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How to Write a Functional or Skills-Based Resume (With Examples + Templates)

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This post is part of a series called How to Create a Great Resume (Ultimate Guide).
How to Make Your First Job Resume Stand Out
How to Write a Professional Resume Summary Statement (+ Video)

Every job applicant knows how to write a resume. Few know how to do it well. Fewer still are candidates who know how to strategically format a resume to their advantage. After all, a resume is a resume, right?

Not quite. There are three types of resumes, each with its own advantages and disadvantages. 

Resume TemplateResume TemplateResume Template
Resume template can be found on Envato Elements.

Do you know what type of resume works best for your situation? You'll learn that and more in this tutorial. We'll discuss the three types of resumes you might use in your job search. Then we'll focus in on the skills-based resume and explain how to create and use it.

We'll also show you the tools you need to make your resume stand out from the rest. You'll also discover the best templates for skill-based resumes from Envato Elements and GraphicRiver.

Types of Resumes for Your Job Search

Here are the three types of resumes:

  • Chronological resume. Highlights your work history and most recent job title first. It’s the most commonly used format for resumes.
  • Functional or skill-based resume. List your skills and accomplishment first, while shifting focus from your employment history.
  • Combination resume. A qualifications summary or achievements summary highlights the most notable parts of your career. But your work history still includes details of your job description, skills, and other accomplishments not included in the summary.  

Whether you choose to use a professional resume template or start from scratch, today, we'll teach you some key considerations for using a functional resume versus a chronological or combination resume. First, let's look at what the benefits of functional resumes are.

Functional resumes highlight your skills and accomplishments, regardless of the length of your career, the job titles you held, and the industries you’ve worked in. In short, it gives applicants with limited experience, or non-traditional career paths a better chance.

Use a Professional Resume Template: 5 Top Examples for 2020

Before we dive into our functional resume format, complete with functional skills examples, let's look at a great resource that can help you build the best functional resume ever: Envato Elements.

When you sign up for Envato Elements you get access to thousands of skills-based resume templatesNot only do you get access to templates but logos, graphics and much more all for one low price.

Envato ElementsEnvato ElementsEnvato Elements
Envato Elements has thousands of templates.

When you download a skills-based resume template from Envato Elements you can customize the template to suit your needs. So, it's easy to build a resume that highlights skills.

Elements OfferElements OfferElements Offer
Professional resume templates, available for sale on Envato Elements.

Many of these skills-based templates also have extra creative options for displaying your portfolio and include a well-branded cover letter template, and more. All these features can help you stand out visually and land that job you're applying for! 

Here's a list of hand-picked resume templates you'll love:

1. Professional CV And Resume Template Fadeyka

Professional CV And Resume Template FadeykaProfessional CV And Resume Template FadeykaProfessional CV And Resume Template Fadeyka

This resume format is simple and minimal. Transform it to a skills-based resume. Easily add images to this template by dragging and dropping the image of your choice into the image placeholder. This template comes with a cover letter template to ensure that your cover letter and skills-based resume match.

2. Template


This skills oriented resume has a clean and minimal design. Here are some key features of this template:

  • comes with cover letter template
  • print ready
  • A4 size
  • easily customized

This template is great if you're looking for a professional skills oriented resume.

3. Margie - Creative Resume Template 

Margie - Creative Resume Template YRMargie - Creative Resume Template YRMargie - Creative Resume Template YR

Margie is an experience based resume that's got a modern design. This template comes with a matching resume and cover letter template. Everything's customizable, from the text to images. Easily add an image of your choice by dragging and dropping images into the image placeholder.

4. 14 Resume Template Design

14 Resume Template Design14 Resume Template Design14 Resume Template Design

This resume bundle has a several resume layouts that'll make it easy for you to create your next skills-based resume. Here are some highlights:

  • five color scheme options
  • A4 paper size
  • comes with infographics
  • easily customizable

5. Professional CV Resume Template Vol. 01

Profession CV Resume Template Vol. 1 is an experience based resume. This is a great resume if you want to highlight your skills. This template comes in A4 paper size and can be used in Photoshop, Adobe Illustrator, and Microsoft Word. 

5 Situations Where a Functional Resume Works Best

There are some specific situations where a skills-based resume is especially helpful. Here are five of them:

1. Career Transition

Functional resumes are great for highlighting transferable skills that apply to your new field.

Your job title and job description as a UX designer might not translate to an impressive resume for an Android/iOS Developer position. But your experience in software development and knowledge of different programming languages will. 

2. Resume Gaps

A skills-based resume is also good for discreetly presenting work histories with employment gaps due to layoffs. Do this by listing employment dates without the months. See the examples below:

With Month 

  • Graphic Designer, XYZ Productions, May 2009 - October 2012. 
  • Graphic Designer, ABC Web Design LLC, April 2013 - Present.

Versus Without Month

  • Graphic Designer, XYZ Productions, 2009 - 2012.
  • Graphic Designer, ABC Web Design LLC, 2013 - Present.

In the example from the skills based resume above, the five to six-month gap is less obvious because only the years are listed. Unfortunately, this isn’t a fool-proof strategy. Recruiters who read hundreds of resumes a day are used to this tactic. It’s just a band-aid strategy to downplay employment gaps enough for recruiters to see your potential.

To avoid any confusion on the part of recruiters, include a brief cover letter explaining the employment gaps. Don’t’ be afraid, to tell the truth. Recruiters are humans, too. So, they understand layoffs, restructuring, and the need to take care of ailing parents. 

3. Fresh Graduates with Limited Work Experience

Chronological resumes aren’t the best fit for fresh graduates who don’t have much experience. And often, whatever work history they've got is unrelated to the job they’re applying for. Or it may not be considered as ‘on-the-job experience’ by recruiters because it’s part of college, and not an ‘actual job.’

It’s better for fresh grads to start their resume with a list of skills learned through course-related projects, volunteer experience, extra-curricular activities, and internships. Then they should briefly list their academic achievements and employment history. Listing ‘photography skills’ under work history, then citing the school’s newspaper as ‘employer’ won’t hold much weight with employers.  

Minimal Resume TemplateMinimal Resume TemplateMinimal Resume Template
Minimal Resume template.

4. One Employer, Multiple Roles

Maybe you were lucky to land a good job in a solid company that knows how to take care of its employees. So, you stayed with them for years. But that doesn’t mean you didn’t grow in your field.

Even if you stayed in one company you might have:

  • held different positions
  • worked in different departments
  • acquired a diverse set of skills

Because you’ve had only one employer, a chronological format that relies on career progression and mention of different companies in the employment history won’t do you justice. But a skill-based resume emphasizes your achievements and skills. It also helps you side skirt hesitations about what you ‘might have missed,’ as a result of working for one company. 

5. Candidates that Rely on their Portfolio

Marissa Klein, the founder of Choice Personnel Inc staffing agency, describes why designers should use a functional resume and not over-rely on their portfolio alone:

If you’re sending a resume and portfolio straight to a hiring managernot a recruiter who hires for multiple positions in different industriesthere’s a huge possibility that hiring manager is experienced in hiring on the basis of a portfolio’s merit. But if you’re applying online, uploading onto a platform, or submitting to recruiters, you MUST have a functional resume in order to be seen and reviewed correctly
Functional resume for designers should look more corporatewith roles, skills, and dates as HR would traditionally expect to see them. And not just a list of random projects thrown together.  

Recruiter’s Point-of-View

The recruiters I talked to for this tutorial are split when it comes to functional resumes. Some recruiters said using the skills resume format when you’re not changing jobs or field of work isn’t to the applicant’s advantage. Others say it’s an unusual format in some circumstance, but just the right format for some high-level positions.

Here’s a direct quote:

 Michelle Riklan, former Senior HR Manager and current Resume Writer, agrees: 

Job descriptions for CEOs and senior executives are varied and extensive. Functional resumes are preferred for senior roles because it gives them freedom to display achievements front and center of the resume  be it a 25% increase in sales, a 1M to 1B growth, or opening a new office abroad – so it’s not lost and buried in their extensive job description.

Write Your Own Functional Resume

Now we get into the nitty-gritty of resume writing. In this section, I’m going to break down the basic parts of a skill-based resume. Then I'll explain its purpose and typical approach to content.  When available, I’ll also show you snippets of how these elements look like in real skill-based resumes. Names and other private information are either blurred out or changed. 

Download our free PDF worksheet on Power Words for Writing a Functional Resume before getting started. Here are the fields you need to include:

1. Contact Information

Includes your name, mobile number, professional email address—no usernames like partygirl_21, please. You can also include your website URL and portfolio here. 

2. Summary

It’s the second part of your resume, positioned directly below your name and contact details. It’s also called “Professional Summary,” “Career Highlights” or even “Personal Profile.” You've only got six seconds to catch a recruiter’s attention. The summary should describe the most attention-grabbing and impressive tidbits about you as an employee.

You can go with a bulleted list, a first-person narrative, or write it from a third person’s point of view. The latter is recommended for managerial and executive positions. 

Functional resume summary exampleFunctional resume summary exampleFunctional resume summary example
Catch the recruiter's attention with a question.

Notice how the above example draws your attention by asking a question, something many resumes don’t do.  According to Riklan, the resume writer mentioned earlier, Ned, managed to secure a more senior-level position with the help of this resume. 

Skill-based resume first person summary exampleSkill-based resume first person summary exampleSkill-based resume first person summary example
Resume summary for an IT professional written in the first-person.
Functional Resume Summary Professional DesignerFunctional Resume Summary Professional DesignerFunctional Resume Summary Professional Designer
Casual, first-person summary for a fashion and graphic designer.

3. Skills

Skills can be categorized into three types:

  1. Job-related. Learned at school or on the job and are relevant to your target position. For example, a Web Designer’s skills might include knowledge of Adobe Creative Suite, understanding cross-browser compatibility, and fluency in HTML and CSS.
  2. Transferable Skills. These are applicable to different roles and industries. They're generally emphasized when you’re in career transition. Transferable skills could be people-related, such as managing a team, communicating well, or negotiating. But they can also be general tasks, such as gathering information, working with vendors, and change management. 
  3. Adaptive or Personal Skills. Include character traits that are hard to prove on paper but is important in showing the kind of employee you are. An example is ‘an honest, team player with a can-do attitude.’

You might think adaptive skills are only important if you’re a beginner with few job-related skills to boast of. But many employers look for candidates with a good mix of all three skill sets. After all, for most positions it’s not hard to find candidates with the right job-related skills. What’s hard is finding people who can work well with their team and understand the company’s corporate culture.

Creative Resume ProCreative Resume ProCreative Resume Pro
Here's a professional resume that'll impress your future employers.

Below is an example of a skill-based resume for an IT Director position. It was customized to focus on the candidate’s leadership, negotiation, and IT skills. All their transferable and IT-related leadership skills are at the top. Their technical skills are itemized and grouped below it. 

Functional resume skills for IT directorFunctional resume skills for IT directorFunctional resume skills for IT director
Skills section of a functional resume for an IT Director.

Your resume has to be tailored to the job you’re applying for. Make sure the skills listed in the ad are also in your resume. And if you can, back it up with specific experience and ‘power words’ so it doesn’t look like you just copied the job ad. 

Here's a job description example: “Expert knowledge of Adobe Creative Suite, InVision, Sketch, or similar tools.”

Now modified with personal experience and ‘power words’ in your resume: "Created graphics and designs for restaurant flyers, travel brochures, and marathon events using Adobe Creative Suite, Sketch and InVision.”

4. Accomplishments

Only include accomplishments relevant to your target position. Employers won’t care if you’ve won a hot dog eating contest in a previous job. But they care about awards for leadership, great service to the company and other job-specific matters.

If you’re in transition, say from healthcare to tourism, replace industry specific words with general terms. Words like ‘patient’ and ‘doctor’ can be replaced with ‘clients.’ That way recruiters won’t think your achievements only apply to the healthcare industry. Don’t forget to quantify your achievements through percentages, time saved, or a monetary amount. 

Common Formulas for Writing Accomplishments:

  • Situation + What you did + Result
  • Work challenge + Action + Result
  • End result + Why it was needed (situation) + Action

Ask These Questions to Determine Your Accomplishments:

  • Have I received awards or special recognition for my job?
  • Have I increased the efficiency of certain procedures in my work?
  • Did I help my team save money or accomplish more with fewer expenses?
  • Have I won new clients or projects for the team?
  • Have I led or managed a team for a certain project?
  • Did I identify a problem no one realized? Have I prevented an issue from escalating?
  • Have I been promoted?
  • Have I ever taught my teammate's new skills?

Put your accomplishments in a bulleted list. If necessary, group it according to the top three to four skills for your job. Your accomplishments can also be used to prove the skills listed in your resume. 

Functional Resume Accomplishments ExampleFunctional Resume Accomplishments ExampleFunctional Resume Accomplishments Example
Here’s an example from a fresh graduate with a couple of freelance projects under his belt.

5. Work History

If you’re in transition or have limited work experience, don’t forget to include internships, personal projects and volunteer work. No one said your work history should be limited to paid roles.

Minimalist Resume TemplateMinimalist Resume TemplateMinimalist Resume Template
Functional resume template, which emphasizes your skills, experience, and projects broadly, rather than your work history.

If you’re a freelancer or have worked on many part-time or project-based jobs, list your employment history chronologically. Write the name of the organization you worked with, the work duration, and a short description of each project or job. 

6. Education and Training

List the degree you got, major and where you studied. Include seminars, online courses, and training, too. If you speak another language, you can add it here or in the resume template skills section.

Education and training section exampleEducation and training section exampleEducation and training section example
Education and training section example.

Whether you put a graduation date or not is up to you. If you graduated more than 20 years ago, some recruiters say not listing the date minimizes your risk of encountering ageism. 

Functional resume education without datesFunctional resume education without datesFunctional resume education without dates
Education section example without dates.

Add Pizzazz With These Extras

Your functional resume is complete. You can send it as is, or jazz it up with these extra credibility-boosters. Don’t be scared to get creative. Remember that everything you add should improve your image to potential employers.

Consider the following:

  • Portfolio. Thumbnails of your portfolio or a link to your website.
  • Testimonials. References are usually ‘available upon request’ and only asked for when you’re at the last stages of the application process. But no one said you can’t put in a good word about yourself, in advance.  
  • Links. Add a link to your Github, LinkedIn, or other professional networking site. 
  • Download our free PDF worksheet on Power Words for Writing a Functional Resume, which includes a resume checklist to make sure you're hitting all the right points.

Find More Resume Templates

Do you want to find more resume templates? Here are some articles that share additional templates you might like:

Learn More About Making Great Resumes for 2020

Still, have questions about how to make your resume stand out? Are you ready to learn more? Here are some tutorials to help you find what you're looking for:

Download Resume Template Today!

You've just seen how to write a functional or skills based resume. You've also read some articles about how to make a great resume. The next step is to build your own resume. 

Start building your own functional resume now! Download a resume template from Envato Elements or GraphicRiver.


Graphic Credit: Resume icon designed by Nicholas Menghini, from the Noun Project.

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