Should You Write a Functional Resume?

I recently received an email asking whether we have any experience in writing functional resumes. After talking to the job seeker on the phone, I learned that he’s making a career change. He thinks that he needs to distract employers from her background in one industry so they can imagine him in another. For this reason, he’s wondering about using a functional resume. I know we’re not supposed to use capital letters on the Internet because it means we’re shouting, but in this case, I am shouting, so my answer is “NO!” (Imagine lots of underlines underneath than “no”).

What is a functional resume?

A functional resume is simply a resume that doesn’t present career history chronologically. Instead, the job seeker lists his accomplishments under various skills headings such as “HR management” or “IT leadership.” The idea is that this format enables you to communicate transferable skills without letting on that, in actual fact, your whole career to date has been in a completely different field.

Why functional resumes don\’t work

The problem with this type of resume writing is that, put simply, it doesn’t work. Recruiters are neither stupid nor inexperienced. They’ve been looking at resumes for a long time and they’ve seen every trick you can think of (and lots that never crossed your mind!). They know that the functional resume is a ploy to hide something. The only thing they don’t know right away is what you’re trying to hide. If they have a few minutes spare they might try and figure it out. But this is just for sport, you understand, because they’ve already decided they don’t like you very much. Obviously this is not the effect you were hoping for with your new resume!

Making a career change isn’t as easy as changing your resume

The truth is that if you want to make a career change, you really need to go about it very differently from a normal search.

The key isn’t a clever resume or a great cover letter, although these can’t hurt. Successful career change requires a proactive strategy and an aggressive networking and personal contact campaign.

And resume-writing for career change requires that you ‘fess up to your lack of experience right upfront and quickly show why it shouldn’t matter. For example, back when I was switching from a career in HR to one in resume writing, I might have have started my resume with this headline:

Experienced HR executive looking to transition to career marketing – offers 15 years’ real world hiring experience, plus exceptional writing and marketing skills.

This approach would be honest, straightforward and truthful, and would be much more effective than a “clever” structure that tried to cover up the truth, which was that – at that time – I had no paid experience in resume writing.

The fact is, the more you try to cover up a lack of experience, the more obvious it becomes. Your tricks will simply draw attention to the facts. So if you’re looking to make a career change, try this novel tactic for selling yourself: Tell the truth!

(And by the way, if the truth won’t help you get the job, the fact is that you’re not really qualified for it and have more work to do).

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