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Why and when should you choose a functional resume?

Why and when should you choose a functional resume?

Artwork by: Antonina Kasyanikova

  • What is a functional resume?
  • When to use a functional resume?
  • How to create a compelling functional resume
  • 1. Contact details
  • 2. Resume summary
  • 3. Skill summary
  • 4. Work history
  • 5. Education
  • 6. Optional extras
  • Functional resume template
  • Key takeaways

Time for a change of direction? Are you just trying to take the first steps on your desired career path? Either way it can be a challenge to chart a new course in your career or get a foot in the door. Say hello to the functional resume!

If you have just thrown your graduation hat up in the air or have otherwise invested time in completing studies to pursue a new career direction, congratulations! While these endeavors are an amazing achievement, it can be difficult initially to get some recognition in terms of getting a foot on the ladder in the workplace. Career breaks or long-term unemployment can also be problematic when you are trying to get your career back on track.

When a hiring manager reviews your resume in these situations, they may well pass you over in favor of candidates with more recent or relevant experience. Don’t worry! The functional resume offers a solution to your problems! 

In this article, we will explore why and when you should choose a functional resume and how you can position yourself as the ideal person for the role. Read on to find out:

  • What is a functional resume?

  • When should you use a functional resume?

  • How to create a compelling functional resume

  • Example of a functional resume format

What is a functional resume?

A functional resume is also known as a “skills-based resume.” Rather than follow the format of a traditional resume which is focused primarily on experience, a functional resume puts the spotlight on your skills.

In a traditional resume format you would place more emphasis on your professional profile to emphasize recent, existing, and relevant experience, detailed in reverse chronological order.

In contrast, functional resumes focus on your skills, studies, relevant work experience, voluntary roles, and/or internships that highlight your suitability for a new career direction or to establish yourself in your desired career following graduation.

When to use a functional resume?

So, when is it a good idea to use a functional resume? There are a few situations where a functional resume is a much better option than a traditional resume format.

  • Career change - When switching careers, the work experience you have acquired over the years is valuable but may not be relevant to this new path. Bringing your skills to the forefront via a functional resume shows why you might be the right candidate for the job.

  • Recent graduate with zero work experience - Making the focus on your skills and education relevant to the job advertised via a functional resume is a great way for students to navigate this hurdle.

  • Long employment gaps / periods of unemployment - Creating a functional resume format helps you downplay employment gaps and highlights relevant skills to impress the hiring manager.



Remember hiring managers scan your resume in less than six or seven seconds. Tailor the content to the job advert as much as possible and keep the resume direct and succinct.

Use the functional resume format when a traditional format is a better fit. Some hiring managers view the functional resume as a cover-up for a lack of experience.

How to create a compelling functional resume

If you have decided that the functional resume is the best option following our guidelines, then how do you go about creating a skills-based resume? There are five key parts to the functional resume, along with some additional sections which are optional. 

1. Contact details

This may seem like a no-brainer, but having the required contact information in a professional and clear format is really important. Ensure you include:

  • Your first and last name (This should be in the largest text size on the page and in a professional resume font.)

  • Email address

  • Phone number

  • City and country you are based in (exclude if you want to relocate)

You can also include links to relevant social media profiles, which in some professions is a must. For example:

  • If you are a writer, then include a link to your website or portfolio.

  • If you work in marketing, include links to your Twitter or Instagram pages.

  • If you are a developer, then include a link to your GitHub profile.

  • A link to your LinkedIn profile can also be included, whatever your profession. (Just ensure your profile is on-point and up-to-date!)

Expert Tip

Tailor the resume summary to each job description as much as possible. Check out the core duties, responsibilities, and expectations the recruiter has for the person who will perform the role, then ensure you tick all the boxes on your skills summary. 

2. Resume summary

A resume summary is essentially two to four sentences at the beginning of your resume that outlines your professional achievements and career highlights. It’s a snapshot of you that sells you as the ideal person for the job, so the hiring manager is compelled to read on and learn more about you. For example:



Energetic sales professional holding an honors degree in marketing and communications. Success engaging with customers and creating engaging branding campaigns to boost sales by over 15% on a monthly basis. Keen to support (Company Name) in achieving sales targets and brand goals.

3. Skill summary

This is a really important section on your functional resume. Traditional resumes tend to have more content and emphasis on your work experience, but the functional resume makes the skills section the star of the show.

When you are creating the skills section, it’s important to outline at least three skill areas that are applicable to the job you are applying for. For each skill area, try to add three bullet-points that prove you have that skill and then back these up with the all-important facts and figures.

Facts and figures are key. You will boost your chances of getting past the initial screening process if you can fully back up the skills you are putting forward. When a hiring manager scans a resume, this is what they are looking for. Here is an example of how to pitch your resume using well-defined skill sets.  



Content & Copywriting

Conceptualized, created and delivered engaging copy, including regular publications in Forbes and the Entrepreneur

Boosted online presence and audience engagement by 50% utilizing social media marketing tools, such as Instagram analytics and auto-posting

Customer Engagement

Scored over 90% on 2022 customer service feedback surveys by consistently delivering an optimal level of service to clients

Won Customer Service Agent of the Month three times in the last six months

Project Management

Deliver projects on time, in budget, and to exacting standards

Develop engaging branding campaigns that boosted sales by 40%

Strong technical proficiency across Google Analytics, Adobe Creative Suite, Salesforce, and Qualtrics

4. Work history

Unlike traditional resumes where the work history section is very detailed, on a functional resume it just needs to be short and sweet! Simply listing the company name and job title is all you really need to include here.

You don’t necessarily need to include dates of employment, which is a good option if you are trying to downplay longer career gaps or periods of unemployment. However, if you have recent work experience with consecutive dates, then it’s fine to include dates.

You can outline your work history as per the following example:



Sales Assistant, OCS Group, Manhattan, NY (2019 - 2021)

Project Assistant, University of North Carolina, Wilmington, NC (2017 - 2018)

5. Education

This is a pretty straightforward section to complete. If you have qualifications that relate to the job you are applying for then you should detail them here.

If any qualifications are irrelevant to your new direction then leave them off your resume, but do detail your degree and any higher qualifications. In this case, just list your degree, GPA (if over 3.5) and the name of the university or organization, city and state. You can include the year if completed fairly recently (within the last 10 years). For example:



BA, Education - GPA 4.0 (2018)

University of North Carolina, Wilmington, NC

National Board Certification, English Language

National Board for Professional Teaching Standards (NBPTS)

6. Optional extras

If you have some extra space on your resume, you can include the following optional sections to set you apart from the crowd.

  • Projects - Details of any academic or specialist projects can be great to highlight if they are relevant to your targeted career direction. This could include details of any research projects completed, a blog you have created, or a software development project that you worked on.

  • Extracurricular - Recent graduates can include details of their extracurricular activities completed while attending university.

  • Languages - Having the ability to speak different languages can be a major plus for a company, so detail any languages and your competence level (Basic, Intermediate, Advanced, Fluent, or Native)

  • Unpaid experience - If you have completed any placements, volunteer work, or internships that relate to your new career direction then include this information to back up the skills being put forward.

Functional resume template

Here is a functional resume template that you can use by simply copying and pasting over to a Microsoft Word or Google Docs document.

1. Resume Header


Email: [email protected] |  Phone: 845-623-4567 

Location: New York, NY |  LinkedIn: LinkedIn.com/yourprofile/link

2. Resume Summary

Creative and resourceful (industry) professional, with a strong academic background and (number of years) experience in the fields of (list relevant skill areas) to fill the (position name) position. Intuitive and focused on continual improvement to ensure (Company Name) can achieve and exceed their goals.

3. Skill Summary

Skill Area 1

Create a bullet pointed list of responsibilities and accomplishments related to the individual skill area.

Highlight facts and figures to back up the skill areas being put forward.

Create at least two or three bullet points for each skill area.

Skill Area 2

Repeat the above process for a different skill area.

Check the job description for key skill areas that are essential to the position you are applying for.

Outline specific situations and positive outcomes. Maybe you introduced a new system or process that improved efficiency by 50% and reduced costs by $10K.

Skill Area 3

Use past tense if any responsibilities or accomplishments are not currently ongoing.

If you have experience of using specific software and systems detailed in the job advert, make sure you reference this here.

Keep each bullet point as direct, succinct, and impactful as possible.

4. Work History

Job Title (Most recent role)

Company Name, Location / Start year - End year 

Job Title (Earlier role)

Company Name, Location / Start year - End year 

5. Education

Degree Name / GPA (if over 3.5)

University, Location / Year of completion (if less than ten years ago)

6. Additional sections

In these final sections you can include any additional information that is relevant.

You can include projects, languages, volunteer experience, work placements, and any extracurricular activities.

Key takeaways

  1. If you are switching careers, have had an employment gap, or recently graduated then a skills-based/functional resume will help you get a foot in the door.

  2. Focus on creating a compelling skill summary backed up by facts and figures, as this is the key way to impress a potential hiring manager.

  3. Functional resumes are most effective and best-used in the specific situations stated above. Otherwise, a traditional resume format is your best option. 

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