The Chronological Resume vs. the Functional Resume

Ask career service folks, Certified Professional Resume Writers, recruiters and human resources managers about resume styles and formats, and you are bound to hear a range of opinions. One debate that is likely to occur is over the use of what’s called chronological resumes versus functional resumes.

While both styles have their uses, most recruiters and HR managers would agree that functional resumes have fallen out of favor in recent years. But wait. Maybe we need to back up a bit and explain these two terms for those who aren’t familiar with resume particulars?

resume writing, human resources

Image courtesy of basketman / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

An Overview:  The Functional Resume

Sometimes called the “skills” resume, a functional resume groups together a job seeker’s most dominant skills at the front of the resume usually in bullet point fashion. So they might list “project management” and then lay out supporting skills as well as related accomplishments. Toward the bottom, the functional resume would list positions held, company name and dates.

The Preferred Choice: The Chronological Resume

Most readers are probably familiar with chronological resumes. They start out with a summary paragraph and then go into the job seeker’s most current job, company name, dates, job duties and then accomplishments. This is then repeated with the second most recent job, then the third most, etc.

Flaws of the Functional Resume

On the surface, both resume services can be useful. Yet functional resumes today are problematic for a number of reasons:

  1. Functional resumes are viewed by HR and recruiters as a way to hide gaps in employment. Because this style of resume does not link job position with skills, it enables the candidate to showcase their relevant skills while hiding periods of unemployment. Many people who have been unemployed for several years will use the functional format for this reason. Unfortunately, the functional style itself has become a red flag of sorts for recruiters. Many will outright reject a functional resume.
  1. Functional resumes are not well received by scanning technology commonly used by today’s large companies. Rather than relying on fickle HR assistants, many companies today rely on software programs that scan resumes looking for particular keywords. These programs also scan for information in certain orders, such as company name, city, date, job duties, etc. The functional resume throws the scanners off, which may cause the resume to get filed away in the discard pile.
  1. Functional resumes are viewed as old-fashioned. Many years ago, this resume style was used by those in support positions. Such secretarial jobs tended to be the same regardless of employer. So rather than relisting the same set of job duties, the job seeker would simply list them once and then list the employers toward the end in chronological order.

For better or worse, the notion of doing the same job over and over again for different employers has fallen out of favor. As such the resume writing style that best showcased that notion has also fallen out of favor. We are all supposed to be improving with each new job! As such the functional resume reflects an old-fashioned way of thinking about work and career.

So now you know why it is best to avoid the functional style resume if you can. Next week, we are going to publish a post on what you can do for your resume writing if you have been unemployed for an extended period of time.

86 Keys Communications creates results-getting resumes, cover letters, LinkedIn profiles and related resume writing services for job seekers of every industry and experience level. Contact them today at info@86keys.com.

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2 thoughts on “The Chronological Resume vs. the Functional Resume

  1. I have been on the same job for 16 years. I have found this to be useful I am almost finsih with my master and would like to find a job in my field HR I have tried to get into HR but have know experince. How would I address my resume as I know it is outdated

  2. Hi Gladys, Thanks for your comment. One way to address this concern might be to use what’s called a hybrid or combo resume in which you feature your skills and accomplishments while also using the chronological format that recruiters and HR demand. If you’ve had different positions at the same company for those 16 years, you may want to break some of them out. Feel free to contact me directly at info@86keys.com. I can review your resume and send you some specific feedback. Thanks again, Lisa

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