Should a job seeker use a functional resume?
Sorry to bury the lede, but let’s set the stage first.
A functional resume‘s purpose is to highlight specific achievements, proficiencies, or skills. And a lot of career advisors agree that they benefit those in career transition, professionals with employment gaps, or people who are young and lacking experience.
The reason they are used for the aforementioned job seekers – is they have the ability to present a professional’s full arsenal. If you have skills in one industry that would work wonders in another, the functional resume will show those transferable skills. Or for those who choose not to list their years of employment if they have had gaps or are concerned with being ‘aged out’ of a role, they can present just a snapshot of companies and positions held, while keeping the focus on their functional experiences.
They differ from their more commonly used counterpart, the chronological resume (a list of your accomplishments, roles, and employers in reverse chronological order, followed by education).
Makes sense, right?
Well, when we asked the above question to Executive Resume Writer, Staci Collins in a recent-online class, she started shaking her head before we could finish asking the sentence.
There are several issues with a functional resume, according to Collins.
First and foremost, “everything today is about context,” says Collins. “Functional resumes waste time because they are decontextualized,” she continues, “they don’t give people what they want to know…a functional resume has a ‘what’s in it for me’ mindset.” By placing your skills and accomplishments into a functional resume, you are intentionally removing context, and taking the story of your career out of the equation – usually as a means to have the reader focus on what you can do and nothing else. While this may sound like a good idea, hiring managers often think you are trying to hide something.
Resume Writer, Renita Kalhorn, was asked the same question in the online class. She shared that “(a functional resume) is disorienting and leaves you reading for the real meat of the resume.” Of course that is not your intent. However, a functional resume gives an incomplete story.
If you are considering a functional resume for one of the earlier mentioned reasons, be aware that it is a double-edged sword, with one edge a bit sharper than the other:
When Considering A Career Transition
Hiring managers understand that people want to make transitions at various points in their careers. And a decent hiring manager will see transferable skills on a resume, and put 2 and 2 together. Your cover letter is also a good opportunity to convey your transition. But aside from transferable skills, hiring managers still want to see your career progression, and the context in which your transferable skills helped your organization.
Covering An Employment Gap
Depending on how you write a functional resume, you may decide not to include any years of experience or employment history in order to cover a gap. Unfortunately, most hiring managers see this as a red flag. It is understandable that you may have been unemployed for long periods of time due to illness, raising children, volunteering, going back to school, etc. Unless you were a bump on a log during that period, you were probably active in some form or another, and building your skills. Tell that part of the story to provide the reader with context. It will be much more appreciated than a gap in employment, or no representation of dates at all.
For those fresh out of college, many entry-level positions won’t ask for years of experience with a certain field, but will ask for proficiencies in certain areas. This is where a functional resume would come in to play. But there is a good chance you can do better. Instead, use internships or positions at university clubs and organizations to share how you were able to apply your skills in a professional setting. Again, context is everything!