An aggrieved job seeker, sick of hearing that functional resumes are the scourge of an HR person’s day, asked why this type of format is unfavorable. Here’s my response:
As an ex-recruiter who’s worked with 100s of hiring managers and HR staff, I can say your fear of being dismissed for using a functional format is indeed warranted.
Years back, functional resumes used to be ideal for experienced managers and executives who have done the same thing over and over again at different jobs while holding different job titles. It eliminated redundancy and saved tons of resume real estate.
However, since functional resumes have become commonly used to cover up “lack of experience” or “gaps in experience” their effect is, at best, neutral. Unfortunately, the benefits of a functional resume are far outweighed by the widespread assumption that only “sneaky, conniving candidates” use functional resumes. In other words, hiring teams feel like they’re being duped and (perhaps unconsciously) become resentful of the job candidate.
To address this growing problem, I’ve all but eliminated my use of functional format with my clients. Instead, I’ve begun preemptively explaining the reasons for the job gaps or lack of directly relevant experience. If done tactfully and unapologetically, one can “come clean” about their shortcomings and move on to showcasing their strengths. In my 10-year career, I’ve ALWAYS found ways to present candidates in the best light, regardless of the challenges they face.
Another tactic to avoid functional resumes is to use either a combination resume or a chronological/functional hybrid resume. Sound complicated? Here’s a quick explanation
1) Combination Resumes incorporate larger introductory sections highlighting and summarizing skills, relevant experience (without dates) and overall value proposition
2) Chronological/Functional Hybrid Resumes offer subsections of skill sets within a specific job record. For example, you may list “Strategic Planning” as a category under your work experience as VP Business Development at XYZ Corp and then list 3-5 bullet points focusing exclusively on strategic planning.
Both of these strategies emphasize skill areas and accomplishments while giving the reviewer their beloved chronological format. Everybody wins.
If you’re curious to see combination resumes and chronological/functional hybrid resumes in action, check out my “easy view” samples by clicking on any of these resume services:
All this said, in some cases, a functional resume format is still the best (or only) option. If you think you might have such a case, let me know so we can work out a strategy.