Do functional resumes "cover up something?"

Tuesday, July 15th, 2008 - CV Writing


Roger asks: Over time I’ve read a number of responses to questions posted here implying that candidates uses functional resumes to hide gaps in employment, job hopping, and/or age. Responders do not seem to allow for any exceptions, meaning that every one of us who uses a functional resume does so with evil intent (my words).

I also read and hear that most staffing personnel spend only 5-15 seconds reviewing a resume to find a match. Given that statistic, it seems logical that a chronological resume would be much harder to scan for said match.

In my own experience with staffing personnel, they have made it clear that the main objective of a resume should be to list ONLY your qualifications for the position you are seeking and to do so as concisely as possible. Again, a chronological resume does not fit that objective.

Hence my question. The candidates I know create a resume with those things in mind. Including myself, there’s NO intent to hide or disguise anything. We simply want to list our qualifications in a manner that allows the recipient to review quickly for a match.

It seems an unfair and broad, sweeping generalization to label functional resumes in the fashion described above, especially since you can always ask for employment history once you’ve identified a candidate for an interview. And after all, what does it REALLY matter what I did 17 years ago?

In answer:
Originally, functional resumes created a wonderful format for putting on display your abilities. However, due to the general public’s access to so much information, functional resumes no longer were this secret weapon of job seekers. Therefore, it became known to the general public, even those who needed a way to cover up gaps.
As with any stereotype, there is that knee-jerk response; Why is this person focusing so much on their skills, and not their work history? Because functional resumes are a great way to hid gaps in employment (as well as all the other reasons you listed)

Yes, it is unfair for employers to generalize as such. In addition, if it gets to the point there is an interview, the employment history could be addressed. But, put yourself in a position where you screen resumes, and then conduct interviews. Would you want to spend half the interview reviewing their work history dates, (because that info was not provided on the resume) or ask them questions that pertain to the job?

Essentially it all boils down to saving time. If you can present yourself in a cover letter and resume quickly and clearly, you are one step ahead. You also did the HR, or whoever, a favour. You saved them time.

Here’s a though: When you see a new movie advertised starring Jack Nicholson do you expect (a) a romance, (b) high adventure, (c) something slightly weird. No prizes, I’m afraid, Roger. Now, you’re a staffer and somebody sends you a functional. What’s your first thought? In other words, hiring teams feel like they’re being duped and perhaps unconsciously become resentful of the candidate.

To address this problem, we have all but eliminated use of functional format, and begun pre-emptively explaining the reasons for the job gaps or lack of experience. In my 10-year career, I’ve found that there’s ALWAYS a good reason and a viable one at that.

Knowing the stigma of functional resumes, should be reason enough to stay away. The best way around them is a great combination of a cover letter that supports your resume. In addition, if you format your resume well, it should make it easy for the reader to find what they need – the same way a functional resume would.

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