When you are looking for a new job, it is imperative to write a great resume to get your foot in the door. Many people automatically create a chronological resume, in which they list their past jobs in order by date. While a chronological resume can work very well to display the evolution of your career, there is also another format to consider: the skills-based resume.
A skills-based resume, also called a functional resume, is an alternative to a chronological resume that focuses on highlighting your skills, rather than outlining how your career path has evolved. On a chronological resume, your job title and past employers are listed prominently, and information about what you did at each job is listed beneath the job title and employer name. However, when you create a skills-based resume, you feature each skill you have acquired as a bold heading. Underneath each skill, you explain where and how you acquired that skill, including how you used it in past positions.
Chronological Resume vs. Functional Resume
Although both a chronological resume and a skills-based resume are designed to show off your experience and qualifications, they do so in completely different ways.
The “experience” section of your chronological resume might look like this:
Marketing Manager, Company ABC, May 2009 – Present
Managed marketing department and supervised eight employees. Conducted regional marketing campaigns. Increased sales volume by 20%.
Assistant Marketing Manager, Company ABC, June 2007 – May 2009
Assistant to manager of marketing department. Implemented new marketing campaign to launch four major product lines.
Marketing Intern, Company XYZ, April 2006 – June 2007
Assisted with marketing campaigns. Worked with marketing manager and engineering department to streamline product manuals for improved customer experience.
This formatting shows how you evolved from an intern to a marketing manager, and helps you to highlight how your responsibility increased. It works in this case because you acquired increasing responsibility at your different jobs, and, presumably, because all of your positions have been related to the job you are looking for in marketing.
A functional resume is not organized by the different jobs you have held. Instead, you use the name of a specific skill for each heading. For example, your resume might read:
Conducted regional marketing campaigns at Company XYZ
Increased sales volume of product lines by 20%
Participated in the launch of major product lines
Streamlined product manuals for improved customer experience
Supervised eight employees in marketing department at Company ABC
Conducted weekly meetings and set goals for staff
Implemented staff training program to train marketing interns
Instead of highlighting how your career has evolved, this format places the emphasis on the different skills that you have learned throughout your career, and allows your employer to clearly see what you bring to the table. As you can see in the example, you still identify who you worked for or where you obtained the experience, as this is identified beneath each skill. It is just not the entire focus of the resume, since you instead place a priority on highlighting your knowledge and skills, rather than your employment history.
When Is a Skills-Based Resume the Right Choice?
Both a chronological resume and a functional resume can be effective in making an employer interested in learning more about you. However, depending on your employment history, one may be better than the other.
A skills-based resume may be the best choice in several situations:
- You Don’t Have a Long Employment History in Related Jobs. A chronological resume showing only one past job or a string of jobs not relevant to your current or desired position is not going to be useful since it won’t be immediately clear why an employer should hire you. If you have acquired skills that transfer to your position through volunteer work, while in school, or while working in an unrelated field, a skills-based resume can be a much better option.
- You Have Stayed in One Position for a Long Time. You may have held one job for your whole career, but have worn many hats while in that position. If your job requires you to use a wide array of talents and skills, this may be more clear in a skills-based resume than in a chronological resume.
- You Are Applying for a Job That Requires Many Technical Skills. For example, if you are applying for a job as a computer programmer, you might want to include each different programming language that you know as a highlighted, bold section on your resume. The fact that you know these different programming languages and have used them is more important than who you have worked for and what job titles you have held.
- You’ve Changed Jobs Frequently. Many changes in your career may suggest to an employer that you can’t really commit. Therefore, it is better to highlight your skills and the fact that you have acquired multiple talents, rather than drawing attention to the fact that you’ve jumped from position to position.
- You Have Significant Gaps in Your Employment History. Again, having a big gap in your job track can be seen as disadvantageous by employers and you don’t necessarily want to emphasize this gap on your resume. Instead, impress your employer by listing your skills. This may spark the interest of a potential employer enough to secure an interview, during which you can explain why you are the right candidate for the job.
In all of these situations, a functional resume can be the best choice. However, if you’ve advanced through different positions and have acquired more responsibility and increasingly prestigious job titles, then a chronological resume may be the best choice.
Finding Resume Templates
If you have decided that a skills-based resume is the right choice for you, there are a number of different websites that offer templates to get you started. Some sources include ReadySet HIRED!, Job Seeker’s Workshop, and Illinois State University Career Center.
In today’s difficult job market, it is important to set yourself apart from the crowd and to make a good first impression. A functional resume can make it easier for potential employers to see how you can add value to their organization and may help you get your foot in the door for a job interview. If you are the right person for the job, you need to make this fact as obvious as possible – even if it means presenting a resume that deviates from the norm.
Have you ever utilized a skills-based resume? If you are an employer, how would you react to receiving one?