Functional Resumes. Friend or Foe?

Michelle Straka, Vice President, InsuranceWorks

Sep. 2004 – Most of us have, at one time or another, sat down to write a resume. It�s that little piece of paper, or two, that is our professional selves in a nutshell. Many wonder, �How can I possibly reduce my entire career into two pages?� The answer is clear, keep it simple.
Too often we find ourselves creating a resume that reads as a play-by-play of our professional life, rather than a highlight of our most marketable skills and talents. It is my firm belief that the greatest culprit is the dreaded �functional resume�. Touted by HR Consultants as the �future of the resume�, the functional resume takes the focus off the chronological order of job history, and instead uses most of the resume to group skills and abilities into broader categories. Typically the work history is hidden way down at the bottom of the resume, sure to be missed by the busy eyes of an HR professional or hiring manager.

HR professionals wonder if the purpose of a functional resume is to hide the job history at the bottom of the resume, so as to further hide a multitude of sins that may be lurking in our work histories. Inexplicable absences between jobs or a spotty work record are usually the offenses that we try to hide from potential employers. One also has to wonder though, if this is the correct approach. Have we not been told our whole lives to �be ourselves�? �Honesty is the best policy�, we were told as we reached the age at which we could spin a lie. Although it may sound a little na�ve to most adults, this may actually be a situation to which these lofty ideals apply. Firstly, it puts a sour taste in an HR professional�s or hiring manager�s mouth when they feel even the slightest inkling that an applicant is trying to pull the wool over their eyes. Secondly, HR professionals and hiring managers are very busy people, who have, on average, a couple minutes to review a resume. According to Amanda Buckland, HR Manager for CAA South Central Ontario Insurance Brokers, �We need critical information quickly.� This means that HR professionals and hiring managers do not want to spend ten minutes reading through our lists of skills and talents in order to determine if we are right for the job. Thirdly, they want to know exactly where and when we have gained and used the skills and talents we are purporting to have.

There is one very limited instance in which using a functional resume is acceptable, and that is when we are attempting a career switch; when we are seeking a job in which we have no previous experience, and instead of relying on our work history to reflect our suitability for the job, we want to highlight our transferable skills and talents. In all other circumstances, we should put our work history up front and center, in all it�s imperfection � absences, terminations, gaps and all. With a small paragraph highlighting a very specific list of our most marketable skills.

As we try to reinvent the wheel, there will always be deviations from the good old-fashioned chronological resume. However, as in every day life, clarity and simplicity reign supreme when it comes to creating a resume. Create your resume with your audience in mind � remember that in the busy workplace, most people don�t have more than a minute or two to read your resume. Any resume you create should be easy to read and clear. The last thing you want to do is to make your potential employer cranky with a convoluted resume, before you get the chance to even shake his or her hand. is Canada’s Leading Insurance Job Site. Job-seekers can search hundreds of jobs, receive email job alerts and post their resume for free. For Employers, offers affordable recruiting for insurance companies, brokers and anyone looking to hire insurance professionals.