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The Functional Resumé: Focus on What You Can Do

The most common resumés highlight your work history. Chronological and combination resumés are good examples. But if you can’t focus on your work history, a functional resumé is a good choice for you.

A functional resumé is ideal if you are:

  • Looking for work for the first time. High school students often find the functional resumé to be the most effective. 
  • Re-entering the workforce after raising a family
  • Making a career change
  • Wanting to use talents or abilities you didn’t use in your previous jobs
  • Wanting to focus on skills you’ve used in several unrelated jobs
  • Looking for work after a period of illness or travel
  • Looking for work after serving time in a correctional facility

A functional resumé highlights what you did, rather than where and when you did it. It focuses on specific skills you’ve picked up through school, hobbies, jobs, or volunteer work that relate directly to the job you want. With a functional resumé you can leave out your work history. Or you can simply list previous employers without giving the dates you worked for them.

Not all employers like functional resumés

Employers may prefer to see the details of your work history to assess your background. On the other hand, keep in mind that the best resumé for you is one that effectively highlights your skills and successes. If a chronological or a combination resumé points to work gaps, a functional resumé may be your best choice.

What does a functional resumé include?

It includes 2 key elements:

  1. An objective. Research the goals of your potential employer. Briefly list how your skills and training will help the employer reach those goals.
  2. A list of key skill areas. Highlight 3 to 6 skill areas that relate closely to the job you’re applying for. Support each skill with an example of how you used it in a work, school or volunteer setting.

Use this outline and these examples to help you prepare your own functional resumé:

  • Outline 
  • Example 1 (PDF)—an experienced worker returning to the workforce after a long absence
  • Example 2 (PDF)—career changer

Design your future

A functional resumé can be a good choice when you want an employer to focus on what you can do in the future, rather than on what you've done in the past.

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