What’s a functional resume and why is it important?

Choosing the right resume format is just as important as what you include. There are several different options to choose from, and each has its place in the employment search. For many people who are transitioning from the military, a functional resume is probably the best choice. If you’re unclear on what a functional resume is and why it’s useful, don’t worry. We’re going to cover the basic format and how you can seamlessly repurpose your existing resume to something that’s employer-friendly.

A functional resume is a format that helps you highlight your skills and experience instead of relying on chronological work history. This is the ideal format for anyone (like you!) who is in the process of changing careers, or whose work history might not precisely align with the jobs for which you’re applying. When you use a functional resume, you’re able to showcase specific skills and capabilities.

Functional resumes are totally different from traditional resumes for a few reasons. A conventional resume is a timeline of your work experience. These resumes give brief examples of what you did in each role, and the focus is usually on the job title and how long you were at a particular position.

Since much of the world doesn’t understand anything relating to military jobs, traditional resumes are not going to serve you well unless you’re applying for something in the government sector or defense industry where hiring managers might understand your past positions.

When writing your functional resume, make sure you include a resume summary. This summary is a few lines that focus on the skills you have and how they’re relevant to the job. Think of the summary as a pinpoint view of your career in the military overall and find language that helps employers think about you in a positive light.

Next, make sure you organize your resume by theme. Since functional resumes are all about skills, you need a clear, discernable order that’s easy to follow. You might include sections like “Customer Service Experience” or “Team Building Experience” to help hiring managers easily and quickly discover if you have the right skills for the job.

As with all resume creation, make sure you’re using the right keywords. Keywords are the action words that are given to you in the job posting. You need to integrate these into your functional resume so that the employer can easily scan your work history. You might consider using these keywords in headings or subheadings for sections where you describe skills and accomplishments.

Mentioning relevant projects that are related to the job is important, too. This gives you the chance to demonstrate your success in different areas.

Of course, you should still include a brief employment history at the bottom of your resume just so the hiring manager knows you have work experience. The beauty of a functional format is that an employer will be able to focus on your skills and not the chronology of your work history. Done well, this can help you stand out from the rest of the applicant pool and might help you advance to the next round in the employment process.

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