Functional Versus Chronological Resumes

Are you using the right format?

I’ve written extensively about the differences between resumes and CV’s. But, there are different kinds of resumes and there are different qualities of resumes.  

Resumes usually fall into two categories, the functional and the chronological. The chronological is the most closely related to the CV in format and order. My belief is that it is for that reason that many physicians follow that format when transitioning towards nonclinical careers.  

Logically, the chronological resume follows the typical arc of a physician’s career. That is, usually the more important accomplishments occur in physicians’ careers as they age in practice. What physicians did in medical school or residency usually is more related to the process of getting into practice, the ultimate goal. Chronological resumes follow a pyramid approach that builds to a logical peak.  

Also, for less accomplished workers, the chronological resume can be used to show stability, specific skills learned and/or demonstrated in certain jobs and a growth in position titles and responsibilities.  

However, outside practice, and for physicians and other accomplished workers seeking nonclinical careers, a functional resume can better present the range and quality of experiences and accomplishments without the limiting factors of time and place.  

Consider it this way, let’s say early in your practice you spent many months negotiating the terms and conditions of a successful hospital/physician organization. However, you’ve since moved on and had three other practice settings since. That negotiating process should be a major accomplishment and illustrates significant nonclinical administrative skills and knowledge. Do you want it relegated to the fourth chronological work listing and perhaps on the second page? Do you want it to look unimportant? No, you want it at the top of page one.  

In a functional resume you identify the critical skill sets you have – I call those Core Competencies, and you then list qualitatively and quantitatively accomplishments that support the individual core competencies.  

Page one of your functional resume becomes a bullet point listing of three core competencies with each followed by three sub-bullet examples to illustrate your work qualitatively and quantitatively in that area.  

You may also place a career or job objective above and your basic contact information at the top of the page. That’s it for page one.  

Page two is the chronology of your work and education along with any pertinent appointments, awards, memberships, etc… that will fit. Page two simply corroborates that you have the life exposures necessary to have accomplished those fantastic deeds on page one.

That’s the difference and that is the reason you should be using a functional resume. Next week I’ll address the “qualitative” aspects of functional resumes – what makes your resume sizzle.