“Recruiters hate the functional resume,” a veteran recruiter in the healthcare industry told Jobscan. “It’s a waste of time.”
Most resumes utilize the classic reverse-chronological format. Your name and contact information go at the top, followed immediately by your employment history. Starting with your current or most recent position and walking backwards through time, this format plainly shows recruiters exactly where you’ve been. It helps them plot and forecast your career trajectory. It’s simple, intuitive, and skimmable. The reverse-chronological format is the gold standard for resumes now and for the foreseeable future.
But not everyone’s career follows the same path. There are lane changes, U-turns, and missteps along the way. For some, a linear trip through their past job titles isn’t the most effective way to tell their career story. They need to find a different way to communicate their skills and expertise on their resume. They need a different resume format.
What is the Functional Resume Format?
Among the alternatives, one of the most popular resume formats is the functional resume. This resume format deemphasizes work history and puts skills and accomplishments front and center. After your name and contact information, you go straight into your most relevant skills and accomplishments. Your work history is listed with minimal detail at the bottom of the resume.
Here is functional resume example:
This format is most attractive to job seekers who are switching industries or trying to move their career in a new direction. If your primary functions at previous jobs aren’t relevant to the job for which you’re applying, the functional resume format allows you to highlight instances in which you were able to showcase transferrable skills.
For example, you might have held a couple positions as an Administrative Assistant in which you pitched in with customer service as one of many job duties. Now you’re applying for a position as Customer Service Coordinator. With a functional resume, you can shine a light on your customer service skills and results without getting sidetracked by clerical and other unrelated admin responsibilities.
Unfortunately, for the same reasons the functional resume is attractive to some job seekers, it causes suspicion in recruiters.
How Recruiters Read a Functional Resume
The recruiter told us a story from his own job search history, back when he tried using a functional resume to make the jump from sales to the HR industry:
“I actually paid someone to do [a functional resume] for me. Whenever I would hand it to someone who was screening at a job fair, I would watch their eyes, and they would skip right past everything at the top of the resume and go straight to my work history and look at the job titles. I would repeatedly watch them do this. Then I finally got myself into the HR industry where I was screening resumes and I do the exact same thing.”
Why do recruiters hate this format?
“You’re taking information out of context,” said the recruiter. “It’s easier to BS your way through to make things sound glamorous. Within the context of where [skills and accomplishments] took place, it gives me a better idea of what’s going on.”
They hate it because they need to draw their own conclusions. The functional resume format was created to cover up gaps in an applicant’s experience and recruiters know it. They will skip straight down to the work history to try and figure what you’re hiding. It’s a dead giveaway.
An Alternative to the Functional Resume
“I definitely want to see everything laid out in context,” said the recruiter. “I’ve seen plenty of people that try to use a functional resume that’s not in that context, and I tell them, ‘You’re just shooting yourself in the foot.'”
That said, recruiters understand that people change careers and can’t always count on their work history speaking for itself.
“If you’re trying to make that transition, yes, you’re going to want to try and list your transferrable skills,” said the recruiter. “But again, I wouldn’t do it so much where you’re listing everything at the top [above your experience].” Instead, the recruiter suggested taking a “more blended” approach.
The Hybrid Resume Format
There’s a name for this. In the space between the functional resume and the reverse-chronological resume is the hybrid resume, also known as the combination resume.
Like the functional resume format, the hybrid resume has space at the top of the page for skills and accomplishments. Unlike the functional resume, it leaves the bottom half of the resume for a more traditional approach to the work history, where each position is accompanied by a blurb that outlines responsibilities and accomplishments.
Here is a hybrid resume example:
For job seekers changing careers or industries, the hybrid resume is a safer bet than the functional resume. That said, this versatile format isn’t just for applicants with a non-traditional work history. Hybrid resumes seem to be growing in popularity among applicants of all backgrounds. Most of Jobscan’s free resume templates are hybrids.
The dedicated skills sections found on both functional and hybrid resume formats can also be beneficial when it comes to making sure you have the right resume keywords for applicant tracking system searches. Find out whether your resume is optimized for the jobs you’re pursuing with one click: