How to Write a Functional Resume

Woman at desk with laptop, writing a functional resume

When it comes to writing a killer resume, there are several different formats to choose from, each with their own unique advantages. According to a recent poll, roughly 96% of workers want to change careers in 2023! As a professional resume writer helping lots of career changers, my go-to format is the functional resume. The functional resume style focuses on highlighting your relevant skills and achievements rather than emphasizing your work history.

In this article I’ll walk you through, step-by-step, how to write a functional resume hat not only highlights your transferable skills, but that is also directly targeted toward your new career goal.

Step One: Understand the Purpose of a Functional Resume

If you’re making a career change, re-entering the workforce after a career pause, or you’ve got limited work experience, you can likely benefit from using a functional or combination-style resume. A functional-style resume enables you to emphasize your skills, accomplishments, and qualifications that are relevant to your targeted job.

Step Two: Start a Functional Resume with a Strong Career Summary

Begin your functional resume with a compelling and targeted summary. This section should showcase your biggest strengths and passions in relation to your targeted job. You can think of your summary as an introduction, providing recruiters and employers with an overview of your expertise and what you bring to the table.

Download our functional resume template written by a professional resume writer

Step Three: Identify and Highlight Relevant Skills

The next step in learning how to write a functional resume is identifying your key skills and strengths. Think about how they align with the requirements of the job you’re targeting. Print out the job posting of your targeted position. Next, take a pen or highlighter and highlight the key skills and experiences that are listed. Make sure these are also skills that you possess. I never recommend for candidates to list skills they don’t have.

Once you’ve identified key strengths and skills, you can create a section on your resume titled something like “Relevant Skills & Experience.” In this section, you can list three to four key skill categories that align with the job posting. Here’s an example below of a job seeker who is targeting a customer service role:



  • Utilized creativity and flexibility to quickly and diplomatically resolve customer issues.
  • Write another phrase that demonstrates your ability to solve problems.

Time Management

  • Created customer report delegation system, saving roughly 20 hours per day of employee time.
  • Write another phrase that demonstrates your ability to manage time effectively.

Oral Communication

  • Actively listened and demonstrated empathy with customers, eliciting an average of 4.9 out of 5-star ratings over one-year period.
  • Write another phrase that details your oral communication style and how it enables you to provide stellar customer service.

These skills can be derived from your work experience, education, certifications, or even volunteer work.

Make sure to also highlight your accomplishments and achievements that demonstrate your capabilities and showcase your value as a potential candidate. Focus on quantifiable results whenever possible, using metrics, percentages, or specific examples to add credibility to your resume.

Step Four: Include Your Professional Experience

I always encourage my clients to include a work history on their resume. While a functional resume allows you to minimize your work experience, at a minimum I suggest listing your previous job titles, company names, and employment dates. This section can go underneath the relevant skills section. You can also include a brief description (one or two bullets) of your responsibilities and accomplishments that directly relate to the skills required for your targeted position.

Download our functional resume template written by a professional resume writer

Step Five: Include Relevant Education and Certifications in Your Functional Resume

Another step in learning how to write a functional resume is thinking about your schooling. It is very important to highlight your educational background and relevant certifications. You can also include any specific coursework or training that enhances your qualifications for your desired role. If you have limited work experience, placing this section near the top of your resume can help strengthen your candidacy.

Step Six: Consider Additional Sections:

Additional sections in the functional resume can include relevant projects, professional affiliations, language proficiency, or volunteer work. To keep your resume short and concise, I suggest only including sections that are directly relevant to the position and that add value to your application.

Step Seven: Use a Professional, Clean Style

The content of your resume is important, but if the layout looks like crap, you will not make a great first impression!

While crafting your functional resume, make sure it’s clear, concise, and easy to read. Use bullet points to highlight key information and avoid lengthy paragraphs. Use a consistent format and style throughout.

Check out our functional resume template to help you quickly format your resume!

It’s also important to proofread your resume. I recommend printing out your document and proofreading the hard copy. It’s very difficult to catch grammar and formatting errors while looking at a screen!

Download our ATS-friendly, functional resume template written by a professional resume writer

Step Eight: Tailor Your Resume to Each Job

As a professional resume writer for over 20 years, my biggest piece of advice is to tailor a different resume to each job. This includes carefully reviewing the job description and identifying the specific skills and qualifications the employer is seeking. Adapt your resume accordingly, emphasizing the most relevant experiences, skills, and achievements that align with your targeted job. Believe it or not, most applicants don’t do this. Therefore, using this targeted approach will make you stand out to hiring managers and recruiters.

In Conclusion:

While learning how to write a functional resume may seem daunting at first, I hope this article has provided a solid foundation for you to proceed. As you’ve learned, writing a functional resume is an effective strategy to highlight your skills and achievements, especially if you have employment gaps, limited experience, or are transitioning to a new career. By following these step-by-step guidelines and tailoring your resume to each job application, you’ll increase your chances of landing more interviews faster. Good luck!

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