Heath Alva
Posted June 8, 2021

What is and how do you write a functional resume?

Learn what a functional resume is, when you should use one, and how to write one.
Heath Alva
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What is and how do you write a functional resume?
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It’s time to search for a new job, so you sit down at your computer to update your resume (or maybe craft your first one).

You take a look online at a few resume examples, and you’re struck with a challenging problem:

Your work experience looks nothing like what you see in these samples.

How are you supposed to create a job-winning resume if you’ve just left school and haven’t held a job in your life? Or if you’re just re-entering the workforce?

Enter the functional resume.

This kind of job resume is the solution for those who have a limited work history or who have some significant gaps in their employment.

In this article, we’re going to take a look at what makes up a functional resume and when you should use one (and when you shouldn’t). We’ll even help you out with an example and a guide to writing your own so you can land your dream job.

Let’s get started.

What is a functional resume?

A functional resume is a professional resume style that emphasizes your skills, achievements, and expertise, as opposed to your work history.

It highlights both the soft skills and technical skills you have by bringing the skills section to the top of your resume and cutting back on the amount of space used for your work history section.

It’s sometimes known as a skills-based resume, because a functional resume puts the primary focus on your specific skills. As such, you’re better able to tailor your resume to the specific job description.

For example, let’s say you want to apply for a role as an administrative assistant, but you don’t have specific professional experience in this role.

You might use a functional resume to demonstrate the transferable skills you have, such as attention to detail and knowledge of spreadsheet software like Microsoft Excel.

You can still include a work experience section in a functional resume, but you should use it to back up the statements you’ve made regarding your skill sets.

For example, suppose you’ve mentioned customer service as one of your primary skills. You can show how your years of experience as an inbound call center representative have helped you to develop this ability.

What are the other types of resumes?

Functional resumes differ from other types of resumes in that they emphasize your skills. So, what kind of other resumes even exist? Here are the main two:

Reverse chronological resume

The reverse chronological resume is perhaps the most commonly used style.

This resume style emphasizes your work experience and lists the roles you have had in reverse chronological order, like this:

(Image Source)

Reverse chronological format resumes still leave space to highlight your skills and often include an education section.

However, these sections are minimal in comparison to the work experience section.

Hybrid/combination resume

A hybrid resume is basically a combination of reverse chronological and functional resume types.

It typically starts with your contact information and then a large section to highlight your relevant skills. This generally takes up around half of the page.

In this way, it is similar to a functional resume.

However, instead of minimizing the amount of space and attention given to your work experience, a combination resume uses the other half of the page for this section. This way you still have room to highlight:

  • Job titles
  • Employment dates
  • How your previous roles are relevant to the job requirements

Who should use a functional resume?

Functional resumes are great for job seekers who don’t have a lot of experience in the workforce or whose job history doesn’t match the role they are applying for as well as their skill sets do.

A few examples of job applicants who should use a functional resume include:

  • Recent graduates or school leavers with little job experience
  • Job seekers who are looking to change careers
  • Those with large gaps in their employment history
  • Anyone who has skills and experience from outside of work that they feel are more relevant to the position than their work experience

When should you not use a functional resume?

For many recruiters and hiring managers, reverse-chronological resumes are the preferred and expected format.

So, we’d recommend using that kind of resume where you can.

You shouldn’t use a functional resume in scenarios where your job experience speaks for itself.

For example, imagine you’re applying for a new role as a security guard. If your last three jobs have been working as a security guard, then your work experience speaks for itself — you’re probably already a great fit for the role!

Even if you’re applying for a job role that you’ve never held before, you should consider whether your job experience on its own will give the hiring manager an understanding of your skillset.

Remember, recruiters do this day in and day out (they get about 250 applications for every job ad), so they have a pretty good idea of what most roles entail.

For example, let's say you’re applying for a job as a bartender. If you have previous job experience working at a cafe or restaurant and recently undertook a hospitality and bartending course, your work history and education sections will speak for themselves.

(Image Source)

If you feel like you’re somewhere between these two states, then a hybrid resume might be a good fit for you.

For instance, if you want to apply for a sales job, but your last two jobs were more of a customer service role, then you might use a hybrid resume style.

You can use this style to showcase how the volunteer work you did in high school gave you a certain sales skillset with a work experience section below to show that you’ve been in customer-facing roles previously.

How to write a functional resume

Let’s look at six easy steps to writing a functional resume:

1. Start with a summary section

A summary section at the top of your resume helps potential employers get an overview of who you are as an employee and what you can bring to the table.

You should include:

  • Your key experience
  • Your most valuable skills
  • A personal interest or long-term goal you have

2. Add your contact info

Don’t forget to add your phone number, email, and relevant social media profiles (such as LinkedIn), so that the recruiter can get in touch with you.

3. Group your skills together

The focus of the functional resume is the skills section. You can start by listing out all of your relevant skills and attributes and then grouping them together.

For example, you might not need to mention punctuality and time management skills separately, as they are very similar attributes.

4. Provide specific examples of using those skills in practice

For each of the skills you’ve mentioned, try to provide a specific example of how you’ve used that skill in the workplace.

This is especially important for skills that you’re listing in order to match the job description.

5. List out your work experience

You’ll still need to add a work experience section to your functional resume unless you’re applying for your first-ever job.

In this kind of resume, the work experience section is not the focus, so keep it short and sweet by simply including:

  • Previous employers
  • Roles
  • Dates of employment

6. Highlight your education

Lastly, include a short section of any education or other qualifications you have. This might be high school education, completed college courses, or certifications you’ve earned outside of school, such as a first-aid certificate.

Functional resume example

Wondering what a functional resume looks like?

Check out this example:

(Image Source)

You can download this functional resume template here.

Is a functional resume right for you?

Remember, many recruiters prefer the reverse chronological resume format, so you should only use a functional resume if:

  • You have limited job experience
  • You’re looking to change careers
  • You have large gaps in your employment
  • You’re a recent graduate or school leave
  • You have experience and skills relevant to the job you’re applying for that aren’t demonstrated by your work history

Time to get that functional resume out there? Check out the vacancies in our job search!

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