Let me start this blog post with a personal remark – I like functional resumes as part of a marketing package for clients, but I also understand the reality of how they are viewed, thus this article. A general resume with no focus aside, the most common mistake I see when critiquing resumes at a job fair or seminars/workshops is the functional resume format. While functional resumes are certainly not the evil incarnate some make them out to be, and can be a nice addition of marketing material to a job search, they are problematic for the great majority of jobseekers. Don’t take my word for it, recently I asked an HR and Recruiting Roundtable group directly what they liked and disliked about functional resumes. Unfortunately there was nothing they liked. The group came up with ZERO reasons for liking a functional resume. This group however did give many reasons why they disliked a functional resume format – here are some paraphrased quotes from that conversation:
1) Functional resumes don’t work effectively in the ATS (applicant tracking system). Anytime you apply online, and either browse and attach your resume, or copy and paste your resume into a job board or employer career site, you are using an ATS. These systems work by utilizing keyword and key phrase searches and specific algorithms for searching documents including reverse chronology of your employment (the preferred format) with accompanying bullet points. If you use a functional format the algorithms can’t “locate” your employment info and bullet points together and thus only your employer, job title and employment dates show up and all those bullet points most likely get skipped.
2) HR, Hiring Managers and Recruiters want to see your career progression. Just having a list of skills within a few bulleted points followed by a separate section with employer, job titles and dates provides no context for where or how you acquired your abilities, or how you used them in a given job. Ultimately the reader has no idea where you obtained a given skillset as all bulleted points are lumped under one area of experience or a few general headings of expertise.
3) Savvy readers think you are hiding something, including long-term unemployment, several employment gaps, or outdated experience.
4) It screams to any HR Manager, Hiring Manager or Recruiter that you are unemployed or a career-changer.
5) Functional formats tend to have mostly general statements instead of detail in how you used a competency or skill in the workplace and how it benefited an organization.
6) Hides your employers, job titles and dates of employment at the bottom of the page as if you are ashamed of where you worked.
7) Typically only a one-pager, and despite all those rumors of the one-page rule, for most jobseekers these do not provide enough information for the interviewer to determine you are a qualified candidate. Most jobseekers have two or three-page resumes.
8) Recruiters use Boolean searches for keywords and key phrases, and since most functional resumes just have a “bullet point” section and are often one-pagers, they lack detail. So, the ability to be seen in these searches with the necessary repeated keywords, key phrases and appropriate detail throughout the bulleted points will be limited or non-existent.
Ultimately the ATS is one of the biggest reasons to use the preferred reverse chronological format. I have access to some of these systems and when a functional resume is utilized the system simply doesn’t know what to do with it and deletes a bunch of your career information – all that hard work to write a resume, and most of your important career information never makes it past the system. So, if the systems you are applying to online like reverse chronological formats, and detect your resume information in an expected order which includes employer/company name, job title, dates of employment and bulleted points with keywords and key phrases, why would you give it any other format? I always tell my clients and seminar/workshop participants “play to the crowd.” The crowd in this instance is the ATS and it wants reverse chronological. Furthermore we know HR Managers, Hiring Managers and Recruiters prefer the reverse chronological format, so why not provide them what they want. I know this won’t end the debate about functional formats, but the facts are painfully obvious. Use a functional resume for a one-page marketing document, possibly in lieu of a business card, and use the reverse chronological for the rest of your job search.