It’s 2022, and competition is fierce, even for high-level positions. Half the battle in finding a new career is getting that callback. There are things you can do to improve your chances. For example, networking with the right people sometimes gives you an edge.
But at the end of the day, it still comes down to the resume. What do you include on it? How do you format it? There are so many questions—many of which have different answers depending on whom you ask.
There are many types and styles of resumes, but one that gets a lot of attention these days is the functional resume.
This style is a pretty significant change from a traditional resume, so the question is: should you use one?
What is a Functional Resume?
Before you decide whether you should use a functional resume, let’s take a high-level look at what it is exactly.
Unlike the traditional chronological resume, where your work history takes center stage, a functional resume focuses on skills and proficiencies. This is why many people also refer to a functional resume as a skills-based resume.
Instead of showing a potential employer your work history, you’re showing how your skills—work-based or life-based—make you the best candidate for the position.
Should You Use One?
In most cases, a functional resume is not the best option. There are two main reasons that many recruiters don’t want to see functional resumes. It can be used to cover up significant career gaps and lack of relevant experience.
This isn’t to say that everyone who uses a functional resume is doing these things, but if you were scouring through hundreds of resumes, you’d likely start to get cynical towards them.
When to Use a Functional Resume
There are a few scenarios where it may be acceptable to use a functional resume. Including a cover letter is almost always a good idea, especially with a functional resume. This allows you to explain to the recruiter or hiring manager the reason for a functional resume.
If you’ve spent time in one career for an extended time, there will always be transferable skills you pick up along the way. So, even if your previous career isn’t entirely relevant to the new one, there will likely be skills that are.
Lack of Recent Work Experience
There could be any number of reasons for gaps in your work experience. It’s slowly becoming more acceptable to have these gaps, but there’s still some stigma surrounding them. A skills-based resume will allow you to let your skills shine rather than work experience.
This one is a little more touchy because hiding these gaps is why many recruiters hate a functional resume. A cover letter with a bit of explanation goes a long way to not having your resume thrown out.
Varied Work Experience
It looks great on a resume when you stay at one company or within the same industry for many years. But it can be counter-productive if you were to do a traditional reverse-chronological resume and your work history has been broad.
The functional resume will allow you to show the many skills you’ve acquired over the years and highlight how they make you a good candidate for the position in question.
Your Relevant Experience isn’t Work Experience
Suppose you’re switching careers to an entirely new industry. In that case, chances are your work experience won’t be relevant. But perhaps your life skills would be.
For example, maybe you’ve spent your working life doing high-ticket sales like real estate, and you decide you want to become a conservation officer (CO). Real estate sales won’t be relevant when applying as a CO, but maybe every minute you weren’t working was spent outdoors. Those skills would be applicable.
Hybrid Resume as an Alternative
Taking into account the scenarios above, there’s a better option. The hybrid or combination resume is a viable solution to your work history dilemma.
Instead of just painting a picture of why you’re a good fit by listing your skills, the hybrid resume does this and lists your work experience. A typical hybrid resume will use the top half to convey your applicable skills and qualifications. Then the bottom will give a reverse-chronological list of your work history.
This will allow your skills to speak for themselves, but the recruiter won’t be left trying to guess if you’ve actually held long-term jobs in the past.
Closing Thoughts on Using a Functional Resume
Functional resumes have certainly gotten a bad name over the years. Unfortunately, a few bad ones have ruined it for the rest. Using a functional resume should be done carefully and only in specific situations.
However, if your work experience cannot stand alone on your resume, using a hybrid resume is safer. It’s especially beneficial when switching industries because the recruiter can see consistent work history, but you can still highlight your transferable skills to the new industry.