Is a Functional Resume Format Right for You?

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A functional resume, also known as a skills-based resume, emphasizes your skills above all else. There are several reasons why you might choose a functional resume format over a chronological or combination format for your next job application.

This format works well for applicants who have little to no work experience, have gaps in their employment history, or if they are seasoned professionals who are looking to make a career change. Here, we outline everything you need to know about functional resume formats to help you decide if it is the right choice for you.

The structure of a chronological resume

Funcation Resume Structure
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 6
  • Header

    Be sure to add your name, email address, phone number and location. Your mailing address is not required on a modern resume.

  • Summary statement

    The summary statement or career objective on a functional resume is your introduction to an employer. Unlike the other two resume formats, which use a Professional Summary focused on what you can offer an employer, here it’s OK to mention your career goals since many users of the functional resume format won’t have an extensive work history.

  • Skills

    Study the job ad to determine the most critical hard and soft skills for the role. Then, add in any other relevant skills and training that will make you stand out. Since a combination resume focuses on skills and experience, feel free to make this a comprehensive list.

  • Professional skills

    In this section, refer to three top skills you possess and make sure they comprise both hard and soft skills. They can also come from a formal job description. All skills selected should be as relevant to the job as possible. Then break down in sentences a list of at least three job duties associated with each of the three skills you chose.

  • Work history

    Here, note any relevant work experience you have had, even if it isn’t directly related to the role you seek.

  • Education

    List your degrees in reverse-chronological order, with your most recent degree at the top of the list. If you did not get an advanced degree, list your high school education and any completed professional certifications.

Who should use a functional
resume format?

While the chronological resume format is the preferred format of recruiters and hiring managers, it isn’t for everyone. If you fall into one of the following categories, consider using a functional resume format instead to best highlight your credentials:

  • Entry-level job seekers with little to no work experience.

    A functional resume format will emphasize your skill set and your education over your work experience, which is helpful to those who are recent graduates or are otherwise new to the workforce.

  • Those who have held multiple short-term or temporary jobs.

    For freelancers, temps, or those working in the gig economy, a functional resume offers a glimpse at their most impressive clients and assignments without focusing on the length of their tenure at any one job.

  • Workers who have gaps in their employment history.

    If you experienced a long layoff, took time off to handle a personal or health problem, or are reentering the workforce after a long hiatus, such as to raise children, a functional format is a great choice.

  • Professionals who are looking to make a career change.

    If you’re looking to switch careers and want to emphasize your transferable skills over industry-related experience, this is the format for you. The functional format works well for those who are making a career change because it emphasizes training and skills over work history. For example, if you want to work as a medical assistant but you don’t have hospital experience, a functional resume format could help you emphasize related courses you have taken and relevant volunteer experience where you developed transferable skills.

When to consider a
different format

Functional resume formats aren’t for every job seeker. Consider either a combination or a chronological resume format if you fall into any of the following categories:

  • You have an extensive work history.
  • Your career trajectory is particularly notable.
  • You plan to apply for jobs in the same field in which you’ve been working.
  • You are a recent graduate with relevant internship experience.

Learn more about resume formats

Learn more

Resume Success Stories

5 functional resume
format examples

If you have little to no work experience:

If you’re an entry-level worker with limited work experience, a functional resume format can bring your education and training to the forefront. This job seeker is trained as a carpenter and has experience as an apprentice, but his work experience is limited.
By using this resume format, his training and transferable skills are what gets noticed, not his lack of professional experience.
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If you are a recent graduate:

This job seeker has recently graduated from college, and as a result, doesn’t have much work experience to highlight. The functional resume format makes this no problem because it helps emphasize the transferable hard and soft skills gleaned in college.
By pulling skills to the top of the document, work experience becomes less weighty, which is perfect for those who are seeking their first or second professional role.

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If you are a temp or gig economy worker:

This job seeker has held several short-term roles and worked as a freelance writer, which can make resume writing tricky. However, by choosing a functional resume format, she has corralled all of her qualifications, professional experience and skills into a cohesive document.
With a focus on the qualifications and skills sections, her brief work experience section conveys a consistent work history and career progression, two critical elements every recruiter will look for in a job applicant.
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If you are a contractor or freelancer:

When you work as a freelancer or contract worker, it can be hard to write a resume that makes it clear that your roles were intentionally short. The functional resume format is a great choice for freelancers.
Again, this format focuses on skills and qualifications, rather than on an extensive work history. Using this format can show potential clients and hiring managers alike the skills you’ve gleaned in your various roles and what you’ll bring to the table.

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If you have employment gaps:

Gaps can appear in your employment history for a variety of reasons. From raising children to caring for elderly parents, needing to take time off from work shouldn’t hamper your job search.
Because it focuses on skills over work history, the functional format is perfect for this type of job seeker. Whether you were out of work for a month or a longer period, this format brings the best parts of your work history to the top of the document and takes the focus off of your employment gaps.

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Functional Resume Format FAQ

How should you order information on a functional resume?

very resume should contain the same basic five sections. The difference between resume formats is how they are ordered. In the case of the functional resume format, there are often some additional sections added to further emphasize your skills.
Here is one of the formations used in a functional resume format: header, summary statement, summary of qualifications, professional skills, work history, education. For more information about the special sections on a functional resume, see our resume formats page.

Do recruiters have a resume format preference?

The resume you create should be formatted in a way that best showcases your unique work experience. While the chronological format is usually considered the standard, and the one recruiters are the most familiar with, this choice is only effective for candidates who have clear work histories. In fact, for those looking for work that don’t have a linear employment history, a recent study found that “removing dates and presenting previous employment in terms of total years of experience increased call-backs by 15%.” People with transferable skills looking to move jobs or those that have gaps in their resumes should consider the functional or combination resume over the basic chronological format.

What does a functional resume highlight?

A functional resume highlights three main areas: your professional goals (in the summary statement), your unique skill set, which is explored deeply in the professional skills section, and your educational experience, which can include vocational and certification programs.. For this reason, a functional resume format is a solid choice for an applicant who is either new to the workforce or making a major career transition.

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