A reader asks:

I had a question concerning résumé building. A friend and I were discussing the advantages or disadvantages of a Functional format résumé. I argued that the Functional CV better showcases the skills necessary to do the job, especially in career change situations.

My friend stated that recruiters (especially those in recruiting firms) simply disliked this format and that employers might find the format unusual. All of this to say she thinks these résumés are going straight to the trash.

We would like to know what you think about it. Is a Functional CV a no-no despite what we read on job hunting websites? Are there industries where these are simply not acceptable? and what about recruiters?

To be honest I still have a chronological résumé and I’m tempted to switch things over for my yearly CV review and update.

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Excellent question! To clarify, a chronological CV is one that lists a particular job one held and the tasks related to that job and then continues in that order. A functional résumé, however, lists the tasks an individual held throughout her (or his) career and then follows with a list of positions held with dates of employment.

As always, there is no one answer to fit every situation. However, it could be helpful to keep in mind that you want to showcase your skills and experience required for the position you are targeting as close to the top of your résumé as possible***.

To help decide which format to use, look at the job requirements for the position you are targeting and ask yourself the following question: “Did I have these responsibilities in my last two jobs or are these skills something I acquired through my whole career or education and could potentially bring to the table?” If your answer is the former, then chronological résumé is the clear choice since you will be able to list your most recent job tasks matching those set forward in the job ad. When looking for a lateral move or for career continuity, a chronological résumé will help “sell” you to a potential employer better. If the answer is the latter, then a functional résumé is more suitable, as you will be able to highlight your skills and overall experience. If you are looking for a career change, have been off the job market or self-employed for a few years, choose this format without a doubt.

A combination résumé is also a suitable option. If you are in a project management type of role or are a senior level candidate, listing all the different areas of expertise could help highlight your experience without having to repeat yourself numerous times throughout the résumé.

You do, however, need to consider your “target audience”, in other words – the person to whom you are sending your CV.

A chronological résumé is without a doubt a format most of us are used to, and it is certainly true that a junior or an inexperienced recruiter will expect to see such a format. If you are applying through a large placement agency with a big focus on temporary mandates or are sending your résumé to an in-house recruiter, chances are high that you will be dealing with someone less experienced. In that case, I would suggest following the “norm” and avoiding your résumé potentially going straight to the trash without being analyzed. If you are applying through a headhunting firm or sending your résumé directly to the hiring manager, feel free to choose the format most appropriate to your career situation.

Hope this helps!

*** Interesting fact: When an employer runs keyword searches on Monster.ca, the web site lists résumés that contain such keywords at the top of the CV as a closer match than those that contain them in the middle of the résumé or at the bottom.

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