A functional resume, also known as a skills-based resume, is an alternative resume format that prioritizes your skills and how you’ve used them over your work experience.
Some people choose this resume format when transitioning into a new career phase to better emphasize their transferable skills. However, it’s important to use this format strategically so that recruiters and hiring managers can easily find the information they’re looking for on your resume.
In this article, we’ll discuss when you might choose to write a functional resume and how to format a skills-based resume with a customizable template that walks you through the process.
Your main goal in writing a resume is to tell the story of your career, and sometimes the most effective storytelling relies on alternative techniques. Although the chronological resume is the most common format, several other types of resumes, including the functional resume, enable you to highlight different aspects of your career.
You may decide to emphasize your skills rather than your work history if your desired future path doesn’t neatly align with your previous experience, for example, if you are changing careers or writing your first resume.
It’s important to note that if you apply for jobs via a web portal, you may want to stick with a more traditional resume format. Many companies use applicant tracking systems (ATS) to scan incoming resumes and use an algorithm to determine whether an applicant fits the job before a human recruiter reviews the application materials. ATS are typically programmed to “read” chronological resumes and may not accurately interpret alternative resume formats.
To avoid disqualifying your resume based on technical inadequacies, it’s best to submit a chronological resume when you’re applying for a job online, and save your functional resume for those cases when submitting it directly to a recruiter or hiring manager.
If you are applying for jobs through an ATS but still want to lead with your skills, consider adding a skills section to your chronological resume. A skills section can offer you a dedicated space to include valuable resume keywords while maintaining the format ATS are typically programmed to scan.
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Your functional resume will look a bit different than the chronological format you may be used to, particularly in how you present your skills and work experience. However, the structure of your other resume sections will remain consistent.
Typically, a functional resume will include these key sections:
Objective or summary
Let’s take a closer look at each section.
Your header will appear on the top two lines of your resume. Lead with your name and key contact information, such as your email address, phone number, city and state, and portfolio address, if you have one. Make this information stand out with a larger font size, bold text, or centered formatting.
Use an objective or summary statement below your header to give recruiters and hiring managers context about your experience and goals before detailing your specific qualifications. Recent college graduates, people changing careers, or people looking to advance their careers usually opt to write a resume objective, while people with some or varied work experience often include a resume summary.
These sections are typically considered optional, but with a functional resume, an objective or summary statement can offer a familiar introduction before you present the less-common skills section.
The skills section is the star of the functional resume. This will be your longest and most detailed section where you name your top three skills. For each, write the skill you want to highlight on one line, followed by about three bullet points to describe how you’ve used that skill to promote business goals.
Use your skills bullets to detail measurable accomplishments or projects you’ve completed that showcase this skill. You don’t need to mention when or where you used them. This lack of specificity and context surrounding your skills is one reason hiring managers may feel less compelled by the functional resume format. To draw more explicit connections between your skills and your roles, consider writing a chronological resume.
Here’s an example of what a skill entry may look like:
Set project goals, developed budgets and timelines, and aligned stakeholders for internal company-wide communications projects
Oversaw project execution workflow and mitigated risks with 100% on-time and on-budget completion and 95% project success rate over two years
Managed cross-departmental communications to create agendas and presentations for monthly company all-hands meetings
Read more: 7 High-Income Skills Worth Learning
Since you’ve already shared your accomplishments and projects in the skills section, your work experience section will be more condensed than you’d typically see on a resume. With a functional resume, you can simply list your work experience, sharing only your title, company, and dates of employment.
There are a couple of ways to format this section, but the simplest may look like this:
Executive Assistant, ABC Company, June 2019 - June 2021
Your education section will look the same as it would on a chronological resume, listing your school name, location, degree obtained, and field of study. Depending on how recently you graduated, you may include the dates you attended, your GPA, relevant honors, achievements, coursework, extracurricular activities, or study abroad programs.
There are several ways you may choose to format this section. Learn more about how to list education on a resume to decide what works best for you.
Sections such as certifications, hobbies, or volunteer work are all optional. However, if you have relevant experience in any of these areas and they help demonstrate your career development and progress, you should add them below your education.
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