Considering a Functional Résumé Format

By:  Katharine Hansen

Today's résumés generally fall into one of two broad categories. They are either chronological (actually reverse chronological, listing all your experience from most to least recent) and functional, which lists experience in skills clusters. If you're planning to create your resume for the first time or update your old resume, you might wonder whether a functional format is right for you.

Among jobseekers, who should consider a functional résumé format:

  • Those with very diverse experiences that don't add up to a clear-cut career path.
  • College students with minimal experience and/or experience unrelated to their chosen career field.
  • Career-changers who wish to enter a field very different from what all their previous experience points to.
  • Those with gaps in their work history, such as homemakers who took time to raise and family and now wish to return to the workplace. For them, a chronological format can draw undue attention to those gaps, while a résumé enables them to portray transferable skills attained through such activities as domestic management and volunteer work.
  • People with a military background entering a different field from the work they did in the military.
  • Job-seekers whose predominate or most relevant experience has been unpaid, such as volunteer work or college activities (coursework, class projects, extracurricular organizations, and sports).
  • Those who performed very similar activities throughout their past jobs who want to avoid repeating those activities in a chronological job listing.
  • Job-seekers looking for a position for which a chronological listing would make them look "overqualified."
  • Older workers seeking to deemphasize a lengthy job history.