In Memoriam: Obituary of the (Dys)Functional Resume


The Functional Resume, known more affectionately as “the confusing one” and “the manipulator” died today after a long steady decline.  The age of Functional Resume was unknown, since he refused to notate any of his works or accomplishments chronologically.

Functional Resume, born by professors and consultants, was a friend to job seekers convinced (by the same professors and consultants) that their experience was too limiting to be forthright.  Functional Resume was an outspoken advocate of praying on the naivety of candidates; candidates taught by generations past, that diverse, non-traditional career paths were shameful and that wordsmithing, trickery and deception were better paths into recruiting gatekeepers.  

Sadly, Functional Resume drew his last breath with the evolution of work-life balance, dual career paths, the emergence of Merger and acquisitions, and the economic crash of 2008-09.  These events lead recruiters to simply not care if a resume showed a less than steady chronological workflow, since it was a sign of the times.  

Functional Resume will be buried alongside of facsimile, typewriter, telegraph and dictaphone.


If you haven’t heard—functional resumes are dead.  And if they aren’t—then I am here to put them out of their misery.  

For those of you who don’t know, a functional resume is an alternative to the traditional chronological resume. It’s typically used when someone has no experience and instead of listing out jobs you list out your functional skill sets.

Why am I mad? I was talking to a colleague the other day…an HR professional, in transition. She was asking me about transitioning back into the HR world after owning her own business for 3 years.  During our conversation she shared with me that professional recruiters with HR backgrounds told her to use a functional resume.  As I was scratching my head I had to probe some more.


“But you have 10 years of HR experience, right?”


“And you then ran your own business for 3 years including staffing and HR compliance?”


“Why on earth were you advised to use a functional resume?”

In the 2 years since I sold my business, I’ve been working contracts. I was told it was too much of a gap. It shows I am not relevant or up to date?

I then went in the bathroom and threw up.  Well, in my mind.


So, from a recruiter’s perspective here is my advice to job seekers. It’s all about transferable skills.  It’s not about gussying up your credentials through big blocks of text; it’s not about focusing on long tenures in an era where everyone is being laid off. It is about showing depth, courage, resiliency and adaptability. 


Why am I frustrated with functional resumes and professionals who recommend them?

a)    If I see a functional resume, I know you are trying to hide something.  Or someone has advised you to hide something.

b)   They are difficult to read-too much text, no CONTEXT.

c)    They give the recruiter too much power.  Why?  By eliminating important details such as chronological order to your accomplishments, candidates are letting recruiters fill in the blanks for your story.  Never a good idea.

d)   It makes me believe that you are not confident enough with your work history or skills to be confident enough to work for my organization.


Lastly and most importantly:


e)   If you don’t have any work experience-GET SOME.  You don’t need an extensive resume to work at McDonald’s or Bed Bath and Beyond.  Swallow your pride, get some experience and write a real chronological resume. You’ll have fun and you will have started your career honestly.

FOT Background Check

Dawn Burke
Dawn Burke (PHR) is VP of People at DAXKO. That's right - the very DAXKO that our very own KD is an alum of because there are only so many people (okay, just one) in the big B'ham who are worthy of that VP of People title. Dawn would be it. Former actor/singer/retail guru, her HR career has spanned the last decade. A true Generalist she’s done a little bit of everything, but recruiting and training is where she gets her mojo. She's based in the good 'ole blogging capitol of the south, Birmingham, Alabama, where you can frequently find her listening to the Beatles and REM, watching tons of Sex in the City reruns, drinking copious amounts of coffee and wine, and wondering how in the world this theatre grad ever got into football or HR…. Talk to Dawn via emailLinkedIn, or Twitter...


  1. Agree. A meaningful resume is all about resonating with the target reader’s needs and the problems ‘they’re’ trying to solve vs. a shell game.
    I love what you wrote about it being about showing depth, courage, resiliency and adaptability. A recruiter can sniff out an honest and ‘fitting’ resume candidate.
    Jacqui Barrett-Poindexter

  2. Jane Dedek says:

    I so agree! It IS all about transferrable skills. Your job today might not exist in 5 years, your job 5 years from now might not exist today. It’s what you CAN do that matters.

    This also reminds me of the very irritating “what-did-you-major-in-at-university” conversation. My answer? Anthropology. Yup. And you know what? I learned to read, write, think critically, analyse. So I’m good at my job today. Which has nothing to do with anthropology.

    Why does job history have to be any different?

  3. HR Minion says:

    I love this post. I hate functional resumes and I am always surprised when genuinely experienced people use them.

  4. Todd Rogers says:

    Amen to this post. Nail was hit squarely on the head.

  5. Kim Bailey says:

    To me, I understand people wanting to avoid being looked over for what they (or some “expert”) perceives as issues in their work history. However, what they forget is that people who recruit have to shovel through a LOT of resumes and if we can’t see some bulletted basics to be able to QUICKLY determine a possible match, then we are moving on….that is where the now dead (hopefully) functional resume got lost. I do not have time to read through miles and miles of flowery language to try to translate what might (or might not) relate to what I need.
    So, I say, farewell and good riddance! RIP!!

  6. Tim Quinn says:

    Dawn … brilliant and timely. Loved this, stole it to FB … showing depth, courage, resiliency and adaptability!!!!! Tim Quinn

  7. Mike M says:

    Dawn, this is perfect. When I see a functional resume, I immediately start looking for what the person was hiding. It is too hard to piece together what they were actually doing.
    The traditional chronological resume works people, just stick with it.

  8. Alex de Soto says:

    Seth Godin argues that if you want a great job you don’t even need a resume!

  9. Great post!! Functional resumes make me puke as well. Only weak and/or mis-advised job seekers use them.

  10. Very well said!
    I can’t remember the last time I wrote a functional resume for a client.
    Functional resumes have always been creepy, but the scariest part is that recruiters with HR backgrounds advised your colleague to use this format…
    It takes some creativity, but it’s a rare situation where nothing can be done with a person’s background while providing chronology and context.

  11. Bob Corlett says:

    Oh yeah. The truth, plainly spoken. Thank you for saying it.

  12. Good points. As an active executive searcher, I strongly prefer the functional aspects of a person’s background (transferrable skills) limited to the mission statement or professional summary only. The rest for me should be chronological. CVs where I have no clue what the person does or did, when, or where and for how long – rarely make the cut.

  13. HRApril says:

    Thank goodness. I am so sick of reading dribble that is meaningless and convoluted.

  14. Dawn,
    Really well said. Transparency is king and trying to put one over on recruiters and HR has never worked. Glad to hear the functional resume is finally out of its misery!

  15. B Piccione says:

    Great to hear this one is cleared up. Question for the group- It is my understanding that most resumes go through a “digital reader” which searches for key words that match the job description. If that’s true then little matters if we don’t hone our skills to create a unique resume for every job. Your thoughts would be appreciated, since I was just about to switch my resume to a functional format.

  16. Carlos says:

    I am someone who nearing completion of my bacherlor’s degree and is looking to jump careers, which just happens to be Human Resources. My school’s career counselor is suggesting I use a functional resume since my work history in HR is none but I have been in admin/clerical field for 15 years. I know I have to start in a entry level position. Would a chronological resume still benefit someone with no previous expierence in a field? Help! I dont want to start sending a dead resume before I even get out the gate.

  17. justhired says:

    It is a very interesting post that, in my opinion, describes specific preferences for reviewing job application information by particular HR professional(s). I do not see and do not believe that functional resume is that dead as described in the post. I believe it is still alive and it has its well established territory within today’s labour market. I also believe that functional resume will keep its territory for an indefinite time because there are job candidates using it and there are hiring managers looking for a competent in various functional areas staff. Functional resume highlights functional competencies, not only past achievements and current abilities to do a job. Competencies include more than a detailed work history (one can do the same job with the same job duties over and over again). Competencies are a set of knowledge, skills and abilities obtained through formal and non-formal education, paid and unpaid work experience, life experience required to do a job effectively within both, your company and labour market dynamics. Competencies within different functional areas are a good projection for future workforce flexibility and the latter is in a higher demand today due to more frequent and rapid changes in a labour market. For those who have concerns regarding the hidden work history, functional resume does include work history synopsis, such as position title, company name and dates of employment. So, I do not see how it can hide candidate’s employment history.
    When choosing the correct resume format, one should take into consideration a variety of factors including but not limited to a jobseeker’s career stage, market conditions, and industry requirements. By the end of the day, either chronological or functional, resume must be clear, logical, well organized, relevant and easy to read. Content is crucial!

  18. TalentTalks says:

    FINALLY, some common sense! I can’t begin to tell you how much I relate to this article. Every time I hear someone mention or recommend to idea of using a functional resume I cringe.
    Who are these bone-heads that keep this foolish concept going? They are doing a complete disservice to job seekers who already have enough challenges.
    Resume writing is complicated and confusing for most people, thus the reason most resumes created by mis-informed job seekers totally lack what the recipient expects to see. I don’t remember the source, but recently read a statistic that said approximately 90% people involved with hiring process dislike (ignore?) functional resumes.
    I’ve been writing resumes since the ’90’s and have NEVER produced a functional resume and don’t plan to. If someone has complex career issues, flaws, gaps, divergent information to address, they should get some professional help with their resume from someone who has the creativity and insight to deal with those situations in the most effective manner – or as suggested in the article, begin seeking employment that doesn’t require a resume until they have enough consistent experience to put something relevant together to compete in the current job market.
    I actually have a partially completed blog in the works on this very topic – glad to see some credible reinforcement to my opinions on this touchy subject.

  19. Jenny from the Block says:

    I am recruiting for a senior executive position today and I’ve gotten nothing but functional resumes. I detest functional resumes, almost as much as I detest receiving phone calls based on ads when I specifically state in the ad, “no phone calls please.”

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