Federal Resume

By Kathryn Troutman

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The functional resume is dead

The functional resume was created by somebody back in 1980. It was a good format, creative, and featured the best skills offered by the applicant. It was popular until about 2008 when competition became worse than ever. And the HR recruiters stopped reading resumes full of chatty, wordy, profuse, adjective-driven sentences that said nothing specific.

Nowadays the HR recruiters want the FACTS and FAST. They want to know when you did a certain job, where you worked, your job title, and your scope of work. They want your duties and responsibilities. And they want metrics and numbers. How many employees, customers, square feet, and dollars are involved with your job? And give it to me fast, because I have a lot of resumes to read.

And then…. To keep the interest and engagement of the HR recruiter, you add a couple of your best accomplishments. You know, like John Grisham does at the end of almost every page in his legal suspense books. Your resume can be a Page Turner if you add a few good stories about projects, people, and programs that you have managed and problems you have solved.

They used to say that the functional resume was good for homemakers returning to work. Not so. The homemakers have great experience and a chronological listing of caregiving events:

Homemaker, Catonsville, MD, 2010 to present

Homemaker, two children. Active in education, activities, sports, group activities, healthcare and residential management. Encourage reading, healthy eating, and activities to develop active, healthy, and interested children. Also attend school events and community programs, and work to enhance community life here in Catonsville.

The functional is a good resume format for people who have been in prison. If you have been to prison and you do want to return to work, then the functional resume is great for you. Imagine HR’s reaction to the following chronological, duty-driven resume entry:

State of Maryland, Detention Center, Ellicott City, MD, 2014 to 2015

Served two years for drug dealing and vagrancy.

That’s not a good resume job description.


OBJECTIVE: Retail Sales







Even for the offender, this resume is not ideal—because it is not specific. The best way for an offender to get back to work is through networking, probation officer leads, and workforce center opportunities. Internships and trial-basis jobs to begin your career again can work.

So, for a person with a work history, the functional resume is not a good idea.

I interviewed career professionals to get their thoughts on the functional resume, and here they are:

Wendy Enelow writes executive resumes for senior executives.

“Although 95% of job seekers should write chronological resumes, there still exists a place for the functional resume – for career changers, people returning to work after an extended absence, job hoppers, ex-offenders, and others with employment challenges. … Functional resumes won’t fool anyone but, hopefully, your skills and achievements are enough to generate interest, an interview, and an offer!”

Louise Kursmark is an expert in resume writing and is a trainer of other resume writers.

“Functional resumes are a bad idea for most job seekers. They don’t work with ATS, they are often viewed with suspicion by HR and hiring managers, and they make it impossible for readers to truly understand the career story. But for some, the functional format is the best option. When done well, a functional resume can paint a strong and cohesive picture of a great candidate. If you’re using a functional resume, you must be aware of its limitations and—even more than most job seekers—network into opportunities rather than relying on job postings.”

John O’Connor is a resume writer, career coach and leader of a boutique outplacement and career services firm.

“The main problem I see when it comes to pure functional formats is that the reader or hiring manager must play a connect the dots game with times, achievements and responsibilities. Even if there is a sharp interest in a candidate for the job many recruiters will pass if they feel the writer or job applicant seems to be more interested in formatting and making things hard to find.”

I think that a functional resume can keep you from getting hired or ever getting a new career going, and can cause depression, frustration, unemployment for years and maybe worse.

If I see a functional resume from someone who is out of work, I know immediately why. The functional resume format is not welcomed by any recruiter who is reviewing resumes and hiring today. This is a totally old school, unusable, unreadable and unwelcome resume format.

Do not use a functional resume for any reason, unless you have just gotten out of prison.

Posted by Kathryn Troutman on Feb 10, 2016 at 1:12 PM

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