Should You Go Functional

by | Mar 6, 2020 | Resume Tips

Last week I had the pleasure of speaking with a Masters level business student who wanted some advise on their resume. This person had been working for 10 years in various capacities, most of which was in a Sales or Banking function. He was completing his degree in Human Resources and was having difficulty generating any interest regarding a position in this area.

As I listened to this person intently, I reviewed his resume. He was communicating to me his experience with budgeting, negotiation, and project management. The interesting aspect was that his resume did not really emphasize any of this for me. Instead, it was a fairly non-descript chronological review of the different jobs he has held. I immediately began thinking that a Functional Resume may be best for him in his job search.

I normally, as a Human Resources person, prefer a Chronological Resume where your experiences are listed from most recent to the furthest in the past. This allows a Recruiter to quickly review someone’s career and their progression in their work history. It also allows a Recruiter to easily spot any significant gaps in a candidate’s employment history. A Chronological Resume is the type used by the vast majority of Job Seekers and is considered the industry standard.

A caveat before we even begin discussing whether a Functional Resume is right for you is that there are some risks using this type of document format. Since it is not used nearly as often, many Recruiters are not used to reading them. Quite frankly, for a busy Recruiter, a Chronological Resume is easy for them to scan and make a quick decision regarding whether to pursue further.

A compromise to consider is to create a hybrid of a resume. You can continue to state your work history, but in a list without detail saving the text for the functional portion of the document. Simply list your title, and company, and the years of service if it does not give away any gaps in your employment. This allows the Recruiter to have a sense of your work history without making it your primary focus.

Not everyone should use a Functional Resume, but for some a Functional Resume is a viable option. The following are some examples where a Functional Resume should be considered:

Like the example I gave you at the start of this week’s column, a person who has had a diverse career and is seeking to focus on one area.

• If you are someone who had a position where the title did not accurately reflect your position. For example, if you had the title of “Administrative Clerk”, but in reality you handled Customer Service, managed the office, and were a confidential Administrative Assistant. The actual skills used are maybe completely different than the name of the position.

• Someone with limited career experience, such as a college student entering the workforce. This allows the college student to emphasize skills obtained through Internships, Volunteer Work, etc. rather than purely that which came from traditional paid employment.

• Someone who has multiple gaps or one significant open time period in his or her work history. Examples would be a stay-at-home parent, or someone who has had difficulty securing a new position after being downsized.

• For more “senior” Job Seekers, a Functional Resume may allow you to de-emphasize your years of work history. Although, it is now becoming standard to limit your work history to the last 10-15 years, so this is becoming less of a reason to go “functional”

• If you are applying for a position “lower” than what you have done in the past, a Functional Resume may help you from looking “overqualified” by not emphasizing specific position titles.

The idea behind using a Functional Resume is to positively display your transferable skills and accomplishments towards the position you are applying for. A start would be to do some self-analysis to determine what skills you have developed and obtained over your life. Once you have done that, it is time to apply your skills to your Resume. Examples of Professional Skills that can be elaborated on would be Communication, Leadership, Decision-Making, Project Management, etc. Within each skill would be short examples of how you achieved it, or what you did under each category. You can tie your functional skills and accomplishments to the position or school in which you obtained them by referencing the organization in each piece of narrative.

If you are a recent college graduate you should consider leading with your Education followed by your Professional Skills. Inpiduals who have more detail to state in their Professional Skills may lead with this and then follow with their Education.

Another category to add to your Functional Resume is Professional Activities and Honors. In this area would be professional organizations you are a member of, charitable or volunteer work, and any relevant awards achieved through your activities. If you are thinking of changing your field, look for professional organizations you can join in this area.

A Functional Resume is not for everyone and should be used with caution. Sometimes, however, in the interest of grabbing attention and “selling yourself”, it places you in the best light with the Recruiter. You may want to experiment with both a Chronological and a Functional Resume and see which one works best for you.

As always, best of luck in your job search.

The following has been prepared for the general information of WNYJobs readers. It is not meant to provide advice with respect to any specific legal or policy matter and should not be acted upon without verification by the reader.

Joe Stein
WNY Human Resources Professional

Feel free to contact Joe Stein regarding questions or comments at:
Joe Stein


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