So, you're a recent college graduate and you're trying to craft a compelling resume. But how is this possible when you have little or no experience? That's where the functional resume comes into play.
The beauty of the functional resume format is that it highlights your skills and downplays your limited job history. This makes it the ideal resume format choice for college grads on the hunt for their first full-time role.
Prospective employers consider many factors besides an applicant's job history. A functional resume, by definition, is a skills-based resume that showcases your unique strengths and qualifications. Creating a robust skills section allows you to stand out and grab a prospective employer's attention, so it's critical to include your most competitive skills. These are our recommendations for your entry-level functional resume.
Start with a strong summary
Think of your summary statement as your elevator pitch. It's the first chance to make a hiring manager take notice — and to entice them to keep reading. In a functional resume, this statement also allows you to introduce yourself as a recent graduate. These few sentences set the tone for the rest of the resume (and essentially explain why you've chosen the functional resume format). A compelling summary statement will give context to your skills and experience and may quickly negate the downside of a thin job history.
You should tailor your summary statement for each job application. Express your interest in the position and the company and explain how your skills and education will be an asset to the organization.
Categorize your skills
A skills-focused resume organizes your various skills into an easy-to-digest format that a recruiter or manager can quickly review. You can cover all of your most relevant abilities in a general Skills section.
- Start with your most easy to define and quantify "hard skills." These more technical skills are specific proficiencies that are taught in school or on the job, including foreign languages, computer programming, writing skills or machine skills.
- Then cover soft skills. These are the interpersonal skills that let you solve problems, be creative, and work well with others.
If you have a lot of skills that fall into definable categories, you can create some groups of similar skills. For instance, if your skills include experience with ten different types of software, you can list them all under a "technology skills" section. If you've had leadership experience of any kind, organize any related attributes under a "leadership skills" section.
You may also want to include a skills category to cover specific proficiencies related to earning your degree. For example, if your degree is in the engineering field, you'll have a different set of skills than someone with a degree in the chemistry or marketing fields. You may want to include them in a category called "Engineering Skills."
Think you'll need a helping hand with getting all of your skills in order for your resume? Work from a resume template and get built-in guidance on not only your skills section, but all other resume sections.
Use relevant keywords
When tailoring your resume’s summary statement and skills section to the job you're applying for, the specific words you use are crucial. Today, many companies use automated applicant tracking systems (ATS) to scan resumes for specific keywords extracted from the job description. Examine the job description carefully and match your skills to the language in the description. Even if you have the right qualifications, an ATS may disqualify you if your resume doesn't contain the correct wording.
For example, you've listed Microsoft Office as a skill because you have experience in Word, Outlook and Excel. The job description, on the other hand, asks specifically for strong skills in Excel. You may have just missed out on a great opportunity due to the wrong phrasing.
Provide real-life examples
A functional resume is more than a list of skills. It’s an opportunity to demonstrate that you've acquired these skills through education and experience, despite the absence of a well-rounded job history. Under each skill category, include a brief description of how you've applied that skill to a specific experience. If you've listed leadership as a skill, don't expect a hiring manager to take your word for it. Include definitive examples of how you built and proved that leadership, such as:
- Served in a leadership role with your fraternity
- Spent your college years in ROTC
- Led an on-campus club or organization
Many degree programs include projects and courses that require as much commitment as a paid job does. Think back on your college experience and consider which projects and courses best prepared you for the demands of the workplace. Then use these experiences to provide examples of how you applied your unique skills.
Include internships and volunteer opportunities
Internships and volunteer positions are excellent opportunities for demonstrating how you've applied your skills, especially for recent graduates. Unpaid work is still work, even if the details of the position aren't relevant to the job for which you're applying. Volunteer work and internships express commitment and a willingness to show up to work on time. The successful completion of an internship can make you stand out in the eyes of a hiring manager — especially if you're going up against other entry-level candidates.
Are you still unsure about what skills and value you can offer an employer? Our Resume Builder will help you craft a professional, entry-level functional resume that will set you apart from the competition. Select the format and design you prefer, choose from a list of skills relevant to your field, and get invaluable tips on writing the perfect summary statement.