QUESTION: Which resume format should I use? Functional? Chronological? Something else?
Most recruiters don’t like functional resumes, and they don’t work well with employers’ Applicant Tracking Systems. A reverse chronological or “combination” format is better (“combination” combines the best of the functional and reverse chronological approaches). Talk about what you’ve accomplished in each role. You can still have an impactful top section highlighting your brand and key successes.
For most professionals, a chronological format is optimal. Recruiters and hiring managers prefer this format because they can quickly find key screening details. A functional resume can raise a red flag that you lack qualifications or experience for the role. If you need to convey transferable skills, consider a hybrid with a robust summary section followed by a chronological employment section.
A job seeker should always use a reverse chronological resume for many reasons. As a former recruiter, I can confirm that functional resumes don’t work well with ATS at all. Only candidates with non-linear backgrounds use functional formats—so by using this format, you actually bring attention to what you are trying to downplay. Lastly, recruiters don’t like functional formats.
The functional resume became popular decades ago as a solution for hard-to-explain job gaps, for “job-hopping” issues, and for those with scattered backgrounds. With limited exceptions, the functional resume is no longer in favor with hiring managers. Today’s best practices call for a concise combination format resume that includes a functional summary in combination with a chronological section.
The chronological format is the best format. A chronological format organizes your information so that it can be easily read by ATS systems. Resumes with a functional format confuse ATS systems eliminating you from consideration – regardless of your qualifications. Once you pass the ATS test, the chronological format allows a human reader to quickly scan and understand your qualifications.
A chronological resume is the best format to use if your career history represents a stable, solid career progression that has stayed similar in terms of industry & role. If you are looking for a mid-career change, a functional resume allows you to focus on your skills and achievements, however, this style may not be welcomed by recruiters as it is often seen as a way of covering up career gaps.
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