Should You Use A Functional Resume In Your Job Search?

The current job market is depressing, to say the least, especially if you’ve been unemployed for any length of time. You send out application after application, resume after resume, and you either get the ubiquitous rejection letter or worse, you don’t hear anything at all. After a while, you begin wondering what the problem is. Are you genuinely unqualified for these jobs? Are you not making a strong enough impression? Is your resume not impressive enough?

While I can’t speak to the first two, I can address the subject of the resume. Many people assume that a simple format, with contact information and a reverse chronology of their work experience will suffice. Unfortunately, with the crush of people all vying for the same spot or position, what may have worked in the past will not necessarily work now. It’s time to change your approach.

The “functional resume” was suggested to me late in the game in my own job search. This resume format highlights your specific skills, with employment history and chronology relegated to secondary status. Yes, it is a radical departure from the norm, and some employers aren’t quite sure what to make of them.

Obviously, such considerable reorganizing of your prime job search tool is a major decision, and you should carefully consider whether this format would be ideal for you:

Suppose your work background consists of very diverse experiences. Say you have worked as a social worker, mortgage loan underwriter, combat medic, and bank teller…..we’re not seeing a specific career path here. In this case, highlighting specific talents would be preferable to highlighting career steps.

If you are a college student with minimal experience or if your experience is completely unrelated to your chosen career path.

If you are looking to change careers, or if you are coming out of a very unusual career. I spent 20 years as a professional musician, not something that translates well to a normal resume. However, listing all unrelated skills that I had acquired during that time proved helpful when it came to making the change I was seeking.

If you have large gaps in your work history, or if you are returning to the workforce after taking years off to raise your family, a normal chronological resume may call unwanted attention to those gaps. A functional resume can highlight transferable skills obtained through domestic management and volunteer work.

You also have to consider whether the performance of similar activities over the course of several jobs may look too repetitive, or if a chronological listing would create the appearance of being “overqualified” (whatever that means) for a given position.

Basically, if your previous career path indicates movement along a given career path, you may want to stick with the chronological resume, as it provides a clear picture of where you have been and where you are going. But if your work experience is going to leave a potential employer shaking his head wondering exactly what is going on here, the functional resume will go a long way towards letting him know exactly what you have to offer.

Of course there is always a downside, of which you should be aware. Some employers are unaccustomed to the format; they just don’t know what to do with it, which may have negative results. Recruiters and headhunters don’t particularly care for the format, likewise for more conservative fields such as banking, finance, and law. Basically, you have to know your audience.

With a background as eccentric as mine, a functional format makes perfect sense, at least until I can establish an identifiable career track. Look at your own history and see if it will serve you as well.

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