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Functional or Dysfunctional???

image People seem to get passionate about whether a Functional resume is ever appropriate versus a Chronological format to best represent their experience.

If you’re not familiar with the terms… a “Functional” resume lays out the functional experience you’ve had related to the field you are pursuing. It may break down the experience by specific areas of responsibility and accomplishments. It may, or may not, indicate the companies you worked for in the past and usually doesn’t show the dates you worked at those companies.

A “Chronological’ resume on the other hand, is what most people usually use. Listing the most recent job, title, dates, and experience, followed by the previous job, and so on.

It is often argued that a functional resume can be effective for a career change, to emphasize the transferrable skills versus actual role you previously held. It’s also often used to hide gaps in employment, or excessive job-hopping. Often, recruiters or hiring managers see a functional resume as a red-flag, that the candidate must be trying to hide something. That assessment is often true.

So, as a job seeker, what do you do if you do have a large gap, previous job-hopping, or spotty work history?

A purely chronological resume certainly points that out quickly and your chances of getting a call diminish rapidly. A purely functional resume causes them to doubt your claims and your chances of getting a call again drop to near zero.

The solution is a hybrid that gives them the job history and dates they seek, but doesn’t emphasize them as much as your relevant experience!

Use the first page, and probably the majority of your resume, to list relevant skills and experience for the position you are pursuing. Add a reference at the end of each bullet point showing where you gained those skills. An example might be:


Supervisory Experience
~ Led a team of 5 Direct Reports to achieve record production (ABC Manufacturing, Inc.)
~ Achieved 90% retention of a call center team in an otherwise high turnover environment (XYZ Corp)


Then in the last section of your resume, include a section titled “Employment History” that gives your Chronological experience in a brief format. Simply list the Company Name, Dates, and Title for each position.

The reader will be able to connect the dots of your experience from the references in the functional section and still be able to deduce your employment track record. You are not hiding anything. However, you are also not clearly emphasizing what may otherwise be a potential negative when being considered.

Certainly, if your background is spotty, or you are clearly not qualified for a particular role compared to other candidates they are considering. Nothing will ‘make’ them contact you. However, a ‘hybrid’ format may give you an opportunity to clearly convey your related experience and gain their interest before they make a decision based on other factors.

As always, it’s important to tailor your resume for each job you pursue. Use their terminology and clearly emphasize your most relevant experience for that particular role.

If you think your work history is harming your chances of getting interviews… a hybrid format may make the difference!


Susan Whitcomb said...

Great ideas Harry. Thanks. One additional variation on this is to start with a chronological resume, de-emphasize dates/titles (any info that doesn't complement one's candidacy), then when listing job responsibilities for an employer, present the info with functional keywords. For example, a lengthy paragraph of job descriptions can be separated into smaller paragraphs preceded by keywords relevant to the target employer, such as Supervisory Experience, Sales Skills, Project Management, etc.

The same concept can be applied to listing bulleted accomplishments--introduce each accomplishment with a keyword relevant to the skill or knowledge you want to highlight (e.g., Customer Service: Selected by manager to address and resolve volatile situations with win-win solutions for all parties).

Again, Harry, thanks for your consistent and mission-critical contributions to the world of careers.

Jeffrey Metzger said...


Good points! Would you agree that one would need to exercise caution when using a functional resume when an Applicant Tracking System (ATS) might be the first manner in which the resume is vetted?

I'm hearing a lot of opinions that since the information is presented in a non-traditional order, the ATS won't recognize the content.

Harry Urschel said...

Thanks for the comment and question Jeffrey! I have not personally heard that an ATS would not pick up information out of a non-traditional format.

Others may have a more informed opinion about that, however, it doesn't ring true to me. People have all kinds of formats for their resumes and ATS systems would need to be able to gain information from any of them.

The one way an ATS does often 'stumble' though, is when a resume is formatted with columns. A Functional format doesn't need that though.

Best wishes!

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