Does the Functional Resume Format Still Work?

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It’s a myth that you have to fulfill all the requirements of a job posting to apply. You simply need to know how to present the skills you do have. Historically, people used the functional resume to showcase their skills when their education or experience didn’t meet the requirements. This type of resume used to be highly effective when applying for a job where skills were the most important asset. 

Is this format still effective? Is there a better way to showcase your skills? Contact a resume expert for help if you can’t answer these questions.

Let’s look at why the functional resume may not be so great anymore.

Advanced resume screening

Due to the massive number of resumes companies receive for a position these days, hiring managers have begun using applicant tracking systems (ATSs) to limit the number of resumes that land on their desks. These software programs process resumes as they’re submitted and filter them based on perceived relevance—keywords, years of experience, and education. 

This presents a problem for the functional resume, which tends to de-emphasize experience and education. If you don’t have years of experience to back up your skills or lack the education the hiring manager is looking for, your resume may never make it past the digital filter. Recruiters used to look at every resume, but now they use ATSs, so functional resumes tend to take a back seat to those that clearly lay out the applicant’s experience and education.

Focused use of keywords

Employers (and now ATSs) look for certain keywords on resumes, the specific words differing from job to job. Many times, these keywords can be found in the job posting—look for words or phrases that stand out in some way (they’re usually in bold, italics, or all caps). 

If your functional resume doesn’t feature the right keywords, it won’t get far in the hiring process. It won’t even get to a human because the ATS will automatically discard it when it detects you haven’t listed enough keywords. A functional resume focuses on skills, but a successful resume today should focus on keywords. So, don’t use a functional resume to just list any skill—tailor it to the specific job description.

Job requirements

Ultimately, the inefficacy of a functional resume comes down to not meeting the job requirements. While you may have skills that demonstrate your suitability for a specific position, recruiters look for people with years of experience and education that prove their skills. At the end of the day, employers care about candidates meeting the job requirements—after all, they wrote them for a reason. Your transferable skills are no match for someone else’s years of experience. Still, that doesn’t mean all hope is lost.

The solution

If functional resumes no longer work, what’s the solution for someone who relies on their skills to secure employment? If that’s you, use a hybrid resume that focuses on both skills and experience. Before you panic about the latter part, don’t view experience as coming solely from paid jobs. It could be gained from internships, volunteer work, clubs, activities, or anything else that relates to your field. If you have these skills, you obviously acquired them somewhere, so wherever you got your experience from, list it. Additionally, showing employers that you were willing to work without pay demonstrates your passion for your career.

Next, highlight your skills appropriately. Consider making your skills section a little longer, adding meaningful skills to make up for the lack of experience and education. Don’t just throw in a bunch of random skills that don’t pertain to the job—this only says you aren’t qualified for the position since you would, of course, list relevant skills if you had them. Include relevant ones you’ve acquired over the years, including skills that are helpful in any position, such as tech or language skills.

Lastly, gain experience and knowledge. Amass experience in your field and learn more about your profession. Just because you’re not sitting in a classroom doesn’t mean you can’t learn—find courses related to your career that provide certification. Whether these are local community courses or online classes, they’re worth mentioning in your resume. 

While the functional resume no longer works so well, there’s still a solution—a hybrid resume. Don’t worry about having short experience and education sections. Continuously demonstrate your willingness to work and expand your professional knowledge. Do you need help turning your functional resume into a hybrid one? Ask a resume expert for help

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