Woman with laptop advising another woman on resume

A job seeker wrote in asking about chronological vs functional resume formats: 

As I’ve been looking for work for just over 6 months now, I am at the point where I’m considering changing the format of my resume from the traditional chronological format to a functional format.

I’d like to highlight my experience and accomplishments first and list my positions afterwards, rather than include them below each position. My last role was a mat-leave replacement that I took because my employer had been keeping me on short-term contracts for years while they were deciding whether to eliminate the position, due to budget cuts. While the mat-leave cover allowed for a much needed break from the constant uncertainty of my previous role it was lower skilled. In addition, while covering the mat-leave, I was asked to take on responsibilities that wouldn’t typically be associated with that job title because I had done that type of work in my previous role. The bulk of the experience I want to highlight is in my previous role not my most recent. I also want to include my current volunteer experience, as it’s relevant; and it would make the fact that I’ve been out of work for 6 months less noticeable to anyone who would be concerned about someone being out of work that long.

I don’t want hiring managers and recruiters to get caught up in job titles and the order of positions. I’d like them to focus on the overall breadth of my experience; which is why I want to use a functional format. My question is, are recruiters and headhunters used to seeing this type of format in a resume? If they are, wouldn’t someone reading this type of resume see right through this technique and be more keen to look for gaps, job titles and the order of positions? I don’t want to look like I’m hiding something, I just want to focus on what’s most important.

Thank you.

Your resume is your best tool to get hiring managers to pay attention to your background and incite them to call you to discuss your background further during a phone screen or an in-person interview.

In our experience, and based on feedback we receive from our clients, a chronological resume better explains your background and where you performed certain duties and gathered certain skills. Most hiring managers and recruiters want to know first and foremost what companies you worked for, the roles you held and how long you were employed there.

With a functional resume, even though you do focus on the experience and skills you’ve gained, because they are not under a specific role, it is hard to tell where exactly you have done that certain duty, for how long or if it was in each job.  It creates a guessing game for the person reading it which can be both frustrating but also a red flag that a candidate is trying to hide gaps.

We HIGHLY recommend sticking to a chronological format for your resume.

Studies show that it takes about 10-15 seconds for someone to decide whether or not to take you forward based on your resume. You want to make it as easy as possible for a hiring manager to gleam the important information they’re looking for and a confusing functional resume format is eating away precious seconds.

But here’s some good news – there are other ways to make relevant experience stand out!

We always recommend having a Summary or Profile section at the start of your resume to give an overview of your years of experience, the fields you are most specialized in, and any relevant education, qualifications or industry-specific skills you have. You can also mention a few strong personality traits (soft skills) and additional languages if it’s relevant.

Also, the next section that is great to have on your resume would be Accomplishments. This is a bulleted list of anything that you have done in previous roles that made an impact on the workload, improved processes or made the company or your team more successful. For example, a Sales Professional might write: “Strong international experience with Fortune 500 clients, consistently delivering 130% of target.” Try to make your accomplishments as measurable as possible, ie reduced costs by X, shortened turnaround time by Y, increased registrations by Z.

As for your volunteer experience, definitely include it. Volunteer experience can still be relevant professional experience, and it talks about your interests and community involvement.  Employers do appreciate seeing this as it can sometimes align with their own corporate values and community involvement.