Functional resume or chronological resume? Which one is best?

A question for the ages, like who built Stonehenge?

In this video, I’m going to settle the score and answer: should you use a functional resume or a chronological resume? 

First, let’s look at the differences between a functional resume and a chronological resume.

A functional resume places a lot of emphasis on skills, less on experience and accomplishments.

It leads with a lot of expansion on our skills, and then follows up with a quick hit section that lists our work experience.

I often see career changers using a functional resume because they think that they don’t have relevant experience and want to showcase transferable skills. Or people with eclectic careers using a functional resume because they are challenged with bringing everything together into a cohesive story.

A chronological resume lists jobs in reverse chronological order, and allocates accomplishments to each of the jobs in which they happened.

Chronological resumes emphasize accomplishments to back up skills.

Many might refer to the look of this chronological resume as hybrid because it still opens with a small professional summary and list of skills. But that’s not really important when distinguishing between a functional resume and a chronological resume.

The biggest distinguishing difference is where you’re putting your accomplishments.

What Recruiters Think About Functional Resumes

So now that we know the difference between the resume styles, let’s look at what the readers of resumes, recruiters, think first of the functional resume style.

I asked them this on Twitter, and they responded with:

Point taken. 

So recruiters HATE functional resumes. But why?

Functional Resumes Make It Hard To Get Important Information Fast

Functional resumes have huge blocks of text. Huge blocks of text are really difficult to get through quickly. And as we all know, quickly is the operative word here. Check out my video on the 6 second scan which I’ve linked below.

Chronological Resumes Make It Easier To Get Important Information Fast

Chronological resumes on the other hand are much easier on the readers eyes. They break up text which allows for easier scanning, and easier scanning means easier to keep reading, which is what you want your resume to do: catch and keep the readers eyeballs.

Functional Resumes Create Work For The Reader (And Expose You To Assumptions)

When you’ve lumped all of your accomplishments into one section, that leaves your resume open to the interpretation and imagination of the reader. It also creates work for them to figure out, but more likely assume, where you did the things that you did.

Chronological Resumes Give The Reader Context

Because chronological resumes allocate your accomplishments to each role in which they happened, the reader can get a fast idea of where you demonstrated skills, and where you did the things that they’re hiring for.

Functional Resumes Make It Look Like You’re Trying To Hide Something

Functional resumes have a definite baffle with bullshit flavour. Because a reader can’t deduce where and when you did something, they automatically assume that you may be trying to hide something. Whether that be a career gap, or a skill gap, or more. This is dangerous. 

Chronological Resumes Give Space To Explain Career Gaps

Chronological resumes make it impossible to hide things, especially career gaps. But they also give you the space to expand upon and explain career gaps, how they may have come to be, and what you did to productively fill the time.

Make sure you watch my videos on addressing career gaps:

How To Address A COVID-19 Layoff On Your Resume

How To Address a Pandemic-Related Career Gap and Homeschooling

How To Address 10 Common Career Gaps On Your Resume

Career Gaps, Resume Gaps, CV Gaps, and Gaps In Employment – 11+ Easy Explanations For Your Resume

Functional Resumes Do You No Favors In Showing Career Progression

We can’t rely on our titles to tell our career stories because often titles are weird and made up. Customer Happiness Officer anyone? 

With lumping all of our highlights into one space, unfortunately, we don’t have any room to show the progression or evolution of our career.

Chronological Resumes Showcase Career Evolution

Chronological resumes however, let our accomplishments do the talking, not our titles. They allow us to show over time, and progressively, how we broadened or deepened our skills, and demonstrated them through achieving actual results.

When it comes to accomplishments, you may be wondering, how do I write a resume if my experience is unrelated to my current direction?

You make it make sense through the 5R framework which is:

Reframing accomplishments

So they’re:

Relevant to the target direction

Relate to your target job

Reinforce desired or required skills

And resonate with the target employer

Because remember:

All skills are transferable skills.

All accomplishments are translatable.

So if you haven’t guessed by now, the clear winner for resume formats is the chronological resume. I cannot think of a good reason to ever justify a functional resume, and if your target audience, recruiters, hate them, why would you waste your time with a format they despise?

Are you using a functional resume format or a chronological resume format? If you’re using a functional format, are you struggling to figure out how to translate unrelated accomplishments and experience so that they make sense  to your target employer and job? Tell me in the comments below, give me an accomplishment or two, and what your target job is, and I’ll help translate. 

Kamara Toffolo

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