Although most times you compose a new resume you'll want to use the tried-and-true chronological format, there are some instances when you may want to consider using the functional resume format instead.
The functional format arose as an alternative to the chronological format and was appreciated as an alternative for chronologically formatted resumes that had grown too long. The new resume format was a way of condensing them and drawing recruiters' attention to the specific qualities candidates had instead of focusing on a job history.
The Functional Format
The functional resume format focuses on skills rather than start and end dates for your jobs. Whereas a chronologically formatted resume details the exact dates of every job and keeps them in a reverse chronological order, the functional format instead has a listing of skills and organizes jobs that way. The functional format usually omits dates, but recruiters often have their databases set up to enter and store applicants' jobs based on specific dates. This means that for every candidate who submits a functionally formatted resume, a recruiter must reconstruct the resume chronologically in their database, a process that can be very time consuming.
Why Use It?
Why would you use a functional resume format? Usually, the reason for doing so is when there is a problem with stating the same information chronologically. There is either a lengthy gap in the employment history or a lack of an employment history, which might be the case with new college graduates or applicants whose work histories include many volunteer positions. Another case might be a scenario where a person's job history diverges from a linear path in an extreme way or where an applicant wishes to make a career change. In those cases, one might want to experiment with a functional resume format and see what the results are.
What the Functional Format Looks Like
To use the functional format, follow your summary statement with a listing of your skills from most significant and relevant to least, and detail each skill with how you're good at it and how you applied it at relevant jobs. When you mention each job, you don't need to use dates; you can optionally mention only the job title and the employer name. Be sure to leave space between each skill the same way you leave space between jobs on a chronologically formatted resume.
A better idea is to use a hybrid chrono-functional format for your resume, which is the same as a functional format but with a bare-bones listing of jobs in reverse chronological order at the bottom without job detail for each job. This is better than a purely functional resume because it will help recruiters enter your information in their databases more easily and will let them get a better idea of your career path, which can be important for your job prospects.
If you're understandably worried that recruiters won't look carefully at your functional resume to determine your potential worth for the company, a chrono-functional is a good solution to give them some of the information they expect while still emphasizing your relevant skills. Whether you have little work experience or you desire to start work in a new industry, a functional format or hybrid might be a better way of presenting yourself than the traditional chronological format.
When formatting your resume, you may find the tips and tricks on LiveCareer useful. You can see examples of functional, chronological and hybrid format resumes and decide which format works best for you.