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Warning: A "(dys)functional" resume could kill your job search
by Jessie Richardson, Contributing Writer

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You may have heard that there are several resume styles from which to choose. Although technically this is true, there is one style that you should avoid at all costs, unless you want your military resume to end up in the circular file. I am referring to the functional resume.


In an article posted on the "Fistful of Talent" blog entitled "In Memoriam: Obituary of the (Dys)Functional Resume", Dawn Hrdlica Burke, Professional in Human Resources (PHR), an HR manager for MailSouth with over 10 years of HR experience, memorializes the death of the functional resume. According to Hrdlica Burke, a functional format is only suitable for "experience too limiting to be forthright."

Functional resumes begin with a professional summary that lists primary functional skills, such as project management, maintenance, reorganization, etc. This is followed by skills and significant achievements for each of the primary functional skill sets. Next is a tabular summary of employment (depending on the military resume), followed by education and certifications. Hrdlica Burke's issues with functional resumes are outlined in the following excerpt:

"Why am I frustrated with functional resumes and professionals who recommend them?

  • If I see a functional resume, I know you are trying to hide something. Or someone has advised you to hide something.
  • They are difficult to read - too much text, no CONTEXT.
  • They give the recruiter too much power. Why? By eliminating important details such as chronological order to your accomplishments, candidates are letting recruiters fill in the blanks for your story. Never a good idea.
  • It makes me believe that you are not confident enough with your work history or skills to be confident enough to work for my organization.
  • If you don't have any work experience - GET SOME."


In my opinion, there are three problems with functional resumes:

1. They do not provide hiring managers with enough information. As a hiring authority, how am I to know if you have three months or three years of "project management" experience?


2. They come across as suspicious. Functional resumes are popular among people with something to hide, such as habitual "job hoppers" and those with large gaps in their employment history.


3. They tend to be heavy on empty phrases like "exceptional leadership skills." To a seasoned resume reviewer, this means nothing. A great resume leads the reader, on his or her own, to come up with the very assertions you would like to make. Aim to show, not tell.


The best format choice for military-experienced job seekers aiming to highlight progressive leadership experience is a reverse chronological resume. This is the format always used by the professional military resume writers at www.MilitaryResumes.com. A reverse chronological resume lists employment with the most recent position first. Each entry includes the company, job title, dates, and a job description with an emphasis on accomplishments, and includes either an education or certifications section.

In summary, readers want your military resume in a certain format. List your work experiences in reverse chronological order rather than by the function performed. If collateral duties and multiple, simultaneous jobs make your reverse chronological timeline somewhat difficult to follow, add a "collateral duties" or "additional experience" section, and keep the focus on experience most relevant to your target. While a functional resume may make you feel better about representing your skills, it will not please the reader and you could miss opportunities because your resume ended up in the trash.

Jessie Richardson, CPRW, is a candidate recruiter for Bradley-Morris, Inc. (BMI), the largest military-focused placement firm in the U.S., and former director of resume services at MilitaryResumes.com. She is a Naval Academy graduate and regular commentator on job search best practices for military at the MilitarytoCivilian.com blog.

Return to March/April 2011 Issue