The Functional Resume, Part B: The Single Track Career

Resume and question marks

One of the most crucial parts of writing an effective resume is choosing the right format. We usually distinguish between chronological, functional, and hybrid formats, with each having distinct pros and cons. To that end, we will be discussing different resume formats and which ones work for which job seekers. Today, we’ll look at the functional resume format.

What is it?

The functional resume format is the opposite of the chronological format which we discussed previously. Whereas the chronological format was all about where you worked and when, the functional format minimizes your chronological work history. Instead, the functional format focuses on your skills, key competencies, accomplishments, and highlights of experience – basically, what makes you special and uniquely qualified.

In another post, we discussed how the functional resume can benefit job seekers with nontraditional career paths. Today, we’ll look at the other type of job seeker for whom the functional template is a good choice.

The Advantages

The functional resume format works well for people who have a long history working in a single career at multiple locations. For people with this sort of “single-track” career, the functional template can prevent redundancy. For example, if you’ve worked as a nurse at five different locations over the past twenty years, doing pretty much the exact same job at each location, you may not want to write out the exact same duties and skills five times on your resume. Instead, you can use a functional template to describe all of your job skills and experience without being repetitive.

This can be especially advantageous for older job seekers whose best work accomplishments may have been many years ago. The functional template allows you to put your best achievements at the top of your resume, regardless of when they occurred.

The Disadvantages

The primary disadvantage of the functional resume is that it can be hard to write. Since you have an extensive work history in the same field, you will not be able to put everything you’ve ever done on a resume. You will have to focus on the most valuable and relevant information. This means that you will need to search your memory and determine your best skills and accomplishments, even stretching back over decades. The process of writing a functional resume is time-consuming and complex. However, in most cases, the extra work is worth it, because a functional resume will prevent you from having a lengthy resume which repeats the same phrases over and over.

Components of a Resume

Contact Information: Your name, physical address (optional), phone number with area code, email address, and LinkedIn URL (optional).

Personalized Sections:  This is the largest section of the functional resume, and the least rigidly structured. This is where you get to be creative. No two functional resumes look exactly alike – you need to find the best way to present your skills and qualifications. You may start with a summary of qualifications, a short paragraph of keywords describing your best skills, and then move to a “highlights of experience” section, where you detail some of your relevant experience. Or, you may start with a large, bullet-point-filled skills section, then have a key accomplishments section where you brag about the best stuff you’ve done. Or, you may divide it up into several sections of key competencies. Look at our example for inspiration. This resume is for a seasoned employee who’s trying to condense an extensive career into a succinct document, while drawing attention away from how old some of his best experience is. He begins with a detailed list of his most relevant skills as an office manager and bookkeeper, then highlights a few of his greatest accomplishments from throughout his career. If you’re still not sure how to format your functional resume, check for examples online and in resume books.

Work History: This section will be brief and near the bottom of the resume. Each entry in this section will consist of your job title, company name, city and state, and dates worked. Nothing else is needed, because all the details are included in your personalized sections.

Education: This would be the place to include academic degrees (bachelor of science, associates degree, etc.), vocational certifications (teaching license, LPN, etc.), and industry credentials (CPR, TWIC, OSHA, Servsafe, etc.). Remember to include the name and type of diploma earned, the name of the school, and the city and state.

References: Your references should not be part of your resume. References should be on a separate document, one which you only provide when it is asked for. You may include a line on your resume that says “References available upon request.”

In addition to these tips, you can come by the Career Center in person anytime during business hours for one-on-one help with your resume.

Written by Lynnette Lee.

The Functional Resume, Part A: The Nontraditional Career Path

Resume and question marks

One of the most crucial parts of writing an effective resume is choosing the right format. We usually distinguish between chronological, functional, and hybrid formats, with each having distinct pros and cons. To that end, we will be discussing different resume formats and which ones work for which job seekers. Today, we’ll look at the functional resume format.

What is it?

The functional resume is the opposite of the chronological resume, which we previously discussed here. Whereas the chronological format was all about where you worked and when, the functional format minimizes your chronological work history. Instead, the functional format focuses on your skills, key competencies, accomplishments, and highlights of experience — basically, what makes you special and uniquely qualified. There are two categories of job seekers who can benefit from using a functional template. Today, we’ll look at the first category: people who have had a nontraditional career path. The second will be discussed in a follow-up post.

the advantages

The functional resume format is the best choice for people whose chronological work history is problematic in some way. The format works well for people with unstable work histories or a lack of recent relevant experience.  If you have a history of job-hopping or short-term jobs, or if you have a large gap in your work history, this format can help cover up that fact. Likewise, if you’re applying for a job in a new field in which you’ve never worked — or if you’re returning to a field that you’ve been out of for many years — a functional resume lets you discuss your relevant transferable skills, without much emphasis on when and where you learned them.

the disadvantages

The primary disadvantage of the functional resume is that it’s hard to write. Since a functional resume is all about your unique skills and qualifications, it requires a great deal of forethought and soul-searching. You must think carefully about three things:

  1. What qualities does the company want for this position?
  2. What do I have in terms of skills and experience?
  3. How can I make what I have match up with what they want?

The process of writing a functional resume is time-consuming and complex. Additionally, since it’s a very personalized format, you may need to do major tweaks to it before applying for each new job, to ensure that your skills match up well with the job description. However, in most cases, the extra work is worth it, because employers will see you favorably, whereas a chronological format might not paint you in the best light.

The secondary disadvantage of the functional resume is that hiring managers know that this format is often used to hide weaknesses. For that reason, some recruiters are wary of taking a closer look at someone with a functional resume. However, the functional template is nevertheless the best choice for some job seekers. It is a better option than a resume that flaunts weaknesses.

Components of a functional Resume

Contact Information: Your name, physical address (optional), phone number with area code, email address, and LinkedIn URL (optional).

Personalized Sections:  This is the largest section of the functional resume, and the least rigidly structured. This is where you get to be creative. No two functional resumes look exactly alike — you need to find the best way to present your skills and qualifications. You may start with a summary of qualifications, a short paragraph of keywords describing your best skills, and then move to a “highlights of experience” section, where you detail some of your relevant experience. Or, you may start with a large, bullet-point-filled skills section, then have a key accomplishments section where you brag about the best stuff you’ve done. Or, you may divide it up into several sections of key competencies.

Look at our example for inspiration. This is a resume for a schoolteacher who is positioning herself for a career in a new field — office management. Although she’s never worked in an office before, her work as a teacher has given her the skills to supervise, train, motivate, and coordinate. So she focuses on the transferable skills that she has, breaking them into areas of key competencies and discussing some of her achievements in each field. If you’re still not sure how to format your functional resume, review examples online and in resume books.

Work History: This section will be brief and near the bottom of the resume — after all, this is the section of the resume you don’t want to draw attention to. Each entry in this section will consist of merely your job title, company name, city and state, and dates worked.

Education: This would be the place to include academic degrees (bachelor of science, associates degree, etc.), vocational certifications (teaching license, LPN, etc.), and industry credentials (CPR, TWIC, OSHA, Servsafe, etc.). Remember to include the name and type of diploma earned, the name of the school, and the city and state.

References: Your references should not be a part of your resume. References should be on a separate document, one which you only provide when it is asked for. You may include a line on your resume that says “References available upon request.”

In addition to these tips, you can visit the Career Center in person anytime during business hours for one-on-one help with your resume.

Written by Lynnette Lee.

The Chronological Resume

Resume and question marks

One of the most crucial parts of writing an effective resume is choosing the right format. We usually distinguish between chronological, functional, and hybrid formats, with each having distinct pros and cons. To that end, we will be discussing different resume formats and which ones work for which job seekers. Today, we’ll look at the chronological resume format.

What is it?

A chronological resume focuses entirely on your reverse chronological work history: where you worked, when you worked there, and what you did there. Check out a sample chronological resume here.

Take note that nowadays, most resumes designed for white-collar professional work include large sections of chronological work history, but are are not considered chronological resumes. These more complex templates are called hybrid or combination resumes, which will be discussed in a later article. Here, we will examine the strictly chronological resume.

the advantages

The chronological resume is a very straightforward and easy format to follow. Because of its simplicity, the format draws a hiring manager’s eye quickly to the applicant’s work history. It works well for people who have a stable work history with several years of relevant experience. This format is often used by job seekers who work in blue-collar industries, including truck drivers, laborers, skilled tradesmen, and plant operators. This template is also sometimes favored by job seekers in fields such as care taking, dish washing, and housekeeping, whose job duties are relatively uniform and require little explanation.

the disadvantages

There are several types of job seekers for whom this format is not a good choice. The chronological resume focuses entirely on work history — so if you have an unstable work history, this format will bring attention to that. Likewise, if you don’t have much experience in the field you’re applying for, this format will emphasize that fact. Additionally, this format offers no place to highlight your specialized skills, so it is a poor choice if you are in an industry which requires specialized training or abilities — such as information technology, nursing, or engineering. Finally, this format may be seen as too simplistic for job seekers in professional office, administrative, or management positions.

Components of a chronological resume

Contact Information: Your name, physical address (optional), phone number with area code, and email address.

Work History: This will include the name of each company, city and state of the company’s location, your job title there, the dates of your employment, and a job description. The job description should give the recruiter a good idea of what you did on that job. Make sure to include specifics about awards or promotions you received, experience training or supervising other employees, special software or equipment you used (such as a forklift or POS software), presentations or workshops you led, and any other special achievements you had on the job. I recommend listing each job duty or accomplishment as a separate bullet point, and starting each bullet point with a strong action verb. Start with the most recent job and work your way back.

Education: This would be the place to include academic degrees (GED, associates degree, etc.), vocational certifications (certified welder, CNA, CDL, etc.), and industry credentials (TWIC, OSHA, NCCER, Servsafe, etc.). Remember to include the name and type of diploma or degree earned, the name of the school, and the city and state.

References: Your references should not be part of your resume. References should be a separate document, one which you only provide when it is asked for. You may include a line on your resume that says “References available upon request.”

In addition to these tips, remember that you can come by the Career Center in person during business hours for one-on-one help with your resume.

Written by Lynnette Lee.