How to Write a Functional Resume

From the Desk of Chip Cossitt

Sr. Partner, Warren & Morris, Ltd., Executive Search.


How to Write a Functional Resume

One constant in the life of a recruiter is being asked to help with resumes.  I get asked to help with peoples resumes a lot… I mean, a lot, a lot.  Always happy to help but figured instead of taking the time to write to everyone individually, why not put it out here?  This way it can be accessible to anyone/everyone.  Are you writing a resume? Are you a recruiter helping someone write theirs or perhaps tasked with (re)writing it for them? This is a quick read and it will walk you through making a great resume, step-by-step. 

First, choose a widely accepted document  (WORD, for example) and add your name, address and contact information.  Turn it into a .pdf after if you wish.  As for Name: Use the one that’s on your birth certificate.  Use your current Address or for added privacy, feel free to simply list your city and state.  List your contact information, including a working Phone and Email address.  Make the email address an actual working link so they can click it and contact you right from the resume. 


Do you need an objective?  That’s up to you.  I find them limiting in that the content can be misconstrued and end-up working against you.  But if you like it, by all means, add one. 

Under this, add the word Experience or Work History, include Title, Employer, tell the audience About the employer, What you were hired to do and finally list the Successes you had with those responsibilities. It’s that easy….  I’ve taken the liberty of providing some (fictitious) examples below.

(Title) Vice President of Marketing

(Employer)  The Thorn Group, Dublin, Ireland

-          Want to stand out?  Highlight the company name and link it to the website.  You can  even link it to the specific part of the website that discusses the business unit you work(ed) in.  The main points will be on the resume but if they want to learn more, you’ve made it as easy as one click for them to do so.

(About the employer)  The Thorn Group, commonly known as Thorn, is an Irish multinational enterprise software company based in Dublin, Ireland. Thorn employs more than 14,000 in offices across 20 countries, is the UK's third largest technology company and is the world's fourth-largest supplier of enterprise resource planning software.

-          The key here is scope and scale.  After a quick read, the reader has a pretty good understanding of Thorn.  I find myself telling people this often, “Just because you know the details of your company, doesn’t mean everyone else does.” 

(What I was hired to do)

-          Remember the ad you saw that made you want to apply to the position?  That first paragraph that detailed the Responsibilities?  That’s what goes here.  In short, the overview of the job they want you to do.  For example:  Oversee the User Acquisition, Marketing, and Creative Services teams while working cross-functionally with Product, Design, Data Science and Platform Engineering to drive growth in users and monetization across the portfolio.  This section is specifically designed to outline what your responsibilities are/were.  Keep this short and sweet and keep it in a paragraph format.  Below this is where you will follow-up with your successes with those responsibilities. 

(Successes with those responsibilities) 

This is where you will list achievements, or, what you did with the responsibilities you were given. This is often formatted in bullets. 

-          Full profit and loss responsibility for $75M

-          Grew staff from seven to 18 in 2019

That’s it.  Easy right?  Now just do this for each of your roles.  Wash, rinse, repeat.  When you have completed this, add your education (unless you want it to be on the top of the document, your call), and add other professional achievements, list certifications, things of this nature.  And below this, feel free to add personal achievements.  Why?  They can be great icebreakers!  I love having the ability to instantly connect on a personal level.  Allows me to start a discussion with, “I see you are a black belt in Karate” or “I see you coach baseball” or “I see you are an avid reader”….  A great way to connect on a personal level before diving into your work history.

Some suggestions for common scenarios:

-          If you have been with the same company for a long time and have been promoted several times, put the history of roles under one company header.  No need to keep listing the company. 

-          If you’ve been with the same company and it’s been acquired several times, make that clear.  Employers in many cases will look at job longevity, so don’t hesitate to provide that data. 

-          If you have attended college, but haven’t graduated, make that clear.  If you have graduated, make that clear.

-          Have you been with a company for a short time but you are looking again?  I get this question a lot.  “Should I put that company on my resume?” or “I was only there for a short time, should I list it on my resume?”…  In short, I always say “yes, keep it” but, that’s up to you.  In my experience, these things tend to surface and then you’re the person who, you know, kind of lied a little on your resume.

A couple of final thoughts: 

1)       Scope and Scale.  Scope and Scale.  Scope and Scale.  There, you read it three times now.  Don’t forget.   

2)      Keep It Simple.  The average attention span is relatively short, don’t lose their interest.

3)      Resume Length:  Most people can get away with two pages or less.  But more is perfectly acceptable especially if you are further along in your career.  And on that note, don’t shy away from your history.  If you are 30-40 years in business, no need to hide it.

4)      Avoid, if possible, heavy graphics and cutting and pasting excel tables onto your resume as they tend to get jumbled once they’re sent digitally.

5)      Lastly (and this is a topic in and of itself)  remember to use accurate and detailed keywords.  If you are applying for a role (online, through a company website, etc.) chances are good that the resume is being sorted through an electronic/digital filter.  Recruitment agencies and many companies have sophisticated ATS’s (Applicant Tracking Systems) that parse and rank resumes by way of keywords.  Don’t skimp on them.  They are the bait that attracts the fish.   

At one point or another, everyone in business will be faced with creating their resume.  It’s a daunting task.  Follow the step-by-step guidelines above and your resume will be great!


About the Author:

Chip Cossitt is a Senior Partner with Warren & Morris, Ltd., executive search and has been providing executive search services for more than 25 years.