Functional Resume: Everything You Need to Know

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Functional Resume: Everything You...
Sep 8, 2022 15 min read

Considering a career switch or having gaps in your employment history? Is there a way to tone this down on your resume and still get noticed by recruiters?

You bet there is!

All you need to do is to focus on your skills in your CV.

A resume that highlights your skills-set is known as a functional or skill-based resume. It’s a bit different from the traditional one, but it can still land you the job interview you are after.

To all job seekers and career-changers out there, this might be the right format for you. Read on to find out!

Here’s what you’ll find in this article:

  • what a functional resume is, examples of what it looks like, and a completely free template to use;
  • we will have a closer look at the advantages and disadvantages of the competency-based CV;
  • and finally, give you advice on creating and formatting a functional resume to emphasize your most valuable, transferable skills.

Let’s dive in!


What Is A Functional Resume?

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As the name suggests, a functional or skills-based resume is orientated around your skills. Instead of prioritizing your work history and job titles like on traditional resume templates, the focus is mainly on your transferable abilities and expertise.

Are there any more differences between a functional and a chronological resume format? Let's find out.

Skills-based Resume vs Traditional (Chronological) Resume

Functional resumes are known to be in reverse chronological order because you start off by describing your most recent and relevant work experience. Then, you continue to work your way backwards towards every job position you’ve taken on in the past.

The biggest difference between a traditional and a functional resume format is that the latter is in reverse chronological format, and puts a stronger focus on your skillset.

Reverse Chronological Resume Format

This format describes your most recent job position or titles first and continues backwards. But you have to be realistic and consider whether this structure is going to be right and best for you to use.

Naturally, it has its own advantages as well as setbacks that could potentially increase or damage your job opportunity chances. But later, we’ll have a look at if you should use a functional or skills-based resume for yourself or not.

Enhancv Everything You Need to Know: Functional Skills Based Resume

Focus On Your Skillset

Do you have what the job board needs? Can you help them take less burden off their shoulders and take on the job responsibilities?

Using the different elements from both your skills and professional knowledge demonstrates to the hiring managers whether you’re a qualified applicant or not. It’s the main reason apart from having gaps in your employment experience that make the functional format convenient. You’re showcasing your most relevant strengths so recruiters can see specific highlights from your career timeline.

Combining all the elements from your work history, achievements and skills is also a powerful way to increase your job interview chances. This is known as a combination resume.

You should emphasize how your skills and expertise make you more than a qualified candidate for the job vacancy. Although recruiters may not see an in-depth description of your corporate background, you can still set yourself apart with your transferable skills and strengths.

Now, you know the difference between a functional resume vs traditional resume. But when is the right time to use the functional format?

When to Use a Functional Skills-Based Type of Resume?

The skills-based resume’s aim is to highlight your strongest skills that make you capable of doing what the company needs you to do.

There are five main occasions when it’s ideal to use a functional resume, see below.

You’re a recent college or university graduate, or someone without a lot of professional work experience

In this case, if you used a traditional or combination resume instead, you won’t have as much experience to show for. And, If you lack the formal background or certifications and qualifications, having a competency-based CV helps with conveying to employers that you understand your job responsibilities.

You’re considering a major difference and a new direction in the journey of your career

Are you making a drastic change from one industry to another?

If you are a career-changer, you can test between using either a combination or a functional resume to see which has a higher response rate. If you have a lot of experience in a strong correlation to the new job position you’re applying for, it’s more ideal for employers to see a combination resume. But if not, you can use the functional format.

You have transferable and applicable skills or experience for the next job vacancy you desire

Do you have a lot of experience not in one particular field, but on the scale of a broad variety of different roles you’ve taken on in the past?

Rather than attempting to stitch and put all those pieces together, the skills-based format will help you have a clean resume. It’s more neatly organized for your reader since the information is more put together and isn’t completely scattered everywhere.

You’ve been unemployed for a considerable amount of time

If you haven’t been employed for quite some time now (1 year and over), and you decide to use a chronological resume, it might not be as pleasant for the recruiter to see that the last time you worked was a couple of years ago.

Unless you have a strong, stable track record with promising references, a functional resume is a good alternative to showcase what you’re capable of rather than your recent work history that employers might see as unreliable since you’ve been out of it for a while.

You’ve remained in one industry or field of work for several years

This means that you might lack experience in the new field of work you’re thinking of applying for. If so, a functional resume would work because the format is designed for you to showcase your professional and transferable skills or expertise that will benefit the new industry you’re heading towards.

Suppose you have a fair amount of corporate, professional, or formal work experience that you can talk about. In that case, it’s far more beneficial for you to have a chronological or combination resume. This way, those job positions with the responsibilities and upper-ranking job titles you’ve had will differentiate you from the rest of the crowd as a knowledgeable veteran who knows what they’re doing.

The functional format is in reverse chronological order and is most effective when you have gaps in your employment. In order to make up for that, you emphasize your skill sets that are going to be valuable so you can perform better and at a high standard.

Let’s take a quick look at what a conventional skills-based resume looks like with the following example:

Enhancv Everything You Need to Know: Functional Skills Based Resume

Source: JobScan

In Joe’s functional resume template, he has his skills summary first followed along with a professional accomplishments section. In this format, we can notice there are gaps between his work history and education. Since they’re left at the bottom, it’s not meant for the recruiter to focus more on, but rather on his ability and achievements.

(Side note: later on in this guide, you’ll see how it’s done with Enhancv to minimize and decrease the visibility of those gaps behind your resume so it’s less noticeable!)

There are more advantages and disadvantages of using a skills-based format. It leads nicely into the next point where we’ll take a look at it from the bigger picture perspective…

Pros and Cons of A Functional Skills-Based Resume Format:

Let’s start with the advantages of using a resume focused on your skills:

Functional resume advantages

  • Groups together your soft, hard, and technical skills that are beneficial assets to help you do your job better. When a look at the bigger picture, you’re listing out and describing in detail how your skills are relevant and aligned with what they need. Although you may be lacking in areas linked to experiences, job recruiters can still acknowledge and recognize you as a capable applicant.
  • Different from the conventional resumes out there and can help with making you stand out. With the education or work history section towards the end of your resume, it enables employers to thoroughly see the light of your professional expertise first before getting into the other sections later.
  • Draws attention away from the areas that the recruiters may want to see. With a functional skills-based resume, it’s easy to get the job recruiter’s eyes away from your weak points. They are more inclined to relatively focus on your positive areas instead.

Now, let’s take a look at the downsides of using a skills-based CV:

Functional Resume Disadvantages

  • Different from the standard resume job recruiters are used to seeing. Since it’s out of the recruiter’s expectations and norms, it can be more difficult to read, review, and understand. Despite being different from the rest of the resumes they’re more used to seeing, it can appear unique but it also has its negative effects.
  • Potentially leaves a bad impression on your resume. Some recruiters have even stated that they hate the functional resume format. It’s mainly because they’ll assume dishonesty, you’re hiding things, and possibly even trying to BS your way through to get the job. They may even just jump straight into your work experience section to make a decision. You should also realize that not all companies accept functional skills-based resumes.
  • Lacks concrete information about your background. It’s not much of a surprise really. To be clear, you’re using the functional resume format because of your shortcomings in employment. Because of this, there’s no clear context behind the skills you’ve listed. It’s not as strong as what you have in your work experience section, and recruiters will have to draw their own conclusions.

Note that these disadvantages don’t necessarily make the functional resume bad. Some of them apply to conventional types of functional resumes, as well. Towards the end of this article, I’ll show you a well-made example from Enhancv that differs from the typical skill-based resume.

Recommended Read – Resume Sections: Everything You Need to Know

How to Create A Skills Based Functional Resume Step-by-Step

Writing a skill set CV can sound daunting. But you’ll see that it’s not that hard to do. Building the right functional resume boils down to:

Identify and Group Your Skills Into Categories

Pick out the 3-5 skills that are your most relevant and strongest. You can choose broad terms, such as communication or project management. But, it’s better if you get very specific and start pinpointing exactly what you excel in. For example, instead of saying communication, you could mention written communication or emotional intelligence.

There are over 200+ skills hiring managers are demanding in the workforce environment. Make sure you carefully take the right ones that are most appropriate for your job and aligned with what you’re skilled in.

Once that’s been identified, follow it up with a short, detailed description. Any metrics, numbers, or data to support your statements, be sure you use them.

Just as importantly, you need to tailor the skills you’re implementing on your functional skills-based resume. It’s another reason why it’s vital you’ve completed the background company and vacancy research to have a full understanding. Only then can you optimize your document at its best and match the expectations or even exceed their standards.

We have a guide for creating a skills section to impress employers – check it out for yourself here!

Include Your Resume Header

As usual, your resume header should be at the top of the document. It’s the first thing employers should see whenever they get their hands on your resume. This section contains your contact details alongside the essential information recruiters need to see.

Write A Striking Resume Summary

We recommend using a professional summary in your functional resume to enable employers to quickly learn and gain transparency of what you can do. This includes insight into your:

  • Professional background
  • Primary skills
  • Knowledge and expertise
  • Work experience

(If you haven’t already, check out our complete guide on how to write a resume summary, including the 30+ examples you need to see!)

Include A Brief Work Experience Section

The emphasis on this resume is on your professionalism and corporate skills. Therefore, this section should be kept at a short minimum, yet compelling enough for the recruiter.

Include the job titles of any previous relevant employment experience you’ve had. Plus, have a short description of how your efforts and skills contributed to that company’s success.

Don’t forget to mention those professional environments you’ve been associated with within the past. This includes things like internships and volunteering experiences. It goes a long way with helping you create an eye-catching resume that helps you get the job.

If you’ve been out of it for a while, then it’s okay to skip out on incorporating the dates. However, it’s strongly preferable – try to at least include the year.

Additional Sections

There are other sections worth including on your resume. For example, you could include a client testimonials section to prove some of your statements. It’s especially powerful when the person who gives you that testimonial holds a respectable position.

One section that we do suggest you include is your education section. List out your qualifications, whether that’s a bachelor’s degree or a professional diploma. They leave a positive impact on the reader about your formal education, so why not?

These sections should add to the results-driven value that you can work towards to help build their organization. How can you assist them in increasing their chances of hitting their goals and objectives?

There’s no problem with getting creative and unique with your resume. And actually, in most cases, that’s even better.

If you want to stay within the employer’s boundaries while having a convincing resume, try using one of Enhancv’s templates. They’re free, easy to use, and designed to make you properly stand out so you can secure the job.

Additional Tips

Edit and Proofread Your Resume

This probably takes up time that you feel is unnecessary and not time-efficient. It costs you an extra headache, stress, and effort to keep on the lookout for the smallest technical details. If that’s the case, consider improving your editing process and proofreading strategies.

Without a doubt, not double-checking your resume before sending is a rookie resume mistake all too common. Once recruiters see a single grammar or spelling mistake, it completely throws them off.

Consider Having A Cover Letter Prepared

Functional skills-based resumes have their own disadvantages, which can turn employers off. As we’ve discussed earlier, they may not make the best impression compared to the other resume formats, you can make up for this by having a tailored cover letter.

Accompany your customized document with a personalized cover letter. Show that you’re a serious candidate willing to learn, develop, and do what it takes to meet their demands.

Maintain the Focus On The Core Value You Can Offer

Don’t forget that the basic principles still apply to the functional resume format.

You should be painting a picture to the reader of the value you’re bringing over to their organization. When push comes to shove, the key takeaway they should have is how you will benefit the team.

Stick to Having A One-Page Resume

A short, specific and concise functional resume will help you increase your chances of getting hired. As long as it’s impactful and there’s a purpose behind each of your sentences, it helps with making your resume far from generic. Learn more about the advantages of one-page resumes in our helpful post on the topic.

Functional Resume Example With Enhancv:

Enhancv Everything You Need to Know: Functional Skills Based Resume


In Joanne’s marketing intern resume sample, we can see that it’s slightly different from the traditional functional resume. Although it resembles the reverse-chronological format, it actually minimizes the general setbacks as a whole because it’s more subtle.

If you want to, you can move and rearrange some of the section orders. For example, instead of having the education section coming first, we could exchange it with your strengths or skills section first.

We have over 530+ resume examples for different job positions in different industries – one which is sure to be yours. Find your job title, and take note of those examples which are proven to get you hired!

What Other Alternatives Are There For The Functional Resume Format?

It’s all about knowing whether or not a functional skills-based resume format is right for you. If you’ve read until this far, you’ll have a good idea by now whether it’s something you need or something you think you need. If it’s only desirable but not needed, then it’s not necessary for you to have one since it’s not as effective as the other formats out there.

Apart from the functional resume, chronological resumes are good to highlight your accomplishments and responsibilities. Recruiters are less likely to challenge your capabilities because of how descriptive the chronological format is.

Another alternative is the combination resume. It’s also known as a hybrid resume, and it lets you combine your relevant skills, work experience, and accomplishments.

With various resume templates out there, it’s hard to define which is best for you, because ultimately, it depends on several factors. But if you want a versatile resume that works for virtually any industry, take a look at the free professional resume templates here.

Enhancv Everything You Need to Know: Functional Skills Based Resume


Takeaways: Functional Resume

  • It highlights your skillset over your work experience.
  • Use this template when you’re a college graduate without much job experience; when you have applicable skills you can use for your next job; or, when you’ve been unemployed for 1 year and over.
  • To write the best functional resume, include a header and a summary section, group your skills carefully, and be as specific as possible. Consider including client testimonials.
  • Don’t forget to proofread your resume and prepare a cover letter to maximize your chances of getting interviewed.

One secret ingredient is to inject your own personality and involve other resume sections that will grab recruiters' attention. If you’re looking to get a headstart, try having a go with Enhancv’s resume creator.


What was the one key takeaway you took from this ultimate guide? And are there any other topics you want us to cover in particular? Let me know in the comments below!

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Astley Cervania
Astley is a UK-based copywriter & content strategist. Often curious and observant, he specializes in helping B2B and SaaS companies scale their content marketing through his writing and SEO skills.
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