's illegal, but you know how hard it is to get proof that will hold up in a court?) A functional resume works better for us because it removes a lot of the in-your-face-I'm-an-older-worker notice. Save the chronological history for, if they ask for it, after you get your foot in the door.

gary
gary

I have yet to understand why people believe that a resume will answer an employer's three critical questions. 1) Why will you leave the job that I'm offering? 2) What can you do for me? 3) How much will it cost me? Let's face some facts. 1) No one ever gets hired without a job interview. 2) A good paying job is offered to someone who is already known. (A resume is just an introductory tool.) 3) A headhunter or a recruiter who is relying resumes is desperately looking for a "product" to satisfy a "demand". The human and an organizational aspects of employment are therefore irrelevant.

richard.ots
richard.ots

If your resume is long because you have been ehm... job hopping, then it makes sense to combine a functional and chronological resume. My resume's first page is basically a functional resume, highlighting key skills. For the interested reader, plenty detail is provided in following pages. This way, I can satisfy the casual reader who wants to get a basic idea of my background, as well as the person who wants to see whether I do indeed have the specific experience (s)he is looking for.

temmerth
temmerth

A job seeker that has been working for many years for some different companies should seriously consider use of a functional resume. It highlights their specific skills and accomplishments independent of where they did them. Following this with a brief chronology can satisfy both. I have received much success in the last decade with my functional resume as well as many complements from hiring managers and headhunters. Usually you are right on with your advice, but in this case I believe you are off base.

vbnomad
vbnomad

As a contractor/consultant the chonological resume is problematic. If I put only a sentence or two about each position I end up with a 6 page resume. So a functional cover sheet or two is essential. And while technical mamagers who do the interviewing might understand the overlapping job date ranges of a consultant, HR weenies usually don't. Just as they may know the acronyms, but not really understand their relevence. Unfortunately these same weenies are the filter you have to pass first. A functional 1st page of a resume will help them to pick you over a complex chrono-only resume that they will have to weed through.

mstroud
mstroud

As I grow older, I'm increasingly inclined to omit references to my early employment altogether. I have been blessed to have extensive experience in finance, accounting and heavy duty IT management, but know that at least one of the reasons I don't get more responses is that the resume readers can do the math and simply don't wish to consider someone my age.

zbatia
zbatia

It is what I use in my resume. Also, I am usually attaching the Narrative about my skills and abilities. It is quite an unusual method but I bet that it's being read. It is where you can say about your skills in the best possible way. If you want to do the same, I'd suggest you to prove every statement in Narrative with an example of your achievements.

stan
stan

I put my age right at the top. If a company doesn't want to hire someone my age, I probably don't want to work for them.

stevex_1999
stevex_1999

Whenever I see resumes that lists information that could eliminate the candidate which includes easily discernible age for those probably above 40 and possibly younger, I question this person's awareness. I can always provide more information if asked but I don't go out of my way to sabatage my candidacy. Leaving off information is not dishonest, it is simply practical in today's world. I don't think there are many cases of people successfully suing for not getting an interview based on age discrimination so no one, including HR, is afraid to use age as a culling out factor. The same would apply to those who are very proud of their political or religious beliefs. It's solely your business if you are also trained in divinity, support GLAAD, are a die-hard NRA fanatic or Libertarian but don't automatically assume everyone is equally open-minded and will not hold it against you somewhere or sometime. It's pretty naive to assume otherwise. So, proudly stating at the top of your resume you are 65 and seeking a new career in the corporate world is going to be an exercise in futility, valuable only if this is your only exercise.

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