Last week, while I was writing my weekly post, a job seeker posed an interesting problem. He has an accounting degree, and worked in accounting for years. Then he started an event promotion business shortly before the Pandemic. His business dropped 95%, so now he is considering a return to an accounting career. Should he build a functional resume?
My answer was no. Here are the reasons why I do not think a functional resume is the answer for job seekers with similar situations:
- Employers and recruiters are suspicious of functional resumes,
- ATS systems do not interpret functional resumes correctly,
- LinkedIn is aligned with reverse-chronological resume formats, and
- The traditional reverse chronological format can highlight pre-pandemic accomplishments.
Briefly, a functional resume is organized according to job function, instead of listing employers in reverse-chronological order, with a description of each role, and your accomplishments in the job directly under the employer entry. The functional format is appealing to job seekers desiring to go back into roles they had a few years ago, because they can put experience in a previous job at the top of the experience section. The format also appeals to career changers because it allows them to emphasize accomplishments that are most closely related to their new target even if those accomplishments are not recent.
I do not have examples of functional resumes because I rarely write them for reasons we will discuss below.
Employers and recruiters are suspicious of functional resumes.
Functional resumes either have no employment dates on them, or group employers, job titles, and employment dates in a separate section at the bottom of the document. The job seeker’s accomplishments are in a separate section of the resume so the reader cannot quickly match accomplishments with the job and time period where they took place. Readers want to know when and where their job candidates did their work, and the resume does not answer this question. For example, if the first accomplishment on the resume is related to computer network security, it is relevant whether your network experience was in 2020 or 2010. Computer security skill requirements have probably changed substantially in the last ten years. In fact, even the job title has changed to “cybersecurity.”
Several years ago, someone sent me a resume with no dates on it. The resume included an impressive list of executive and senior professional positions. It looked as if the job seeker should be highly sought-after in his field. Upon conversing with the job seeker, I learned he held the job featured prominently near the top of the resume—a senior position at a public agency overseas—40 years ago! His recent positions, although impressive, were quite short, and he had many employment gaps he was vague about.
This is an extreme example, although it illustrates why hiring teams are suspicious of functional formats.
ATS systems do not interpret functional resumes correctly.
A new problem has emerged in the past decade—resumes are now scanned with computer software when submitted. This automated screening normally replaces initial review by an HR assistant. Several experts have cautioned me that Job search web sites, such as Monster will not “populate” their databases correctly with your information if you upload it in a functional format. A mass market resume service I once worked for did not permit us to create functional resumes for our clients because of this limitation.
Corporate applicant tracking systems (ATS) work the same way. The site may or may not show you how your resume is being translated in its database. At a minimum, you will have to do extra work so your employment history and accomplishments are entered correctly into the database. You may have to hand enter, or copy and paste the data. It’s not a lot of work, but it increases the chance of error. This is a big reason to stick with the traditional reverse-chronological format.
LinkedIn is aligned with reverse-chronological resume formats.
LinkedIn is gaining importance for both job seekers and recruiters. In fact, some hiring teams use certain LinkedIn products as their ATS solution.
Take a look at any LinkedIn profile, including mine. It’s organized much like a traditional reverse-chronological resume with a contact information section, summary, employment history, education and other sections.
Fortunately, LinkedIn now allows us to write a 2600 character summary, so you can write it the way you want. LinkedIn’s search engine highly scores the summary, now labeled the “About” section. This will help us tell a story that captures the attention of hiring teams before they focus on your employment (or lack thereof) during the Pandemic year.
For the time being, we need both conventional resumes and LinkedIn profiles, as discussed in a previous post.
Your traditional reverse-chronological resume can emphasize pre-pandemic accomplishments.
Resume writers consider the top third of the first page—the portion “above the fold” if you were to print the document and put it in an envelope—as space for contact and summary information. You can “tease” your full story, not just the past year, by using the space well. Our examples show how we prepare summaries.
Here is a resume summary from an example featured on our website that brought forward several years of experience in the job seeker’s career:
CONTACT CENTER SUPERVISOR ▪ CUSTOMER SERVICE REPRESENTATIVE
A Proven Leader and Expert in All Aspects of Contact Center Operations
Customer Care Resolution Specialist with extensive experience as a supervisor and representative in automotive service, regulated utility and medical device contact and call centers. Skilled in training, motivating, and inspiring Spanish-speaking and English-speaking customer care representatives, supervising union and non-union staff, developing and implementing operating procedures for an outsourced contact center, resolving complex escalated customer issues, productivity improvement and order processing. Trained outsourced customer care reps to operate an overseas contact center. Increased new appointment conversion rate nearly 400% in 1 year at a startup auto service contact center.
Your summary will look even better on a formatted resume!
Much of my experience has been helping job seekers impacted by economic disruptions, including the dot-com bust, 9-11, and the economic crisis of 2007-2008, so schedule a conversation with us to see how we can help you prepare for the post-pandemic job market.