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If you have work history gaps, minimal professional experience, are transitioning to a new career or changed jobs frequently, a functional resume can increase your chances of getting an interview by pivoting the focus from your unrelated experience to your relevant skills and training.

In this article, you’ll learn how to write a highly effective functional resume step-by-step. We also have free examples and templates to give you a head start.

  • Functional Resume Layout

    There are some crucial components shared by functional resumes that attract recruiters’ attention. Learn how to include them in your resume to make it more appealing:

    • Focus on your skills. Make sure your achievements and abilities are explained in detail. This will form the largest section of the document.
    • Organization is key. The layout should present different categories of skills, with each set of skills listed under a separate heading. Determine which of your skills are most relevant to the position, and list these first.
    • Get creative. If you’re in a creative career field or applying to nontraditional firms, you can get a little more creative with the presentation of your functional resume. You can play with colors, or arrange information differently. Use the templates in this article for ideas.
    • Make it easy to read. Regardless of how you arrange the information, make sure it’s easy to navigate by using short sentences and paragraphs. The usual rules of resume writing still apply, only the information is presented differently.

What Is a Functional Resume?

Skills and achievements are the focal points in a functional resume. It prioritizes your strengths and accomplishments and is also known as a skills-based resume. Multiple sections can be dedicated to various skill sets. A brief work history is included, but you can ignore dates and write a list of job titles and employers.

  • Advantages

    • A functional resume can increase your chances of getting an interview, even if you don’t have the exact work experience required for the position, by pairing your qualifications to the job posting.
    • This type of document is perfect for transitioning into a different career track. Relevant skills are highlighted and lack of experience is less noticeable.
    • Functional resumes feature job titles and company names, but don't offer detailed timelines. This hides work gaps in for those who have changed jobs frequently, or are reentering the workforce.
  • Disadvantages

    • A functional resume can play against you with recruiters who assume you are excluding details of your employment history because there’s something to hide.
    • Functional resumes don’t clearly showcase career growth or development in past jobs.
    • This format doesn’t work well in traditional fields, like law or finance, or with conventional firms that look for specific information in the resumes they receive.

Functional Resume Versus Other Formats

In order to understand which resume format is the best fit for you, let’s take a look at the three main types:

Each serves a different purpose. Which format is most appropriate will depend on your professional profile and the requirements of the position you’re seeking. Keep reading to find out how these formats differ and which one is best for you.

Chronological

A chronological resume concentrates mainly on your work history and the details of the jobs you’ve had. A functional resume emphasizes your skills and accomplishments. Think about whether your skills or your previous positions strengthen your resume. What will the recruiters find most interesting about you? If you’re in any of the following situations, read carefully to decide which of these formats is best for you:

  • Position requirements
    If you have the work experience recruiters are looking for, a chronological format can make that clear. However, if you believe you have the required skills, but they were acquired from training or secondary activities rather than job duties and experience, then a functional resume is better.
  • Changing careers
    A chronological resume is a better way to display progress in your work responsibilities. If you want a job that will keep you in the same career path, this format is great. Conversely, it’s hard to identify a timeline of professional growth in a functional resume. If you want a position in a different field, a functional resume might be the better choice.
  • Starting a career
    Lack of experience is in plain sight in a chronological layout. If you’re a student or have recently graduated, your skills and accomplishments are probably more appealing than your work history. If that’s the case, a functional resume is a good choice.
  • Work gaps
    Since functional resumes don’t focus on employment dates and positions held, gaps in your work history are less obvious.. An experienced recruiter may still notice that extensive work history is missing, so be prepared to address this at your interview.

Combination

The combination format, uses information from the functional and chronological resume formats. The following points will further help you determine which of the three resume formats to choose.

  • Focus
    A combination resume, just like a chronological layout, shows your job positions and their related duties, and the length of time you held each position. However, it highlights expertise developed in each of those positions. Ask yourself how similar your work history is to the job you want. If your skills are more relevant to the job at hand and you have outstanding achievements, a functional resume can emphasize that.
  • Repetition
    In contrast to a functional layout, the combination format can be repetitive when skills are listed in more than one section. This is not a problem with functional formats because they don’t include a detailed work history, in which skills information would likely be repeated.
  • Hierarchy of position
    Recruiters are usually more rigorous when they search for a senior managerial candidate. In this case, a functional resume could work against you since it’s not as detailed as a combination resume.

    Weigh the benefits and challenges your personal circumstances present to select the most suitable format.

Functional Resume Examples

Seeing real functional resume samples can help you understand how they work. Check out the different examples below, and compare them with your own skills and experience. You’ll get a much clearer of what your resume could look like!

Below are some great free examples

Sales-Focused

  • This sample functional resume from the University of Kentucky puts the focus on the summary of qualifications and relevant skills before listing work history and education. This strategy is effective for people who know the job well enough to understand the kinds of skills employers are looking for and can afford to focus on that while sublimating their education and work history.

    In this example, the job seeker has years of relevant experience both as an entrepreneur and as a coordinator for large companies. The functional format is also the right strategy for anyone with employment history gaps or whose qualifications aren’t derived in a traditional way.

Graphic Design

  • This skill-based resume, created by Ohlone College, focuses on qualifications, accomplishments and experience. Work history is listed plainly so as not to draw attention to a two-year work-history gap, and education is listed last and in a way that will not bring attention to the lack of a bachelor’s degree. This template is for people with more experience and knowledge in a field than a typical entry-level job seeker, but whose work history and education are questionable.

    In this example, the applicant’s list of qualifications, skills and experience showcase his knowledge with graphic design, while the downplayed presentation of work experience and education neither hide nor call attention to weak areas. This template shows how well functional resumes highlight qualifications without hiding problems.

Mid-Level Retail

  • This retail-focused resume from Portland Community College targets the job she’s applying for by listing important, relevant experience she’s had in customer service. By listing experience had with merchandising techniques, the job seeker shows that she understands that part of increasing sales means working on a sales floor. This also allows her to show both her familiarity with the business as well as the responsibilities she’s been given in previous positions.

    This example shows an applicant for a position as a customer service representative who has a limited education, and a work history that includes a relatively large gap. The functional format allows her to highlight strengths and downplay weaknesses.

New Teacher

  • This professional resume from Palomar College uses a straightforward format to accomplish the goal of leading a potential employer through the applicant’s most important qualifications. Skills are listed first both because in a position such as childcare they’re important, but also because education and employment history isn’t stellar. The listed relevant experiences are important for a nursery school teacher to have, but again don’t go beyond basic expectations.

    In this example, the applicant is expecting to earn a bachelor’s degree soon and is looking to advance her career. Without getting bogged down in timeline and work history gaps, this document will help job seekers focus on the positives they can bring to a new employer.

Career Change

  • This functional resume template created by Tidewater Community College highlights the advantage of using a functional format to move from one field to another. By listing personal attributes and skills first, followed by a summary of professional qualifications, the applicant is able to show the range of their abilities.

    In this military-to-civilian example, a former sergeant with the National Guard is attempting the sometimes tough transition from the military to the private sector. This template can work equally well for anyone hoping to make a career change or those who have a varied, but valuable, skill set.

Functional Resume Templates

If you decide to go with this format, you’ll probably need resume examples to guide your creation. It can be overwhelming to start from scratch, but don’t worry — we’ve got you covered! Here are several effective and customizable templates to help you write your own functional resume.

Choose between traditional and more creative templates, depending on your career field and the type of company to which you’re applying. You can download them here:

  • cashier

  • retail

  • teacher

  • How to Create a Functional Resume

    The following sections will show you how to write a compelling functional document.

    • Outline

      A functional resume should always contain the following components:

      • Personal information
      • Professional summary statement
      • Relevant skills
      • Professional experience/work history
      • Education

      In this format, place the relevant skills section before work history. This is what differentiates a functional resume format from a chronological format. At the end of the resume, you can add a brief section of extra competencies or projects that, while not completely relevant to the position, may make your resume even stronger. For example, you can include languages, professional affiliations, IT experience (for a non-IT position), etc.

      Don’t include hobbies, as it’s outdated and doesn’t boost your professional image. See our advice below for effective writing advice.

    Brainstorm Before You Start

    Brainstorm the skills and accomplishments you bring to the table. At this stage, it doesn’t matter if some of them aren’t relevant to the job description. Do include educational background, training provided by former employers, technical skills, awards and professional affiliations.

    To help you recall these items, ask yourself the following questions:

    • Did I train my subordinates or teammates on new skills?
    • Have I changed a procedure and made it more efficient?
    • Did I help the company save money?
    • Did I receive awards or prizes for my productivity?
    • Have I brought in new clients or projects for my firm?
    • Have I been promoted, or have my responsibilities increased?
    • Did I detect a problem and prevent it from escalating?

    Now, list every skill you possess that’s mentioned in the job ad. Delete the elements in your brainstorm list that have nothing to do with the job position. Your relevant aptitude and achievements are what will remain.

    Once you’re done, refine this list by incorporating the exact keywords that are in the job description. For example, if you wrote “communication with clients,” but the job ad says “customer service,” use the latter. You don’t know whether your resume is going to be screened by a an applicant tracking system (ATS) at first. Using the same keywords that are in the job ad will help prevent your resume from getting rejected at this initial stage.

    • Personal Information

      This resume section is simple and straightforward. Just list your complete name, city and state, email and phone number. Use a larger font size and/or different alignment to make your name stand out.

      Write “Willing to relocate” if the position is in another city because sometimes a recruiter will discard your resume if they feel you live too far away to commute.

      Provide a mobile number for hiring managers to easily contact you. Include a professional email address that includes your first and last names, but no nicknames.

      You can include your professional website, online portfolio and LinkedIn profile as well.

    • Professional Profile or Summary Statement

      In your summary statement, you should make your most relevant skills and experiences stand out immediately to hiring managers. It should effectively summarize your previous experience and relevant qualifications in around 50 words, and entice hiring managers to read the rest of your resume.

      Start with your degree or job title, and the number of years you’ve been in the workforce. Continue listing your relevant expertise, and quantify this experience with tangible results. You can mention awards, recognition or accomplishments.

      Let’s compare two professional profiles. Here is an ineffective example of an executive secretary’s profile.

    Example

    Executive secretary and team leader, working with effectiveness and attention to detail. Expert in efficiency programs and organization of data. In charge of work environment events with outstanding results.

    This profile doesn’t give the recruiters the information they need. This person might have the skills they are looking for, but the profile is vague.

    Example

    Executive secretary with three years of experience managing two employees in a corporate office, keeping an environment of efficiency with attention to detail. Designed and implemented efficiency programs for restructuring procedures, saving $60,000 in labor costs annually. Analyzed incoming data from customers and generated reports to CEO weekly. Organized work environment events that increased employees’ job satisfaction by 12 percent in 2016.

    Both profiles are about the same person, but the second one will be much more effective in grabbing the recruiter’s attention. The biggest difference is the presence of objective facts and quantifiable information in the second example.

    When you list your accomplishments in this way, the recruiter can picture you doing the same for their company.

    • Relevant Skills

      Remember your proficiency and accomplishments you brainstormed before beginning your resume? You will now classify them in this section.

    Skills Fall Into One of Three Categories:

    • Job-related skills: Mention technical expertise acquired academically or on the job. For example, a digital marketing executive’s experience might include fluency in Google Analytics, knowledge of social media management and knowledge of best practices for sales funnels.
    • Transferable skills: These are commonly included for a career transition, and are skills you learned in one field or job that can apply to a different type of job. For example, as a sales manager, you could have learned how to develop standards for conducting hiring interviews.
    • Adaptive or personal skills: Describe the personality traits you possess that make your work better. These are harder to prove on paper, so back them up with an achievement. For example, “Worked with high professional ethics, getting outstanding results in the annual legal audit.”

    Keep these categories in mind to help you group your skills. List the categories in order of relevance to the position you are applying for, from the most important to the least.

    Tip

    Use past-tense action-oriented verbs to describe the achievements you have gained and the projects you have worked on. Only include those that are relevant to the position you are applying for, and quantify them.

    An efficient way to express your achievements using compelling words is to use one of these formulas: Your action + Measured result, or Result + Why it was needed + Action. For example, “Implemented 10 training programs of soft skills on customer service staff, which resulted in a 30 percent improvement on customer satisfaction surveys.”

    List your qualifications, and support each of them with achievements in bullet points. Use up to three achievements for each category. This will keep it brief and easy to read.

    • Professional Experience

      Your work history should be concise in a functional resume format. Include a list of company names and job titles in chronological order. Dates for each position are optional.

      In a functional resume, the recruiters will want to know more about you by the time they reach this part of the document. Your resume may help you get your foot in the door, but a recruiter will probably ask you more questions about your work experience if you are fortunate enough to receive an interview.

      If you have limited work experience, you can add internships, volunteer work and personal projects as well.

    • Education

      Your educational background should also be brief and relevant. Provide the name and location of your university, add your major and the type of degree obtained. You can include your GPA within five years of graduating and if it is 3.5 or above.

      Mention important seminars, courses or other training if you feel it will boost or validate a skill.

      It’s common practice to include the year of graduation, but is not mandatory. Minimize the risks of encountering ageism by omitting the year.

    Using a Resume Builder

    The templates and samples above will help you to build your functional resume. If you want to take your document to the next level, a resume builder is a great tool. We partner with award-winning My Perfect Resume, which provides premium resume templates with customizable options and a built-in editor.

    As you use this tool, remember that a functional resume aims to highlight your skills and achievements, while work experience is de-emphasized. So, choose a template that gives more space for skills than employment history.

    You can also use the pre-built phrases in our resume builder to help boost your document's effectiveness. Adapt the text by using relevant keywords that describe your outstanding achievements and abilities, and that reflect the skills and competencies you have acquired in your previous jobs or training.

    Even without extensive details about your work history, a functional resume still tells your story through your skills and achievements. It should show exactly what you can do for your new employer.

    Here Are The Key Points For Creating a Great Functional Resume:

    • Use our partners' Resume Builder to make the task significantly easier.
    • View our free resume examples and download our premium resume templates to guide you in creating an effective functional resume.
    • List your skills and achievements.
    • Analyze the job posting and identify the keywords so you can incorporate them into resume.
    • Give measured information about your accomplishments and include that in your professional profile and in the relevant skills section.
    • Categorize your abilities and organize skills by order of relevance.
    • Write a complementary cover letter with similar keywords.

    Follow these recommendations to help your resume stand out from the competition. You might juggle multiple job offers soon!