what is a functional resume and when should you have one?

Preparing your resume is one of the first things you do when you find a job you want to apply for. Most job candidates focus on updating their resume and ensuring it reflects the job post. But what many people overlook is the importance of choosing the right type of resume format. It’s a key part of the resume writing process.

what is a functional resume?

the most common resume types: reverse chronological vs. functional

There are many ways you can format your resume. Two of the most common are reverse chronological and functional resumes. 

the reverse chronological resume:  This is the most popular type of resume. It’s most likely the type of resume you have right now. It’s the most expected type of resume received by recruiters and hiring managers. The type of resume recounts your work history in the order you obtained it. Your newest experience is at the top. After your experience, you include your education, special skills, and certifications. This is ideal if the work experience is an important qualification.

the functional resume: Functional resumes take the focus off job titles and experience and place more emphasis in a candidate’s skills and abilities. These types of resumes are increasing in popularity. They are well-liked by recruiters and hiring managers because they are easy to read and highlight key information.

who can benefit from a functional resume?

Functional resumes can be beneficial for all candidates. In particular, they are effective for candidates who lack experience. They are ideal when:

  • you’re changing careers: You are moving into a different type of job or switching industries.
  • you have little formal work history: Students, interns, new graduates, new immigrants and those just entering the workforce.
  • you have gaps in your employment history: You are re-entering the workforce because you took time away to raise your family, had an illness, or are re-entering the workforce after going back to school to get trained in a new field.

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how to create a functional resume

Writing a functional resume is not more difficult than writing a traditional resume. It’s just different. You use a different format and change the focus. Use these resume tips:

start with a professional summary

Use this section to succinctly provide an overview of your skills that are relevant to the job. Think of it as a brief elevator speech. Answer: “Why am I qualified for the job?”

include a skills section near the top

List your most relevant skills near the top of the resume. Use bullets and bold to highlight your top skills. Start with the related skills for the job first. Only use soft skills if you have limited experience or if you excel in a particular area.

include a section on projects you’ve worked on

Use this section to highlight your practical experience – personal or professionally. Explain how you contributed to the project and the outcome of the project. Use numbers and statistics if possible.

include your work history

You can include work history, but include it lower down on your resume.

focus relevant work history

If you have extensive work history, only include jobs that are recent or relevant to your job search. You don’t need to include your first part time job if it’s not applicable.

include other sections

Include additional sections to round out your resume. Include your education, certifications, awards, and any additional training that is relevant to the job.

edit and proofread

Once you’ve written your new functional resume, review it to make sure there are no typos. Ensure you’ve included all your top skills, and your resume is written for the job for which you are applying. Consider having a trusted person review your resume.

don’t forget to include a cover letter

Always include a cover letter. Pairing your functional resume with a strong, personalized cover letter will help you make a good impression on hiring managers.


Functional resumes are a great option for all types of job candidates. Highlight your unique skills to stand out and catch the attention of recruiters.

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