Should I Use A Functional Resume? Job Search Question Of The Week

Jan 20 2011 in Featured, reCareered Blog, Resumes by Phil Rosenberg

career advice, job search information, job search advice, job search help, job search tips, career information, career help, career tips, career info, job search info

During the Q & A part of my Resume Revolution Webinar, a participant asked if I recommended using a functional resume.

Many candidates use functional resumes to hide experience gaps, current experience, age, periods of unemployment, or other information.

Candidate P.P. asked:

“I’m one of those lucky souls to have gone through various career changes. After I got into purchasing in 1996 I experienced five lay-offs 1997 and 2003 and another in 2010. Any suggestions about using a functional resume? Are there pitfalls?”

I’m not a fan of functional resumes for a number of reasons:

  1. Readers question what you’re hiding: Your audience knows that functional resumes are used by candidates to hide information.
  2. Functional resumes don’t inspire trust: Your audience isn’t stupid. They not only question what you’re hiding, but also question why you are hiding information from them. That’s not a good way to inspire the trust you need so your reader will want to give you an interview slot.
  3. Functional resumes don’t give recency: Employers value relevant experience that is more recent over experience years in the past. When there are many candidates competing for a job, employers often find enough qualified candidates who have recently had the specific experience searched for, so it becomes more difficult to land interviews if your relevant experience is years past. Removing recency information doesn’t give readers the impression of recent experience – it does the opposite, making your experience appear non-recent. There are some very good reasons employers look for recency:

    • Faster ramp up time
    • Less retraining
    • Changes in function/industry/competition/tools over even a few years time may require retraining
    • The risk a candidate with specific experience a few years back won’t remember the details as well as a candidate with recent experience

As a more effective alternative for functional resumes, I recommend a chronological resume but one that stresses the experience your target company is specifically looking for by including little information about less relevant (more recent) experience. Just list title and employer, without detail – This allows the experience you are trying to highlight to move higher up the page, ideally above the fold.

If you’ve had periods of unemployment due to layoffs, I recommend only including the year of employment, not months. If you worked part time or project work during transition periods, list it as a consulting business, listing contracts (with the client name) as an bullet under the consulting business. If you didn’t do project or part time work, you job during transition was finding a job – networking, industry research, marketing research, prospecting. This could also be described as consulting work.

If you worked for an employer who changed names (due to sale or merger, for example), don’t list this as two jobs – combine them by putting the past name in parentheses. This will make your experience look less “bouncy”.

If you can’t work any of these solutions into your resume, just be honest. It’s better to give a quick parenthetical explanation of why shorter jobs ended (layoff, sale of company, business closing, etc.), than leaving the impression of dishonesty or hiding information.

As a recruiter, I wouldn’t forward functional resumes to employers and I had many employers who refused them. I never once had a client who preferred a functional resume. I never once had a candidate (or coaching client) who could show me that a functional resume worked well for them.

Recruiters and employers – please share your thoughts about functional resumes and if you find them effective or ineffective.


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Author: Phil Rosenberg

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