Creating a Functional Resume in 7 Easy Steps

creating a functional resume that lands you interviews

When it comes to creating a functional resume that will land you interviews, 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 this year! 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 go about creating a functional resume that not only highlights your transferable skills, but that is also directly targeted toward your new career goal.

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What is 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 creating a functional resume. A functional resume enables you to emphasize your skills, accomplishments, and qualifications that are relevant to your targeted job while also de-emphasizing your work history.

It’s important to note that some functional resume styles and templates don’t include a work history. I never recommend for job seekers to leave the work history completely off their resume. De-emphasizing is fine. But omitting your work experience will likely raise red flags.

Blue Functional Resume Template

What is a combination resume?

A combination resume, or hybrid resume, is a mix of both a functional style of resume and also the more traditional chronological style. Where it gets confusing is that the terms “functional resume” and “combination resume” get used interchangeably. For example, I usually use the term “functional” even though I am actually referring to a combination resume because more people recognize the “functional” term. Confused yet?

A combination style resume will typically feature a skills section or similar toward the top of the resume that emphasizes relevant strengths and achievements (the functional component), with the work history (the chronological component) minimized and listed beneath.

What is a chronological resume?

A chronological resume typically features a candidate’s work history in reverse chronological order. The work history is front and center on a chronological resume. Therefore, this type of resume style works best for candidates who have several years of experience and are applying for jobs within their current or prior field (i.e. not making a career change).

Functional resume vs chronological

Wondering which resume style you should use? If you are changing career fields (for example, switching from teaching to real estate) and you don’t have any related experience in your targeted field, I suggest considering creating a functional resume. Using a functional resume will allow you to market transferable skills that are applicable in both your prior field and also your new targeted field. For example, skills like oral and written communication, attention-to-detail, and problem-solving.

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Are you a student applying for your first internship or job? A functional or hybrid resume will help you market your academic skills and achievements while minimizing your limited work history. Do you have an employment gap or have you done lots of job hopping? A functional resume can help minimize gaps and job switching by accentuating your achievements and minimizing your choppy work history.

Do employers like functional resumes?

I have had hundreds of clients land interviews using our functional resume template. I’ve also heard from hiring managers on career forums that they dislike the functional resume style because it makes it harder for them to figure out where a candidate got their skills and qualifications. Recruiters also talk about how they hate it when candidates leave off their work history (this goes back to my recommendation to not omit your work experience).

At the end of the day, the choice is up to you whether or not you use a functional or hybrid resume or a more standard chronological resume style. If it’s done right, I believe you can create a compelling functional resume that showcases your biggest and most relevant skills and accompishments in a clear and easy-to-comprehend way.

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Creating a functional resume

Step 1: Write a targeted 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.

Here is an example of a functional resume summary:

“Dynamic professional with over 10 years of experience in education, demonstrating exceptional communication, interpersonal, and organizational skills. Adept at fostering relationships and creating a trusting environment, skills honed through a successful teaching career. Eager to leverage my expertise in client engagement and curriculum planning to deliver exceptional service in the real estate industry. Brings a strong commitment to understanding client needs and delivering tailored solutions, underpinned by a proactive approach and a passion for community development. Excited to contribute to a forward-thinking real estate team by providing insightful, client-focused service and support.”

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Step 2: Identify your transferable skills

The next step in creating 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:

Relevant Skills & Qualifications:


  • 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 3: Include Your Professional Experience

I always encourage my clients to include a work history when creating a functional 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.

Minimal Functional Resume Template

Step 4: Include Relevant Education and Certifications

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 5: Consider Additional Sections

Additional sections to include when creating a functional resume are: 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 6: 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!

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Step 7: 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

Creating a functional resume may seem daunting at first, I hope this article has provided a solid foundation for you to get started! As you’ve learned, writing a functional resume is a great strategy to use in order 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. Good luck!

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What defines a functional resume?

    A functional resume highlights a candidate’s skills and abilities rather than focusing on the chronological order of their work experience. This resume style allows job seekers to emphasize their relevant skills and achievements, making it ideal for career changers or job seekers who have employment gaps.

  • What is one disadvantage of a functional resume?

    Since a functional resume focuses more on skills and experiences rather than chronological employment history, it might lead employers to question what you might be omitting or trying to hide. This format might also make it difficult for hiring managers to understand your career progression and assess your experience level for specific roles.

  • Is creating a functional resume easy?

    To create a functional resume, start by including a concise summary or objective statement at the top highlighting your career goals and key qualifications. Then, organize your resume by skill categories instead of listing your work experience chronologically. Within each category, provide specific examples and achievements that showcase your abilities.

  • What is the difference between functional and standard resume?

    The main difference between a functional resume and a standard (chronological) resume lies in how information is organized and presented.

    A functional resume emphasizes skills and abilities over chronological work history. This format is used to showcase particular competencies that are relevant to the job one is applying for.

    A chronological or standard resume style prioritizes a clear, chronological list of jobs and educational experiences. This format emphasizes the progression and stability in a candidate’s career.

  • Lee Cristina Beaser

    MS, CPRW (Certified Professional Resume Writer)

    Lee brings over two decades of expertise in guiding individuals towards career success. Having helped thousands of professionals in a wide variety of industries, she has a deep understanding of the intricacies of the job market. Lee founded The Career Counter, a platform dedicated to providing busy people, especially moms returning to the workforce, with tools and services tailored to their unique career goals.

    Our Founder has over 20 years of experience helping people like you

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