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:
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:
- 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.
- 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!
- 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.
- 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.