A resume is a written document describing your education, work experience, achievements, credentials, and accomplishments. Most resumes use a reverse-chronological format that lists previous jobs sequentially, beginning with the most recent position and working backwards. This format works for most job seekers.
An alternative to the reverse-chronological resume is the functional resume. Instead of showing your experience in order, functional resumes foreground skills and abilities, emphasizing your areas of expertise and grouping previous positions according to the skills required rather than adhering to a timeline. A functional resume allows job-seekers to highlight the specific skills and abilities that are relevant to the job they are applying for.
Functional resumes are most commonly used when a job-seeker is changing careers. When entering a new industry, a functional resume can be used to emphasize the most relevant skills and experiences. With its stricter structure, a reverse-chronological resume may not foreground transferable skills as well.
Functional resumes are also used by people who do not have much experience, such as recent grads. If a job-seeker does not have many previous positions to display, a functional resume can be useful for emphasizing skills and achievements rather than past jobs.
Functional resumes are also occasionally used when a job-seeker has gaps in their work history. If jobs are not listed in order, periods of unemployment will be more difficult to catch. Hiring managers are suspicious of this practice, however, so if you have gaps in your work history it is better to be honest about them and have appropriate explanations prepared.
Most hiring managers and recruiters prefer the traditional reverse-chronological resume. They are easy to read and give a simple overview of your career story, whereas the non-linear structure of functional resumes can be more difficult to read quickly. Unless you have been specifically asked to supply a functional resume, it is safest to use a reverse-chronological one.
James is the CEO of VisualCV. He has spent the last 10 years building businesses, from window cleaning to software. His passion is helping individuals create the careers they want.
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