Category Archives: Functional CV

Red Alert Resumés


I’m going to come clean. I hate functional CVs. With a passion.

As someone who reads possibly hundreds of CVs a week, there is nothing more frustrating than reading a list of qualities and so called achievements and still having very little idea of what the candidate did, does now and where he/she did or didn’t do, what they claim they could do in the future. See how confusing it is?

Smoke screens
The notion of a functional CV seems to be put forward by career columnists and consultants who no longer work , or have never worked, in search and recruitment. Ironically what totally functional resumes do is send out an immediate red flag alert to any savvy recruiter that something isn’t aligned with the required job profile. Functional CVs are in effect a smoke screen. They are a band -aid thought up to help candidates feel better, without necessarily producing better results.

Functional CVs take time to figure out and most recruiters do not have the time to work anything out at all. Those abstract ideas included in a functional CV are supposed to supplement content not distract from it, or worse still , replace it. We want ” eureka” , not head scratching moments. No content at all will almost certainly mean hitting the reject pile.

Functional CVs are based on self assessment. To give them any meaning metrics are needed. “Strongly entrepreneurial ” could mean anything from running a garage sale , to your own business. Turnover figures and market demographics are needed. So why not say you ran your own business with dates and figures and save everyone a lot of time. “Financial acumen ” is another one I frequently see. If this acumen is gained in a Fortune 500 company, or as a School Treasurer with a budget of millions of Euros, then that sends out a different message to managing a lunch group with a budget of several hundred, kept in a tatty envelope in a desk drawer.

Context matters

Functional CVs send out the following possible messages:
• There could be a lack of required experience or gaps in a CV ( including time off for parenting)
• There has maybe been some job hopping
• There has possibly been a termination ( firing or redundancy)
• There could be unrelated work experiences
• There are possibly skills acquired outside the workplace rather than in it: volunteer work or social or sporting activities
• Most recent work experience is not relevant to the job, but past experience is
• There perhaps has been a period of self-employment , freelancing or consulting
• There are concerns about age at both ends of the spectrum

Identifying transferrable skills plays a key part in the creation of a powerful resume. For me, their rightful place is in a strong mission statement, which is a quick snap shot of your skills and achievements. But they do need to be put into context, with a clear career chronology and details of your educational and personal development background. One line manager I dealt with recently almost binned the functional CV of a potential candidate because he thought it was a long ( and very boring) cover letter, not a resume!

Camouflaging
The antennae of any experienced recruiter are finely attuned to identify immediately the lengths anyone might go to hide their concerns. Elaborate camouflage techniques can jeopardize chances of being selected for interview, just as surely as a straightforward explanation of your circumstances and the actions you have taken to deal with them. Understanding those challenges and gaining insight into yourself and the skills that were required to overcome them will prove to be vital, not just in the creation of a resume but in the interview process.

Being up front can help

If you lost your job last year – say so. Lots of people did. If you retrained, attended courses and volunteered that sends an important message about how you responded to the challenge.

If you took time out to raise a family – say so . What you did during that period to stay professionally connected will show.

If you have been fired – don’t say so, but be prepared to offer a constructive explanation. If you have been fired repeatedly, then some self-examination or professional support would seem imperative.

Avoid the use of the word ”problems”. Of any kind. Recruiters home in on that word and then avoid it like the plague.

If you have relevant experience early in your career you might need a refresher course or to completely re-train. Do it and then say so!

If you are in a certain age demographic, then I agree , don’t put your date of birth, simply because you maybe cut by ATS. But do make every effort to be up to date and current – and say so.

If you are young and trying to demonstrate potential and have very specific achievements which you can highlight with metrics. Say so.

If you freelanced, set up your own business or consulted – say so. That requires very different skills to being a full time employee. What are those skills? Share them.

So on balance, is it really best to deal with any issues up front and early?

I think so.