How to Create a Functional Resume that Gets Results

Tools and plans for creating a functional resume that gets results


A functional resume is suitable for those with:

  • gaps in their work history; and/or
  • varied work experiences and accomplishments; and/or
  • those changing careers

In an increasingly fast and complex world, time is at a premium. By emphasizing skill sets and professional capabilities related and specific to the position sought, you save your prospective employers time. Providing you have what they're looking for (or close enough), your organized and considerate approach will make you more memorable.

Where the job is located and class of job is important when creating a resume. The location and class determines whether you use the resume format or the Curriculum Vitae (CV) format. They are quite different.

  • In North America
    • A CV is used when applying for academic, educational, scientific-research positions, fellowships and grants. It includes a summary of your educational and academic backgrounds as well as teaching and research experience, publications, presentations, awards, honours, affiliations and other details.
    • A resume is used for professional positions outside of academia and research. While information on education is required, it only needs to be the name of the educational institute and the degree obtained, most advanced degree first. Work experience and accomplishments are more important because it implies that you have the skill set that they need.
  • Outside of North America
    • CVs are used for both academic and professionals positions and the resume format is not used.

Purpose of Resume

A resume will not get you a job. You use it to get to the next step in the hiring process. That could be a telephone interview, a screening interview, a series of interviews with different managers, and so on. In the era of technology and new, emerging forms of work, a general resume for all positions will be ineffective; you must customize it to the position sought.

Depending on how many people apply, scanning software may be used to focus on certain words and phrases, skill sets and experience. To increase your chances, you may wish to add keywords associated with the position or industry.

Things to keep in mind:

  • Write the same way that you speak so that if you meet your potential employer, they will recognize that you are the same person who wrote the resume. This is a real consideration when asking others to write your resume. Make sure that they use language that reflects your use of vocabulary and grammar.
  • Be clear and concise
  • Avoid run-on sentences and those longer than 20-25 words
  • As a rule, use the active voice (the cat ate the mouse) and avoid using the passive voice (the mouse was eaten by the cat) as it is longer and less forceful
    Apply appropriate (business) action phrases & verbs but don't be excessive
  • Use bullet points to list things or numbered points for sequences
  • Spelling, punctuation and grammatical errors are killers
  • Sans-serif fonts (Arial, Tahoma, Verdana) are most often used for on-screen reading while Times New Roman is the business font for paper-based communications
  • Uses a vocabulary suited to the position, industry, and company
  • Formatting matters. So does the feel of the paper when mailing in a resume. Your resume, at first glance, can impress or depress the employer so use good quality paper.
  • Contact info - Be instantly accessible: provide your cell phone, primary and secondary email addresses, and physical address
  • For emailed resumes, use sans-serif fonts (Arial, Tahoma, Verdana) in font sizes of 10-12 point as they are most often used for on-screen reading.
  • If you remain unsure, check out what fonts the employer uses online
  • Space your sentences and indent your paragraphs so that information is easy to skim and read
  • If you are multi-lingual, be sure to list all those languages in which you are fluent.
  • Social Media involvement
    • List a blog - yours or others, to which you have contributed, especially if the blog and blog posts demonstrate a relevant skill set, an interest in, or discussion of, a subject related to the position sought. In any or all cases, your reasoning and communications abilities are on display; more so, if your posts have provoked comments
    • List your Twitter Id if you feel your tweets add value to your resume presentation
    • Try to ensure that nothing embarrassing is posted about you on-line.

Review Criteria

The following are the current review criteria used to judge professional resumes:

  • Clear and well formatted
  • Impact on audience
  • Clearly state the objective of the resume, if needed
  • Highlights relevant skills and experience
  • Appropriate vocabulary
  • Accomplishments listed and described
  • Concise and to the point
  • All major sections covered
  • Use of active verbs
  • Spelling and grammar
  • Effective use of social networking (score 5 if not applicable and add comment)
  • Scannable


Large, well-known companies may get hundreds, if not thousands, of resumes a month. They use resume-scanning software to go through all these submissions. There are two main things to keep in mind about making your resume scannable:

  • The format of a resume should be simple, clear and somewhat standardized. Avoid things such as fancy fonts, italics, underlining, embedded graphics, and most things that are not textual in nature.
  • Scanning software looks for keywords in your resume. These keywords take 2 forms:
    • General category keywords such as chemist/chemistry, programmer/programming, sales/account executive, video/movie producer, etc.
    • Specific keywords such as bioluminescence , C++/Java, medical devices, documentary, etc.

These keywords should be used in context so the resume reads as a coherent document. Typically, there should be one or more specific keywords for each general keyword. Use of general and specific keywords back each other up and make you more real.

Historically, there used to be a section called "Keywords". It is no longer needed and only clutters up your resume. This section is often ignored since it is too easy to "pack" irrelevant words into this section.

Legal issues

In North America, the resume should not mention age, race, gender, disabilities, family status, or anything else not relevant to your fulfilling the employer's needs. For example, your date of birth, or the date of your graduation need not be given. For this reason also, you may choose not to include a photo or video. In some cases, you may need to mention one of these attributes. For example, applying for the government's small business loans to minorities may require that you mention your race to qualify.