Recruiter Question #7: Chronological or functional?


I know I have never been a fan of the functional resume…too much opportunity for things to be hidden. I want to know what you did, where and when. I don’t mind a functional section at the front of the resume (though the straight-up chronological resume is my preference).


What do other recruiters think?

Comments (22)

  1. Maverick says:

    I prefer a chronological resume too.

  2. Leigh P. says:

    I agree with you.  I don’t mind a highlights section at the beginning of the resume that points out 3-5 major accomplishments, but I think that functional resumes are largely an attempt to hide gaps in employment or other discrepencies.  Good old fashioned chronological resumes are the best way to go.

    p.s. Just found this series.  Great job!

  3. Wine-Oh says:

    Depends on the type of job. Im a creative marketing person and switched to a functional resume and got alot more responses versus a chronological one. It highlights the core functions of a job I am good at and have success at. Of course if someone asks for the chronological one I have it. But I feel those are better for finance, banking and corproate people (no offense to those of you who are corporate)

  4. Margo says:

    I agree with Wine-Oh: I drifted towards a more functional resume which landed me this job.

    Also, my resume had pictures.  😀

  5. Bad_Brad says:

    Chronological.  Almost always.  I like to see how the candidate has progressed and chronological makes it much easier to do that.

    The only time I would say functional makes sense is if:

    1. The position is very technical and requires a very specific set of skills or a specific background, AND/OR

    2. The person has a long list of employers, some of which are totally irrelevant to the position being applied for (i.e. the person may have been an airline pilot five years ago, been laid off, gone back to school to learn computer engineering, and is now applying for a position as a software engineer)

  6. Heather’s getting into recruiters’ heads to help jobseekers. You’ll want to look at their answers to her questions. What is the first thing you look at on a candidate’s resume? What are common red flags on a resume? What will…

  7. HeatherLeigh says:

    OK, I am going to get picky on this post. When responding, let us know if you are a recruiter/hiring manager or other (candidate/employee). What I am trying to get at is not what you did but what recruiters (and hiring managers) *want to see*. I’m not saying that you can’t get a position with a certain kind of resume, but I’m trying to highlight what the reader of the resume is looking for. I’ve hired people in the past with horrible resumes (not duggesting that anyone here has a horrible resume, by the way). It was the exception, not the rule, but I wouldn’t highlight them as strong resumes.

    Let me see if I have everyone’s status right:

    Maverick – recruiter (?? or otherwise in the HR industry)

    Leigh P – recruiter

    Wine-O – former candidate

    Margo – former candidate

    Bad_Brad – hiring manager

    Appreciate all the feedback of course! Just want to highlight the feedback from recruiters and hiring managers that are giving insight into how they would view the resume.

  8. HeatherLeigh says:

    I say that all, by the way, because I don’t know a single recruiter that likes the functional resume. Maybe one will pop up in here, but this is a topic of conversation amongst recruiters and we generally reach consensus in our dislike of the functional resume. Sorry Wine-Oh and Margo : ) But good for you for getting your positions. Maybe your recruiter felt differently or you were so fabulous they overlooked the resume format! I’m betting on the fabulousness.

  9. Wine-Oh says:

    I can speak to it without dwelling on it too much. I can go either way on the resume. Im not stuck on a functional resume by any means.  Nor am I hiding dates of employment. For the job I am at now the functional one allowed me to highlight specific skills and accomplishments that best mateched this kind of job.  I dont have a common job ie a lawyer, or a cpa. My background is a hybrid type marketing/project management/high tech gig. The functional resume was needed for that type of job and they did like it and I was complimented on ti. Of course as I get older, wiser and into a bigger position I would go back to a chronological one.

  10. Wine-Oh says:

    PS-I also had a chronological version that I had handy during interviews in case it came up.

  11. HeatherLeigh says:

    Wine-Oh…getting better as one ages…sounds like a bottle of cabernet. : )

  12. Chronological.  Hands down.  No contest.

  13. Sandiblog44 says:

    Hmmm…. this has me a bit spooked. I’m trying to switch fields and make use of my marketing and PR experience. I’ve been working in one industry and am trying to make the leap to another without being pigeonholed by the most industry of my most recent employer.  Also, I haven’t had the most direct career path and am hoping to get out of the box I seem to be stuck in due to the industry of my most recent employer.  I’ve gotten positive feedback from my functional resume and was hoping to ditch my chronological resume. Maybe I’ll revisit that….

  14. Jen says:

    As a recruiter I hate the functional resume.  It feels like a test to see if I can find what the candidate is trying to hide.  I immediately flip to the bottom of the last page where they usually (I hope) put their brief chronology of employment.  The information I need to screen resumes is job titles, length of employment and education.  Hiding those makes my job harder and that doesn’t endear the candidate to me.

  15. Dag says:

    I have a weird issue:  I have a lot of good experience but my resume looks terrible because I have 2 jobs that didn’t last very long and I don’t know how to explain them without my resume looking worse.  

    I worked for a huge company for 3 years and moved up the ladder very quickly, went to San Francisco during the dot-com boom and worked for a compaany with no idea what they were doing.  I left after 6 months and moved back to Minnesota to start my own company which I sold a year later.  I then did some consulting for an investment group for a couple of years before going to work as a VP for a small software company.  I would have stayed there forever except that the investors in the company pulled the plug on the area of the company where I worked and forced the comany to re-focus on its core.  My area was successful and the change came as a complete shock to everyone.  I then got a director level position at a company and found out that I was hired under EXTREMELY false pretenses.  In short, I was hired to do strategic development but was told after three months that the company didn’t have the cash to actually enact any of the programs that I was hired to develop.

    So, now I have a resume that says, in chronological order…

    analyst 3 months

    Manager 4 months

    Sr. Manager 2+ years

    self-employed/CEO 1 year

    Consultant/self-employed 2 years

    VP 1 year

    Director 3 months

    Self employed 1 1/2 years

    I am not a job jumper but I don’t know how to get this across in a resume sent to someone that I have never met.  Chronological obviously doesn’t work for me but everyone says my resume should be in that format.

    WHAT DO I DO?

  16. Drea says:

    Recruiter and sometimes hiring manager of recruiters.

    Chronological resume. No exception – not even career change.

    I don’t want to read a functional resume – it’s frankly irrelevant if I don’t know the context of what you did, where and when. And for a career change, I want to see progression and growth and contributions over time.

    However, I don’t mind an extended "professional summary" section that brings out a few key functions that you think are important.

    Functional resumes I think are a neat INTERNAL tool for you to prepare your Chronological resume – it makes you think hard about what skills matter to you and what you want to share with a potential hiring company. Then take those details and highlight them in your Chronological resume.

    What REALLY bugs me is when I ask candidates about why they choose a Functional Resume – shockingly, the sheer majority of them claim "a recruiter did this for me". Aagghhh! No!!!! Take some personal responsibility for your career. Get advice, but make your own decisions and be able to support them.

  17. Dag says:

    I have a weird issue; chronoligical or functional resume?: I have a lot of good experience but my resume looks terrible because I have 2 jobs that didn’t last very long and I don’t know how to explain them without my resume looking worse.

    I worked for a huge company for 3 years and moved up the ladder very quickly, went to San Francisco during the dot-com boom and worked for a compaany with no idea what they were doing. I left after 6 months and moved back to Minnesota to start my own company which I sold a year later. I then did some consulting for an investment group for a couple of years before going to work as a VP for a small software company. I would have stayed there forever except that the investors in the company pulled the plug on the area of the company where I worked and forced the comany to re-focus on its core. My area was successful and the change came as a complete shock to everyone. I then got a director level position at a company and found out that I was hired under EXTREMELY false pretenses. In short, I was hired to do strategic development but was told after three months that the company didn’t have the cash to actually enact any of the programs that I was hired to develop.

    So, now I have a resume that says, in chronological orderbeginning in 1997…

    analyst 3 months… Manager 4 months… Sr. Manager 2+ years… Self-employed/CEO 1 year… Consultant/self-employed 2 years… VP 1 year… Director 3 months… Self employed 1 1/2 years

    I am not a job jumper but I don’t know how to get this across in a resume sent to someone that I have never met. Chronological obviously doesn’t work for me but everyone says my resume should be in that format.

    WHAT DO I DO?

  18. HeatherLeigh says:

    Dag- you need to add the context to each entry on ther resume. Instead of worrying about only having your company for a year, focus on the fact that you sold it. That’s a plus, not a minus.

    The company that refocused its core…say exactly that on the resume. Have it situated near the date for that entry ("division eliminated due to a refocusing of company strategy, despite profitibaility of the division"). Nobody is going to hold that against you.

    Recruiters are accustomed to seeing the dot-com thing. As long as you don’t have a string of them (you don’t), then don’t worry about it too much. Refer to it as a dot-com and recruiters will be able to put the short tenure into context.

    As for the company that hired you under false pretences, I would not put that fact onthe resume. This is where you are agoing to use a cover letter and explain the situation. I’ve been there myself; was hired by a company the promised lots of training and let them make me miserable for 1.5 years as I struggled to do my job. Big lesson..wished I had gotten out sooner. You did the right thing. You really want to have the opportunity to explain this to the recruiter. Use the cover letter and expect to discuss it with the recruiter.

    Where work you have don’t has been consulting, refer to it as consulting…there’s no surprise when the terms are shorter. It’s expected.

    Is there any way that you you can group any of the work? Are there more htan one consulting gigs or more than one start-up that you can pull together. You want to do that where you can so it looks less busy.

    No matter what, the recruiter is going to get to the fact of the dates of your employment, so I’d go ahead and do the chronological resume, but I’d put a functional section at the top so they see that first.  Have your elevator pitch down (emphasize that it was during a time in your life where you were able to personally take greater risks but now you want to find a company where you can build a career over the long term).

  19. David says:

    Excellent info , I’m glad I stumbled upon this site …. how would you organize a functional resume that showed promotion within the organization?  It seems like a silly question, but the "one-page-only" brownshirts have been beating me up and I’m trying to go ultra-minimal.  

    Thanks in advance.

    David

  20. HeatherLeigh says:

    David, you could list the company and then list each position separately. If the roles were essentially the same (just more seniority with each one), you could bunch the titles together. Does that make sense? You don’t have to list the company more than once. I’d just make sure that you put dates to the titles.

  21. needs help says:

    I have held several positions which were stepping stones the position I am in now.  By that, I mean, that although the primary focus of those jobs was not my current title, many of the skills I acquired as a result of the daily responsibilites. I have a very diverse employment record because many of my skills are transferable across industries. As a result, my resume is too long and I believe impeding my ability to be noticed by hiring managers.  Who wants to read a detailed 3 1/2 page resume.  Could I use a functional resume to highlight the relevant skills and offer to provide a chronological resume for more detail in my cover letter?

  22. RobbieRob says:

    I have been having some difficulty getting a "return" on my resume.  I have been told to switch over to a functional resume but after reading this I really don’t know.  My background is diverse (I was a Purchasing Manager for an I.T. dept. at a Mortgage Company, Team Lead for a Mortgage Company and now for the past 6 years I have been working in a capacity of a Business Development Manager.)  I have been involved in many diverse projects and I have just having a difficult time relaying who I am and what I can do for a company….help!?!?  Can anyone give me some direction?