Every job seeker knows the basic components of a résumé: your contact information, your educational and employment history, and your most relevant skills. Typically, a person's work experience is the primary focus of the résumé, with the employers and positions listed in reverse chronological order. This format may be the standard, but it isn't ideal for everyone.
Professionals who have résumé gaps or a lot of short-term positions (whether due to job hopping or temporary contract arrangements) may not want to use this format, as calling attention to employment dates could raise some potential red flags for hiring managers. Likewise, a traditional layout may not be the best option for entry-level candidates and career changers who have little to no experience in their new fields. One way around these issues is to use an alternative format: a functional, or skills-based résumé.
"The idea is to group your skills together under themes, rather than present a chronological work history," said Mary Ellen Slayter, a career expert for Monster.com. "Coupled with a good cover-letter narrative, it can help you get interviews that you otherwise would have been passed over for."
Why it works
There are several advantages to listing your work experience by skill category rather than by employer. If you've been out of the workforce for a while, a functional résumé will help you sell yourself based on the knowledge you gained while you were working. For career changers, there's no better way to highlight your transferable job skills than by putting them front and center.
"The reader [of a functional résumé] has an easier time recognizing the applicant's strengths and suitability for a particular job," Bob Funk, CEO of the Express Employment Professionals staffing firm franchise, said in a statement. "It's hard for us to realize the many transferable skills that we have, so imagine how hard it is for a recruiter to figure out those skills in a few seconds or minutes."
In addition to helping you zero in on the specific skills an employer wants, this résumé format can help reduce redundancy when describing similar positions.
"[If] someone has worked as a desktop technician for several small clients ... it's better for that person to list their skills [under] 'desktop technician' versus listing multiple short-term contracts," said Josh Ridgeway, director of MSP delivery for staffing firm Kavaliro. "It cuts down [on] repeating [the description] for each role and shortens the overall length of the résumé."
But don't think you can get away with not listing your work history at all. Hiring managers still want to see your track record of previous employers, even though it may not be the central point of your résumé. However, you can place this section below your skills.
"The goal of this type of résumé is to highlight your skills first," Ridgeway told Business News Daily. "That way, you attract the attention of the manager before they see your actual chronological information."
Slayter acknowledged, however, that an experienced recruiter will likely see through this strategy. While it's not necessarily perceived as dishonest, you should be prepared to answer questions that he or she may ask about your work history. [7 Smart Ways to Handle Employment Gaps on Your Résumé]
Writing a functional résumé
Regardless of how you choose to write your résumé, there are two key questions it should answer: Can you do the job, and can the hiring manager work with you?
"These are the two main things that a hiring manager is looking for in a candidate, so be sure your résumé answers these basic questions," said Arthur Jordan, senior vice president of information technology at education technology company 2U.
There are many ways you can do this when writing a skills-based résumé. Jordan advised finding a way to discuss successful work and personal projects that could show off your unique abilities to an employer. For instance, you could mention your contributions to an open-source project, or that you wrote a blog post about a work problem you solved.
"Skills help you do the job, but [industry-related] projects demonstrate your ability to work towards business goals," Jordan said. "Your personal projects and passions count in determining if your new co-workers will want to work with you, and if they are even tangentially relevant to the job, they count towards skills, too."
Ridgeway shared an example of how to discuss a job experience in a functional résumé format:
- Responsible for growing our footprint in the Carolinas and Southeast U.S.
- Recruit, source, screen, interview and place candidates in the fields of Information Technology, Engineering and Accounting/Finance
- Consistently exceed quotas for open orders, interviews and starts per week, month and year
- Manage relationships with national accounts, ensuring that they are receiving the highest level of service
- Responsible for maintaining strong relationships with current customers while continuously focusing on new business development
- Responsible for acquiring leads and prospecting for new business opportunities within the Charlotte market and large national accounts
- Gave presentations of our services to decision makers
XYZ Staffing – Charlotte, NC
Business Development/Senior Recruiter, 2009 – Present
You can find more examples and templates of functional résumés on the following sites: