Functional VS. Chronological Resume

Calendar Icon
September 29, 2022
Edited by
Clock Icon
min read

Resumes come in various formats, and the job you're applying for will dictate which resume format you use. In fact, the wrong format could mean an instant ‘pass’ from a hiring manager because it doesn’t communicate your experience in a way that’s right for the job posting. 

As you grow your career and accumulate experience and skills, your resume will become more advanced. With more experience to sift through, veteran job seekers need to be intentional with how they present their resume. 

When drafting your resume, there are a few formats to consider: a functional resume, chronological resume and combination resume. In this article, we will primarily focus on a functional resume vs a chronological resume and when to use the two. 

Read on to learn how to utilize both resumes in your job search. 

What is a chronological resume?

You’re probably familiar with the chronological resume (also called reverse-chronological resume) format. A chronological resume lists your most recent job first, followed by the rest of your past jobs, going in reverse chronological order. It’s the resume format that young professionals are introduced to and most used among job seekers. 

If you have a strong work history, multiple promotions to highlight or have worked for a high-profile company (or multiple high-profile companies), the chronological resume format is best for what you want to display to a hiring manager. They get a clear picture of your career and your professional drive. 

The chronological resume is the most popular resume format, however, popular doesn’t always mean the best, as there are both pros and cons to writing a chronological resume.   

Chronological resume pros

There are many reasons why people choose to use a chronological resume template for their standard resume. The biggest reason is that it is compatible with applicant-tracking systems (ATS), which filter through candidates that best match the job. 

Here are some other reasons to use a chronological resume:

  • This format shows your work history clearly and quickly.
  • Hiring managers see work promotions right away. 
  • Preferred format for applicant tracking systems. 

Chronological resume cons

If you have desirable skills or gaps in your job history, a chronological resume may bury those skills and make your work gaps more noticeable. You want your resume to show all the positive traits you bring to a role and minimize any potential negatives. 

Here are some other reasons to pass on a chronological resume:

  • A chronological resume prioritizes the when and where over your skills. 
  • Any gaps in your work history are obvious to the hiring manager.
  • If you are changing industries, this format does not show how your skills transfer.

What is a functional resume?

A functional resume focuses on skills and experience only. Where and when you did the work is not important for this resume format. Instead, a functional resume’s goal is to show hiring managers you have the skills and experience to execute the job. 

Instead of centering your job history, think about what you’ve done over the course of your career. Highlight the skills, certifications and accomplishments that show you are the best candidate for the job, as opposed to companies, job titles and time spent in a particular role.

A functional resume is the best choice for candidates that are switching industries, work across industries and/or have skills and accomplishments that align with the job position. For example, contract workers that rely on specialized skills to complete a job will most likely utilize this resume format. A functional resume puts a spotlight on these unique traits, which helps hiring managers envision how you will handle the potential opportunity. 

Functional resume pros

If your career is skills-heavy, a functional resume highlights those skills and focuses on your career experience and accomplishments. A functional resume also minimizes obvious career gaps, instead prioritizing what you know over when and where. 

Here are some other reasons to use a functional resume:

  • A functional resume highlights only your skills and experience, making it easier to transition into industries. 
  • This format helps hide large gaps in your work history. 
  • You get to show what you can do, instead of what you did and where you did it.

Functional resume cons 

If your career isn’t skills and accomplishment driven, a functional resume may not be the right fit. This resume format is only recommended for candidates that have impressive skill sets or are transitioning into a new industry and want to highlight transferable skills. 

Here are some other reasons to pass on a functional resume:

  • Recruiters are sometimes suspicious of functional resumes because they easily hide work gaps. (Make sure your skills are stronger than your gaps.)
  • Promotions are difficult to see on a functional resume. 
  • A functional resume is more personalized, which means you will need to adjust it for each job application. 

In more cases than not, you will utilize the chronological resume format. But if you have impressive skills and data to back up those skills, a functional resume is your best bet. 

How to decide which resume to use 

If you have a strong promotion history or recent experience with high-profile companies, a chronological resume will best highlight those career features. In a chronological resume, your job titles and company history stand out the most. Additionally, chronological resumes are preferred by recruiters and hiring managers, and can help you get past an ATS. 

For highly specialized workers, however, chronological resumes gloss over the most important information: What you can do. If a job requires a certain skill set or certification, your resume should put those front and center. 

If you have an impressive and sought-after skill set, a functional resume could be more your style. Hiring managers are always looking for the best person to execute the work, however, not everyone is equipped with the knowledge that skilled workers have to complete certain tasks. Remember, dates and companies are not the most important details. They take a backseat to the skills, experience and knowledge you carry. 

Need a visual? Check out our collection of example resumes to get a better feel for different resume formats and styles to see figure out the best presentation for you.

Combination format

If you’ve gone back and forth and can’t decide between a functional resume and a chronological resume, consider using the combination format, which is the best of both worlds. Like the functional resume, it puts your skills and qualifications first, and lists them separate from your job history. And, similar to both formats, only include your most relevant skills and job experience. Create a combination resume by splitting your resume in two. The top half is devoted to your skills, accomplishments and certifications, while the bottom half lays out your work history. 

There’s an easier way to build your resume 

Starting a resume from scratch is a daunting task. Who hasn’t sat staring at a blank screen for minutes on end? Luckily, you don’t have to go it alone anymore. Teal's AI Resume Builder makes it easy to create multiple resume templates, including function, chronological and combination resumes. 

The free tool is installed as a Chrome extension and stores all your key work details in one place. No more going back to previous resumes, all you have to do is drop the information in and build your resume based on your dream opportunity.

Frequently Asked Questions

Who should opt for a functional resume over a chronological one?

A functional resume is best suited for individuals with gaps in their employment history, those changing careers, or people entering the workforce for the first time. It allows them to highlight their skills and abilities rather than focusing on a linear work history.

Can a functional resume be disadvantageous in certain job applications?

Yes, some hiring managers prefer the chronological format as it easily outlines an applicant's work history and progression. A functional resume may raise red flags for employers who are suspicious of employment gaps or lack of specific job titles, potentially impacting the chances of getting an interview.

How can I effectively combine elements of both functional and chronological resumes?

To combine both resume types, you can create a hybrid or combination resume. Start with a skills section to emphasize your abilities, followed by a reverse-chronological work history. This format allows you to showcase your relevant skills while providing the timeline of your work experience that employers expect.

Lindsay Patton

Lindsay Patton is a journalist, adjunct professor, podcast host and digital communicator who specializes in business and career growth.

We help you find
the career dream.