The Career Changer Resume Dilemma: Functional vs. Chronological

Posted on December 5, 2008. Filed under: Job Search Tips | Tags: , , , |

There’s been a lot of talk about how great functional resumes can be for career changers. You know, all those job seekers out there who are looking to head into a new direction, be it a new field entirely or new industry.

 

The premise behind a functional resume is to provide the candidate with an opportunity to highlight transferable skills and basically to “connect the dots” for the potential employer. Not to mention that candidates can downplay their lack of industry experience while playing up their soft skills.

 

Overall, it is a nice thought. And in theory it should work.

 

But it doesn’t.

 

The problem, of course, is that this reasoning places the candidate at the center of the resume. And if the candidate were supposed to be the main focus of the resume, then it would work out perfectly.

 

But once again, it doesn’t.

 

Why? Because the main focus of the resume is the audience, the target market, the potential employer. And most potential employers prefer to see a chronological work history combined with job summaries and accomplishments. They want to know where you have worked, for how long, and when. They want to see your career progression, and they want to see the context in which you developed those soft skills.

 

Also, with the 30 seconds a hiring manager is likely to give to your resume, he or she doesn’t want to have to try and figure out where you saved $5M in costs or generated $3M in sales. They want to see more than you just saying these things happened. They want to know where it happened and under what circumstances.

 

Therefore, by providing a functional format, you aren’t giving them what they want, no matter how nice it looks, how fantastic you are, or how much time or money you invested in creating the document.

 

That is why most recruiters will balk at functional resumes. They know that their clients (employers) don’t like them. I can’t tell you how many job seekers insist on having a functional resume only to have them shut down by recruiters. The seeker is then left stunned that the recruiter can’t see the genius in preparing the resume this way, how it shows them off in the best light. But the recruiter knows that no matter how great this candidate looks, the employer is going to want to see a chronological career progression.

 

“But how can I showcase my transferable skills then?”

 

You can still do a semi-functional format that profiles those skills, but you also need to highlight your work history. Listen. Employers aren’t dumb. You aren’t hiding anything with a functional format, and it doesn’t serve you to try and do so.

 

Instead, go ahead and admit it. You are a career changer. But that doesn’t mean all that work experience you gained over the last few years should be shoved to the bottom of p. 2! Instead be proud of that experience. They’re going to figure it out anyway.

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