Parsing Systems and the Demise of the Functional Resume

For decades, many job seekers who are changing careers have been led to believe that the traditional Functional Resume is "the" tool to attract employers. After all, when your experience doesn't relate, you need to focus on your skills, right?

There is, of course, truth to the idea that employers don't see the value of transferable skills unless it is pointed out to them. This means that when a job seeker is changing careers, a chronological approach to a resume—which only presents your work history—is unlikely to attract a hiring manager's attention in the initial 15-second human screening. It is this fact that brought about the functional strategy in the first place. By listing only job titles, company name, and dates with no description of day-to-day responsibilities or accomplishments you force the reader to focus on your skills.

In reality, a combination format—with both chronological and functional elements—is typically most effective. This structure presents your transferable skills in a functional skill summary but then also supports those claims with details and accomplishments from your work history so the employer isn't left wondering what you might be hiding. For years, this has actually been the best approach for those changing careers because it tells the employer more and avoids unanswered questions; however, job seekers still found some degree of success with the traditional functional resume…until now.

Over the last few years, new advances in resume screening technology have sounded the death knell for the functional resume. Direct hiring companies and job sites alike are using parsing systems: for example, the 6Sense Search Technology used by has improved the ability of hiring managers to screen resumes using relevant keywords, job titles, and years of experience. Traditionally, keyword searches had a very limited ability to distinguish between closely related concepts and skills or between recent and dated experience of those skills.1 Newer technologies specifically look not only for what job responsibilities you performed (keywords) but when and how often you performed them. They can also infer based upon the meaning of words and concepts rather than relying upon narrow definitions.

When one of these parsing systems gets a functional resume and finds no keywords directly associated with dated work experience, a hiring manager will not be able to see for how long and how recently the related skills have been used. Since hiring managers can often compare candidates directly, through results given from parsing, without looking at the resume2, this will most often result in the functional resume never even getting a look. Since—as noted above—the only reason to use a functional format is to attract the hiring manager to your related skills, it would seem that there is no longer any purpose for this style of resume for most employers.

The right resume is critical for success in your job search and must evolve with technology and trends in the job search world. While the functional resume was once a great idea, it has little value in the contemporary job search! A professionally written resume, regardless of whether you are a career changer, will be written targeting your current goals, and with new technologies, trends, keywords, and appropriate design for your industry. If you opt to have your resume crafted by experts, be sure they are up-to-date on current trends and technologies as this will impact the effectiveness of the resume they prepare for you. You can find tips on creating an effective professional career change resume at:


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