The following article ran in the July 8, 2009 issue of Westport News.
There’s a real debate going on among outplacement professionals about what kind of resume will best help you get a job. If you attend Matt Bud’s weekly meetings of FENG (Financial Executive’s Networking Group), where Matt helps his members refine their elevator speeches and provides tips on resumes, you’ll hear Matt shout his objections to functional resumes. On the other hand, if you were at the Westport Library a few weeks ago, you heard Steve Greenberg, the founder of Jobs4point0 and a commentator on the employment scene, extol the virtues of the functional resume, and then, just two days later, at another Westport library program, the speakers once again said no to the functional resume.
A job hunter could get befuddled! Who’s right? And what is a functional resume, anyway?
A Functional Resume—Defined
A functional resume typically lists the candidates skills, abilities and achievements without linking them to any particular job and are usually presented in an order that the candidate thinks best showcases what he has accomplished in his career, or those of his skills that are the most topical and will attract the most attention from a potential employer.
A traditional resume, on the other hand, usually describes the candidates job history in reverse chronological order (most recent job first), and describes what the candidate achieved in each position.
So why would it make a difference which resume to use—and why would employment professionals have such heated opinions one way or the other?
Hiring professionals admit that they have certain biases when they are reviewing resumes. They are usually looking for candidates who have followed a clearly defined employment history, moving from position to position, taking more responsibility as their career ascends. They’re looking at resumes to identify specific needs for their clients or companies to make sure that there aren’t any red-flags that would disqualify a candidate.
Recruiters fear that a functional resume may be hiding some problem about the candidate, like a gap in his employment history, an affiliation with a problem employer, or the candidate’s age. They like to be able to link achievements with specific periods of employment. Many professional recruiters say that they will not give serious consideration to candidates who submit functional resumes.
Functional Resumes May Be a Better Way to Tell Your Story
Here’s what I tell my clients: those who use functional resumes probably aren’t candidates that professional recruiters are going to consider anyway! If you have gaps in employment, if you’ve changed careers, if you’re a mom who’s returning to the workforce after raising your kids, most likely you don’t have the job history that would make you interesting to a recruiter. In your case, creating a resume that shows what you’ve done and what you can do—how you can add value to a business—is going to be far more important that showing how you rose from a junior copywriter to an account executive.
So here’s what I suggest: if you’ve climbed the traditional job ladder, stick with the tried and true resume format. Follow all the rules; make sure that your resume is chock full of action verbs that demonstrate the positive impact of what you’ve done for the companies you’ve worked for. But if a chronological resume doesn’t tell a clear story about you, rethink the resume, describing the skills you have, and the things you’ve accomplished, in a way that demonstrates you are the idea candidate for the position you want.