Never Use a Functional Resume

I have been a recruiter since 2003 and a career counselor since 2009.  During this time I must have received hundreds of functional resumes.  Not in some; not in most; in ALL cases the sender was trying to hide something.  Allow me to explain:

Most job seekers either don’t know, or have forgotten, what the purpose of a resume is.  Traditionally, we say, “The purpose of the cover letter is to get the recipient to look at the resume; the purpose of the resume is to get the interview.”  True enough.  But the real purpose of the resume is to tell the recipient what they want to know.

So what does a resume recipient want to know?

First, where you live and how to contact you.  If they are conducting a search for local candidates only, and you are across the country, they don’t want to waste their time with you.  Not including your city and state of residence (no one needs to know your actual address), will not get you an interview.  At best, you will get a very short conversation:  “Where do you live?”  “Thank you, but we are only considering local candidates.  It’s on the job description!”

Second, can you keep a job?  How long did you work for your various employers?

Third, do you meet the minimum qualifications for consideration meaning, do you have the necessary education (degree), certifications, licenses, etc., not to mention years of experience?

Fourth, if you pass the first three tests, what were your most recent accomplishments.

That’s it.  Four things.  If your resume does not make those four clear, you will not be considered.

So what’s the problem with function resumes?

They usually begin with a description of the applicant’s accomplishments/ responsibilities by category.  For example, let’s say it is a business development professional.  There may be  headings for “Sales,” and “Marketing,” and “Client Acquisition and Retention,” and “Customer Service.”  Under each the owner will list their accomplishments and specific responsibilities.

That is all fine and good, but let’s say that the employer is interested in “Client Acquisition and Retention,” and the person has not been involved with that for 10 years.  That is something that they need to know but will not appear on a functional resume.  So when the employer calls and ask, “How long ago was your client acquisition and retention experience?” , that conversation will also be very short.

Under “Work Experience,” some persons list all current and past employers, but have one general heading for the years.  Except for the basics: name, title, location, there’s no content.  That sends the message that the applicant probably only had one job, if that, for a significant amount of time.  They are a jumper.  Employers don’t hire jumpers.

In other words, a functional resume sends the message:  I don’t want you to know how long I worked for my various employers and when was the last time I actually did what you are interested in hiring someone to do.

Stick to the traditional chronological resume.  Start with your name, city and state of residence, and contact information.  Don’t waste your time with an introductory paragraph telling the recipient how great you think you are; they do not care.  What they care about is what you have actually accomplished.  So start with “Selected Accomplishments” and half a dozen bullet points.  Then comes “Work Experience,” showing dates, employer name, your title, and what you actually did for the employers.  Then “Education,” “Certifications,” “Skills and Languages,” and “Volunteer Activities.”  And if you have them, “Awards and Honors,” “Publications,” “Media Citations,” and “Speaking Engagements” – all the things that tell employers that other people think you are as great as you think you are!

If you want an employer to call you, make certain your resume clearly answers their questions:  Where do you live and how can I reach you?  Can you keep a job?  Are you qualified?  What have you actually accomplished in your career that will make me confident you are the right person to solve my problems and how long ago was that?


Bruce Hurwitz is an executive recruiter, career counselor and business advisor.  In addition to serving on the Board of Directors of the Manhattan Chamber of Commerce, he chairs their Entrepreneurs Network, hosts their weekly podcast – The Voice of Manhattan Business – and serves as an Ambassador.  Visit the homepage of his website,, to read about the latest questionable offerings of so-called job search assistance companies.