The Functional Resume: What It Is & When To Use It (Spoiler: Never)

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January 19, 2024
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Edited by
Camille Trent
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19
min read

3 key takeaways

  • What a functional resume is
  • How using this resume format might put you at a disadvantage
  • How to use Teal's resume templates (+ functional resume examples)

Considering a functional resume format because your skills outweigh your work experience?

A functional resume focuses on specific skills rather than roles and companies—moving away from a traditional or chronological resume layout. And while it sounds like a good strategy if you're looking to highlight certain abilities, using a functional resume still requires some consideration. 

What is a functional resume?

A functional resume (sometimes called a skills-based resume format) focuses on the skills that qualify you for a role. This resume format prioritizes the tools and aptitudes you've used to do the job over where and when you've done it. 

A functional resume example
Functional resume templates will prioritize skills over work experience.

Teal Note: We can provide guidance for building a functional resume, but this resume template doesn't exist in the Teal platform.

As the workforce evolves, functional resumes have become increasingly popular—but not universally accepted; the trend toward functional resumes is more prevalent among job seekers than hiring professionals. Here's why:

By emphasizing transferable skills and abilities, a functional resume allows anyone with a non-linear career path or limited work experience to present areas of strengths and potential rather than a job history.

But while the core of a functional resume emphasizes skills and competencies, it doesn't focus on:

  • Dates
  • Job title
  • Companies
  • Comprehensive work history 

Recruiting expert and Teal Social Media Manager Leah Dillon says:

"Anyone can list a skill, but just listing it doesn’t add value. It’s about showcasing that skill through experience, whether at a company or independently: How do you know it? How did you use it to have an impact alongside other skills?"

The elements above are critical for hiring professionals to assess your qualifications, especially during the initial screening. Direct, relevant experience, reflected through a clear timeline and job titles, is crucial to many job requirements.

Dillon echos this sentiment:

"Companies are looking for people to help drive the business forward, and those who showcase they’ve helped drive initiatives along tend to have higher interview rates."

Downsides of a functional resume

  1. Lack of familiarity: Recruiters may find a functional resume less intuitive, making it harder to extract critical information quickly.
  2. Potential for skepticism: The absence of a chronological work history can look like an attempt to hide gaps in employment or a lack of specific experience.
  3. Difficulty establishing career progression: Demonstrating professional growth over time is often key to emphasizing the evolution of roles and responsibilities.
  4. Limited skills showcase: Functional resumes miss the opportunity to show the breadth of your abilities. A range of skills throughout your resume will help align your experience with a job's requirements. Merely listing skills without showing how they've been applied collectively to have an impact undermines the effectiveness of your entire resume.

Functional resumes vs. other resume formats

Chronological resume

A chronological resume (or reverse-chronological resume) is the most widely accepted resume format—presenting your work history in reverse chronological order.

It offers a straightforward view of your career progression, highlighting your work experience and making it easy for hiring managers and recruiters to see your background, achievements, and how you've used your skills to have an impact over time.

An example of a chronological resume
Use a chronological resume to show a clear view of your career, impact, and skills.

View our full selection of free reverse-chronological resume templates to find a style and presentation that suits your career.

Combination resume

The combination resume, or hybrid, blends elements of both functional and chronological resumes while still offering a clear and easy-to-read layout. It typically starts with a professional summary, followed by a section for hard or technical skills, and then a reverse chronological listing of your work history. 

A combination resume for a frontend developer
Use a combination resume to focus on skills and work experience.

When to use a functional resume

If you've made it this far and still feel the best resume format is a skills-based resume, here are the best use cases.

Career pivoters

Suppose you're transitioning to a new industry or career path. In that case, a functional resume can help highlight transferable skills relevant to your new field—regardless of where you've acquired them.

Those with employment gaps

If you have a gap in your employment, you can use a functional resume to emphasize your skills, highlighting what you bring to the table rather than focusing on your employment history.

Reentering the workforce

If you're returning to work after a significant break, a functional resume can help you highlight your relevant, valuable skills.

First-time job seekers

If you're a job seeker creating a resume with no work experience, a functional resume format focuses on skills rather than a non-existent or thin work history.

For applications that request this format

Some job postings might request a functional resume. In these cases, sticking to this format shows you can follow directions and understand the specific preferences of your prospective employer.

How to write a functional resume

Before you choose a resume format, you need the right tool to store your skills, achievements, and more. 

The Teal AI Resume Builder is a free platform to house all these details in one central location. 

A screenshot showing what professional details are stored in the Teal AI Resume Builder
With Teal, managing your career history becomes organized, functional, and straightforward.

Now, it's time to write your functional resume.

1. Start with your contact information

You want prospective employers to contact you, so you're going to need to give them those details as clearly as possible.

Your resume contact information should include:

  • Full Name
  • Phone Number
  • Location
  • Professional email address
  • LinkedIn profile URL 
  • Portfolio or personal website URL (if applicable)
  • Your target title

2. Add a professional summary

Below your contact information, write a 3-5 sentence professional summary. Consider this your highlight reel—zeroing in on top achievements, skills, and qualifications while generating enough interest to keep the hiring manager or recruiter reading the rest of your resume.

Pro Tip: If you want to save time writing your professional summary, try Teal’s AI Summary Generator to write tailored, position-specific summaries in seconds.

3. List relevant skills

Next up, list your skills. Because you're using a functional resume format, this section will change each time you apply for a specific role.

The skills in your resume (regardless of format) should always align with the job description of the role you're applying to.

Resume skills example: 

If a job description says,

"3 years of experience in an SEO, Growth Ops, or Marketing Ops role, ideally in a startup environment for a B2C audience with strong knowledge building and owning workflows as it relates to SEO, content production, and publishing."

Then, your resume's "Skill" section should focus on at least three skills listed. 

  • SEO
  • Growth Ops
  • Content Production

Not sure which skills matter most? Teal's got you covered. The Teal AI Resume Builder pulls the top skills as keywords from any job description, so you know which ones matter most.

A graphic showing how the Teal Resume Builder highlights skills in job descriptions
Get the right keywords from every job description in one click.

Once you've identified the top three skills in the job description, add three to five bullet points beneath each to showcase how you used that skill to have impact.

Using the job description above, here's a functional resume example of how this might look.

Growth Ops

  • Orchestrated a growth ops strategy, successfully improving SEO workflow efficiency by 25%
  • Led a team in implementing growth op practices, increasing web traffic by 35%
  • Redesigned growth op workflows, improving content production and publishing by 20% 

4. Add optional sections

Once you have your primary skills and the impact of those skills, add job history, an "Education" section, and certifications to support them.

4 tips for writing a functional resume

Now that you understand how to write a functional resume let's go over some best practices that'll help guide you.

  1. Only emphasize relevant skills: Identify the skills most relevant to the job you’re applying for and provide specific examples of how you used those skills.
  2. Quantify your achievements: Wherever possible, use numbers, metrics, and data to show the impact of your work. Think efficiency improvements, revenue growth, etc.
  3. Use a clear, organized layout: Ensure your resume is easy to read. Use headings, bullet points, and consistent formatting to make your skills and achievements stand out.
  4. Tailor your resume: Customize your target title, resume summary, skills, and bullet points—ensuring your content aligns with what an employer is looking for.

Functional resume format

The functional resume layout differs significantly from other traditional formats. Here's how to do it:

  • Contact details
  • Your resume summary
  • A clear "Skills" section with achievements relevant to the role

If you include an employment history, place it after the skills section. Education and any other relevant details (certifications or volunteer experience) should come last.

3 tips for formatting a functional resume

  1. Provide clarity: Use a clean, easy-to-read layout. Opt for bullet points to describe your skills and achievements, making the resume scannable.
  2. Use consistent formatting: Your resume content should stick to one font style and size, with clear and slightly larger or bolded headings to distinguish each section.
  3. Balance white space and text: A well-balanced layout avoids clutter, making your resume clear and easy to read.

Functional resume examples

A functional resume example can help guide your process—giving you a clear idea of how to create a compelling functional resume.

Data analyst functional resume example

A functional resume example for a data analyst
Looking for a job in data analysis? Discover 13 data analyst resume examples.

Software engineer skills-based resume sample

A skills-based resume example for a software engineer
Check out 10+ resume examples for software engineers.

Project manager functional resume example

A functional resume example for a project manager
Explore 10 customer success resume samples.

Functional resume templates

A free functional resume template can be a valuable tool in writing your resume.

Functional resume templates provide a structured layout so you can effectively showcase your skills and their impact.

Websites like Teal, Canva, Google, and Microsoft offer a variety of resume templates. These platforms are user-friendly, and the templates cater to different career needs and styles.

How to use skills-based resume templates

1. Copy the template into your editing software: Copy and paste (or download the template) in your preferred editing software.

A screenshot of Teal's resume templates
Download or copy resume templates from Teal's Resume Template Library.

2. Customize each section: Replace any placeholder text with your own details. Focus heavily on the skills section, making sure to highlight only skills that are 100% relevant to the job you're applying for.

A screenshot of how to edit resume details in Teal
Tailor each section to match your skills and experience

3. Adjust the design: While the template provides a basic structure, feel free to make minor adjustments to the design. (This could include changing font sizes or styles, adjusting the layout of sections, or adding a small pop of color. Just be mindful to keep it easy to read.)

A screenshot of Teal's design mode
Adjust your resume design to what looks best.

4. Proofread and edit: Make sure your resume is free of errors like placeholder text and the information is current and accurate.

A screnshot of Teal's spelling and grammar tool.
Make sure your resume is mistake-free.

Skills-based resume templates

Below are some free skills-based resume templates that provide a solid foundation for you to start from. Use them as a guide for showcasing your unique skills and experiences effectively.

Student skills-based resume template

[Full Name]

[Contact Information]

[Target Title]

Professional Summary

[Highly motivated and detail-oriented student] pursuing a [Bachelor's/Master's] degree in [Field of Study] with a strong foundation in [Key Skills]. Experienced in [mention any relevant internships, part-time jobs, or projects with impact] and passionate about [specific interest within the field].

Skills:

[Relevant Skill]

  • Achievement with impact
  • Achievement with impact
  • Achievement with impact

[Relevant Skill]

  • Achievement with impact
  • Achievement with impact
  • Achievement with impact

[Relevant Skill]

  • Achievement with impact
  • Achievement with impact
  • Achievement with impact

Education

[Bachelor's/Master's] in [Field of Study]

[University Name], [Expected Year of Graduation]

Coursework (Optional)

[Course] - [Brief description]

[Course] - [Brief description]

Recent graduate functional resume template

[Full Name]

[Contact Information]

[Target Title]

Professional Summary

[Energetic and motivated recent graduate] with a [Bachelor's/Master's] degree in [Field of Study] from [University Name]. I have excellent [Key Skills] and am eager to apply academic knowledge and [internship/academic project with results] experience to contribute effectively to [industry/role]. Strong [relevant soft skills] and a quick learner, ready to excel in a [specific field/role].

Skills

[Relevant Skill]

  • Achievement with impact
  • Achievement with impact
  • Achievement with impact

[Relevant Skill]

  • Achievement with impact
  • Achievement with impact
  • Achievement with impact

[Relevant Skill]

  • Achievement with impact
  • Achievement with impact
  • Achievement with impact

Education

[Bachelor's/Master's] in [Field of Study]

[University Name], [Year of Graduation]

Projects (Optional)

  • [Project Title] - [Brief description and outcome]
  • [Project Title] - [Brief description and outcome]

Career pivot skills-based resume template

[Full Name]

[Contact Information]

[Target Title]

Professional Summary

[Experienced professional in [previous career] with a strong foundation in [relevant skills] and a passion for [new career/industry]. Seeking to leverage [transferable skills] to transition into a [target role/industry]. Accomplished in [mention at least one relevant achievement with impact] and committed to achieving success in [new career/industry].

[Relevant Skill]

  • Achievement with impact
  • Achievement with impact
  • Achievement with impact

[Relevant Skill]

  • Achievement with impact
  • Achievement with impact
  • Achievement with impact

[Relevant Skill]

  • Achievement with impact
  • Achievement with impact
  • Achievement with impact

Certifications

[Certification] - [Organization]

[Certification] - [Organization]

Professional Experience

[Previous Job Title] | [Previous Company], [Years of Experience]

  • [Any relevant achievements]

Create and manage your resume with Teal

While functional resumes showcase specific skills, they also have limitations.

Their format, which deviates from the traditional chronological layout, is less familiar and more challenging for hiring professionals to navigate. This unfamiliarity may lead to difficulty in quickly assessing what you bring to the table—leaving you at a disadvantage compared to other candidates.

A chronological or hybrid resume might be a better option if you're looking for a more easily recognized approach. These formats are more familiar and provide a clear, linear view of your skills and how you used them over time to have an impact.

If you're ready to grab (and hold!) the attention of hiring managers and recruiters with a holistic view of your skills and experience—one they can easily follow and appreciate—it's time to get started:

 FAQs about Functional Resumes

 Who should use the functional resume format?

If you're opting for a functional resume format, it's best for those with non-linear career paths, limited work experience, or significant employment gaps.

How should I display my skills in a functional resume format?

Display your skills in a functional resume by listing them clearly. Align them with the job requirements, and back each with specific examples of achievements and impact

How do you write a functional resume?

To write a functional resume, start with your contact information, add a professional summary, list relevant skills aligned with the job description, and then include optional sections like "Education," "Work Experience," "Certifications," and "Projects."

What is the difference between a hybrid resume and a functional resume?

A hybrid resume focuses on skills while providing a reverse chronological listing of work history, unlike a functional resume, which primarily emphasizes skills.

Frequenty Asked Questions

Kayte Grady

Kayte, the Senior Copywriter at Teal, creates compelling content that builds connection, trust, and brand loyalty to drive conversions. With a data-driven approach to writing and a love of people, she's found growth and camaraderie in tech—a pleasant surprise given her never-ending devotion to the paper calendar.

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