If you are changing careers or fields, or if you have a significant gap in your work history, you might hear the advice to use a functional resume, rather than one that lays out your career experience in a chronological format. If you get this advice, you have my permission to ignore it. In fact, I demand that you ignore it!
What is a functional resume?
The functional resume was popularized in the late 1980s. In short, a functional resume presents your skills and competencies, rather than focusing on your career path. Jobs tend to be lumped together under key skill sets. Because there is no timeline of your employment history, this format is sometimes recommended to candidates who have gaps in employment, to “hide” such gaps.
Why hiring managers and recruiters hate them
The reasons are many, but here are the top ones:
It looks like the candidate is hiding something. This is probably the #1 complaint about functional resumes. Their very format creates an aura of suspicion. And truthfully, people who use the functional layout usually are trying to hide something, whether it’s an employment gap or a lack of experience or credentials.
It obscures your chronological work history. When people review resumes, they need to be able to quickly understand what you’ve accomplished, and where you’ve done it. A functional resume #fails in this effort.
It takes too much effort to understand. Do you really think a recruiter or hiring manager is going to carefully read through your skills and competencies, and then develop an understanding of how this fits with the role for which they are hiring? No. Your resume is going to be scanned, and it needs to communicate, quickly and succinctly, what you bring to the table, and where you gleaned your experience.
It doesn’t tell a story. From cave paintings to hot lead type to digital media, humans are storytellers. A functional resume doesn’t tell a coherent story of your career to-date. Your resume should be the opus of your accomplishments and achievements. A functional resume is like doodles on scrap paper.
It doesn’t sell you. Your resume is a promotional tool. The functional format doesn’t promote you and your achievements. If you don’t spell this out for the recruiter or hiring manager, they might assume the worst. No dates of education? Maybe she never completed her degree. Just a list of several previous employers? Maybe she has a spotty record.
What should you do instead?
Use one of the resume formats that make it easy for the person reading to understand what it is you bring to the table. The two I would suggest is the reverse chronological format or the hybrid format. The reverse chronological format presents your background in an easy to understand timeline format. The hybrid resume highlights your skills and competencies and includes a chronological overview of your career path to date.
The bottom line
Your resume is a marketing tool that is used to promote you. Keep your audience—recruiters and hiring managers—in mind and craft a compelling resume that makes it easy for them to understand why you are the best person for the job.