Functional v. traditional: What kind of resume layout is right for you?

You may not know this, but there's more than one resume format and you might be using the wrong one.



Resumes have a reputation: boring, standardized, cut and dry. While this might be the case for some people's resume it certainly doesn't have to apply to yours. In fact, as a professional resume editor, writer and designer, I'm here to tell you that that reputation shouldn't apply to your resume.


Customizing a resume that aligns with your personal brand, highlights your skills and experience and fits your personality should result in something far from uninteresting or cookie-cutter. It should tell your professional career story, not just check a box for the job application required attachments.


However, I understand why many people struggle to find the right format to accomplish all of this. Although design plays a role in the overall presentation of your resume, the meat of it all is the information you include. How do you decide what order to put things in? What should you really expand on? These are great questions to ask yourself before deciding how to proceed. The most important question is, which directions you have to choose from? Well, here's what they are.


The functional resume

First, let's talk about what a functional resume is. This layout focuses far more attention skills, and how and why those skills are useful and important. Past work experience gets included, but only the company, your title and the dates you worked there get included. To be clear, there's no explanation of your job duties or accomplishments You can also include degrees and educational accomplishments.


Now, let's talk about who functional resumes work best for. If you hadn't noticed, there's very little emphasis on past jobs in functional resumes, and that's intentional. This type of resume works well for people with little work experience, or for people with sizable gaps between jobs. This is oftentimes recommended to recent college graduates or people reentering the reentering the work force.


The last thing you want to do is default to a standard resume format with little to add to your past experience section. That'll just give you a lackluster first impression and disservice your potential to contribute your skills to the organization you're applying to. Instead, use a functional resume layout to draw attention to your rich skill set to portray yourself as the asset that you are. Here are some sample layouts.


The chronological resume

This is the resume format you've likely seen before; it's the most common. It works well for people with a decent amount of work experience who can highlight their skills and accomplishments by discussing what they did in each position.


This resume also provides an opportunity to, hopefully, show your growth. Your work experience is placed in order, as you might've guessed from the name of this format. You'll usually have your most junior level positions at the bottom and have your most recent, more senior level positions up top, showing your career progress.


In some ways, this format is easy. You just list your work experience in order and wordsmith each job description to position yourself well for the job you're applying for. Obviously there's a little more that goes into it, but overall, it's rather straightforward.


If you need some help deciding which resume format is best for you, or help writing a great resume, reach out! I'd love to help!