The Functional Resume

Functional resumes (also called competency-based resumes) are often recommended for those seeking to change careers. Rather than chronological resumes, which list work experience by date and highlight accomplishments from each job, functional resumes emphasize the actual skills rather than the positions held. By matching your skills and abilities to those that the position requires, your resume does a lot of the work for the employer.

Another reason for the functional resume is to highlight achievements or qualifications that date quite far back. For example, if you were once the senior teacher at a school, but then took a six year break to have children and ended up taking entry level positions again recently, the functional resume may be for you. Similarly, you may have been ready for a career change a few years ago, and as a result you have not put your best effort forward at your current position. In scenarios where your most recent job placement is not your best reference, the functional resume is a good alternative.

Keep in mind that as with any good resume, you should focus on your accomplishments and skills rather than your roles and responsibilities. Employers already know the basic duties of a job. They are more interested in finding out which skill areas you excelled in. Here are the main sections found in a functional resume:

Objective: A career change resume is one of the only types where an objective line may be considered necessary. Without one, a potential employer may question why an ESL teacher is applying for a computer programmer position, or vice versa. However, make sure that your objective does not limit your opportunity at a company or school. If you state that you want to be manager of a bank, your resume may get thrown away before the employer reads your qualifications. Your objective should be one or two short statements matching your desire to the specific employer's needs. The idea that you are hoping to use your transferable skills in the position should also be placed in a cover letter. Here are two sample objectives that you can make your own:

Objective 1: Seeking a position in publishing that will maximize my ten years experience in the teaching field.

Objective 2: To apply the skills I've gained in my ten years of sales and marketing to obtain a position as an ESL teacher.

Qualifications: This section is sometimes referred to as the summary section. With the average resume being reviewed for 20 to 30 seconds, this could be an important part of your resume. In the case of a functional resume, choose 3 of your skills and abilities that match those that the employer is seeking. Reword them in point form bullets beneath your objective line.

Work Experience: Listing work experience is optional in a Functional Resume. If you decide to include it, you just need a short bulleted list of your recent places of work and the dates you worked there. (No references) Some experts believe that leaving this part off shows that you have something to hide. If your resume is strong, and you mention your work experience in your skills section, it may not be necessary to include this section. You should also exclude it if you have no work experience, or if you do not want your potential employer to request references from previous ones.

Sample Functional Resume/CV

Dean Brown
3345 Garden Place
Sarasota, FL 34231

Objective: Seeking a position in a non-profit industry where my extensive teaching and communication experience will be used in full.

  • Strong writing, editing, and presentation skills
  • Proficient in organized and environmentally friendly administration
  • Ability to develop rapport with people of all cultures and ages


Writing Skills
  • Wrote and edited sections of Andrews Language Academy company website and newsletter from 2000-2002.
  • Addressed student concerns and inquiries via e-mail help desk.
  • Researched motivational learning techniques in relation to multicultural groups and composed essays using MLA format. Presented findings in various workshops from 2002-2006.
  • Created and contributed to an International Teacher's Group Blog, titled Show Don't Tell. Blog was featured in China News Daily in May 2007.
Leadership Skills
  • Served as ELT Wonderschool representative in Job Fair 1999.
  • Coached new and returning students at monthly intake day sessions at Andrews Language Academy.
  • Designed and taught an Advanced writing course for business learners for ELT Wonderschool in 2004.
Organizational Skills
  • Used computer skills including Microsoft Word, PowerPoint, Adobe PhotoShop, and HTML to aid in systematic and creative lesson planning.
  • Developed and maintained reusable teacher files to save time and money, and reduce environmental waste.
  • Met and exceeded daily, weekly, and monthly deadlines for newsletters, test writing, and student records in various teaching positions.
Interpersonal Skills
  • Motivated hundreds of students to become proficient readers in North America and Asia.
  • Developed active listening skills during ten years of teaching ESL in paid and volunteer positions.
  • Maintained an open door policy during all positions as a senior teacher.
  • Participated in panel interviews with administrators during teacher recruiting sessions.
  • (tutoring and editing) present
  • ESL Wonder School 2002-2004
  • Andrew Language Academy 1999-2002
  • Beijing Baby Preschool (Volunteer) 1995-1996
  • Seoul English Camp for Kids (Volunteer) 1995
  • TESL Nation Certification, Florida, 1995
  • BA, Dramatic Arts University of Florida 1994

See also Transferable Skills for ESL Teachers