4 Reasons Not to Use a Functional Resume Format

Lately, a lot of job seekers have been asking about the functional resume format. They're looking for ways to handle embarrassing work history problems — things like lay-offs, gaps in employment, and job hopping.

While it's true that the functional resume does give a nice clean way to deal with these problems, it's not the best way to go. Why? Because employers don't like functional resumes.

Why Employers Don't Like the Functional Resume Format

To understand why employers don't like the functional resume format, take a look at this functional resume template:

Functional Resume Template

As you can see, the main focus of the functional resume is on the two Major Skill sections in the body. The work history is tucked away in a separate section and is listed very briefly — just the dates, job title, employer's name, city, and state for each job.

Sounds like a good idea if your work history isn't pretty. But now let's look at it from the employer's view point. He doesn't like this format because:

  1. It's hard to see where achievements happened. Many job seekers forget to weave that info into their achievement statements, so it sometimes feels like they're making wild claims that aren't grounded in a time and place. And even if there is a clue as to where an achievement took place, the employer has to do extra work to cross-check it with the Work History section to see when it happened. That's a pain in the neck and most busy employers don't want to bother with it.
  2. It looks like the job seeker is hiding something... and usually she is. The functional resume is almost never used by job seekers with perfect histories — and employers know that. When they get a functional resume from a job seeker, a red flag goes up that something's not right. So when they read the resume (if they read it) their focus is on trying to figure out what's wrong instead of what's right with the job seeker. Not good!
  3. It doesn't fit into Applicant Tracking Systems. Well, it fits and it can be searched for keywords, but the database system can't match up the achievements with the dates because the functional format has them in separate sections.
  4. It's not conventional. Most employers like convention and they want employees who fit into their company conventions. Starting with your job application, show that you fit in by using a traditional resume format such as a chronological or combination — not a functional format. An exception to this is in creative fields where being unconventional might pay off.

Other Resume Format Options

For most job seekers, I recommend not using a functional format. Because this format is not widely accepted, it just isn't going to serve you well to use one. So what are other options?

Less-Than Perfect Work History
If the main reason you thought you needed a functional resume is because you have a less-than-perfect work history, I assure you the chronological resume format or the combination resume format can solve that problem. For help with that, check out Dealing With Work History Problems.

Making a Career Change
If you're making a career change and thought the functional resume would help show off your transferable skills, ditch that idea and use a combination resume format. It will achieve the same result in a format employers welcome.

Why So Many Functional Resume Samples on My Site?

All the functional resume samples on my site were written in the 1990s when functional resumes were more welcomed by hiring managers and Human Resources folks. In the early 2000s I updated them to reflect more recent dates and activities.

If the same job seekers came to me today with the same resume problems, I would suggest they reformat their functional resumes into either chronological or combination formats. But I have left them as is so that those of you who are curious can see what a functional resume looks like.

By the way, there is a good way to use the functional format. If you start with a functional resume template, then convert it to a chronological or combination format, you'll end up with a resume that has amazing focus.

7 thoughts on “4 Reasons Not to Use a Functional Resume Format

  1. Ok, then I have a question. I have fantastic job history and have been employed by many great employers. My problem is that all of my jobs were basically the same. This form would allow me to focus on my extra trainings, include my work history which has never lapsed ever, and show what I did on my jobs, while still keeping it one page. If this is an awful format, is there another that would do that?

    • Hi Lisa,
      Yes, there is another format that would do the trick: the chronological resume format.

      For example, if you were a teacher — who did pretty much the same thing in each classroom even though you switched schools several times over a 20-year career — here’s how you might format your Experience section.

      EXPERIENCE

      High School English Teacher, 1993-present
      ABC High School, City (20xx-present)
      DEF High School, City (20xx-20xx)
      GHI High School, City (199x-20xx)
      JKL High School, City (199x-199x)

      - Bullet point achievement statement about your teaching.
      - Another bullet point about your teaching.
      - And several more bullet points about your teaching.

      If you wanted to add Skill Headings to your list of bullet points, you could do that and then you would have a combination resume format.

      I know you might not be a teacher, but I hope this example helps you see my point. Perhaps you can replace “Teacher” with your professional title and make either the chronological and combination resume format work for you.

      Best of luck with your resume writing!

  2. Hello. My problem is that I basically have no work experience. I always focused on school and never really held a job while in school. Right after I graduated from college with a BS in Criminal Justice, I became a mom and have been a full-time mom since. That’s been for about 3yrs. But I am desperately and actively seeking employment but my resume is a major pitfall for me. Please help…

    • Hello Chitara,
      You say you don’t have much experience but you really do. It may not be paid work, but it’s work that required skills that will be valued by an employer.

      On a blank page (not your resume) make a list of projects and ongoing work you did (and do) and detail the skills you use to succeed at those tasks. Also list the results from those projects. Pick the ones that are relevant to your job objective and write about them on your resume.
      Good luck!

  3. My problem isn’t poor work history, but the employers I’ve worked for. The past 13 years I have worked for a well known (not necessarily well liked) labor union and three years before that I was in a trade union apprenticeship program. I am now looking for an accounting or management position, and the union background is a definite detriment to securing a management position anywhere. The functional resume style allows me to focus attention more on my skills than where I have worked, which allows me to at least get a foot in some doors for interviews where I can explain I am not a union activist and will not cause upheaval in their nonunion workplace. I am having difficulty securing a position whether it be my union background or my functional resume or a combination of both…is it possible to place focus on my skills and recent eductation instead of my previous employers with a conventional chronological resume? I would appreciate any advice you have and can lend!

    • Hi Laurie,
      What about highlighting your union experience as an asset? If you apply to a union company for a management job, you might use some of the bullet points on you resume to state that you understand the union position and are therefore better able to manage union workers and create a bridge between workers and management.

      I suggest a combination resume format with skill headings to address you management and other skills. Put your union-related statements under management. Just a thought.

  4. My work history has been potholed by businesses that have either treated me like a toss-away commodity with abuse and misunderstandings (being in the creative design/technology sector) or haven’t been stable and cannot keep me for very long due to cut backs. For the past 7 years I have been working in the games industry, doing user interface design. I am tired of the way I’ve been treated and the fact that I haven’t much to show from a 13+ year career due to companies treating me like a piece of trash even though I have co-founded and started a small game studio that has been praised by Google and other major web portals as creating feature worthy software that is in the top 10 titles of the year. These points don’t seem to ring true and my resume is WAY too long. Now, after a few years of trying the entrepreneurial thing, I find I’m being painted into a corner and stereotyped as business/financial oriented design firms will not recognize my skill rather than just looking at what I’ve been doing. I would like to move into either a management position(being that I possess experience in studio environments, etc.) or shifting my career towards another position that doesn’t deal so much with people’s opinions directly. I am stuck and I’m not sure what to do. I’ve tried my hand at a number of different methods, but nothing seems to work. I’m very intelligent and pride myself of doing a great job, but I’m at the whim of HR and stereotyping. This career path has been horrible and I’ve been unemployed at least 6 times in my life and I’m tired of it. I don’t know if I’m shooting myself in the foot or not, but I really find it annoying that I have to figure out what someone else’s profession has taught them is proper in terms of application submission. So is outlining skills not the better approach, because they simply do not understand that I not only have a varied set of skills but I’ve also a heavy amount of insight. But apparently not in the right places.

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