What is a functional CV and how do you write one?

The vast majority of applicants indeed choose to arrange their CV chronologically. This makes it much easier for recruiters to compare applicants. However, it can also mean that the task of sifting through hundreds of seemingly identical CVs might eventually become crushingly boring.

A functional CV can sometimes have a powerful effect, with its less typical layout, and contents that explain directly what the applicant is bringing to the table. While it may not appeal to a recruiter working in a conservative environment, it does show an engaged and flexible mindset

An engaged and flexible mindset is very appealing to companies. This is especially true for companies where they are focused on results while taking a creative approach.

When a functional CV is best.

  • You have significant gaps in time when you were not employed (or self-employed).
  • You’ve held many different positions, perhaps early in your career (in danger of being labelled as a job-hopper).
  • You’ve worked on multiple short-term contracts, doing the same job for different employers (common now in the gig economy).
  • You want to make a major career change.
  • You want to highlight volunteer or other experiences.

A functional CV is most appropriate when you’re applying directly by email, or even delivering it yourself. A functional CV’s atypical formatting may result in AMS (applicant management systems) not recognising it or locating keywords and rejecting the application as a result.

However, there are a few ways you can help to prevent this.

  • Only use standard heading sections: ‘Professional Experience,’ ‘Education’ etc.
  • Use keywords from the job posting, heavily, so the ATS picks them up. 
  • Use standard fonts such as Times New Roman, Arial, or Calibri.
  • Double-check all your spellings as an ATS won’t recognise misspelled words.
  • Save your file in an easy-to-open format such as PDF.

Before preparing your functional CV.

Before starting to write your CV, take a couple of steps to prepare. 

  • Make a list of all the jobs you’ve done and projects you’ve been involved in. 
  • What skills have you demonstrated in each one? Write these next to the job.
  • As you go down the list, you’re likely to see certain skills appear repeatedly. 
  • Now go back to the job posting. What keywords are in the ad? What skills are needed to be successful in this position? Which of your qualifications might be valuable? These are the ones to highlight on your CV.

The format of a functional CV.

Once you’ve prepared the groundwork, it’s time to create your CV. Most functional CVs follow a similar layout:

  • Heading and personal details (at the top).
  • Objective or summary.
  • Skills and abilities.
  • Professional experience.
  • Education. (Education is at the bottom since we want to showcase our skills and abilities)

Heading and personal details.

  • Write your full name in a bigger font than the rest of the document. There’s no need to write a heading, so don’t bother with ‘Curriculum Vitae’ or ‘CV.’
  • Under your name, provide the mobile number you want for contact, your email address, and possibly your Linkedin profile. Make sure your email address looks professional or get a new one, using your name and/or initials, if possible, to make a good impression.
  • Usually, there is no need to include your home address unless it’s important that you live close to the workplace.
  • Dates of birth are rarely included these days, as they’re irrelevant in terms of how well suited you are to a role. 

Including a photo with a CV is becoming less usual these days. In certain countries, such as the U.S., the UK, and Ireland, your CV could even be discarded to avoid contravening anti-discrimination legislation.


This is your opportunity to brand yourself. It’s like the famous ‘elevator pitch.’ You have to tell your potential employer everything they need to know about you in 3 or 4 sentences.

  • Keep it short and to the point. Highlight your skills and give brief examples that backup your claims. Link your CV clearly to the skills requested in the job posting, so the recruiter can see, immediately, how you can fill the role.
  • You will also want to highlight any relevant qualifications. Think of how you can benefit their company and get that point across.
  • Read it aloud before finalising it. Ensure you’ve done a great job of marketing yourself.


The objective is to clarify to the reader that you can bring all the skills and experience that the position needs.

  • Start with the skills you identified earlier as being most relevant to the position you’re applying for.Using the list you prepared, list each relevant skill, in bold, and give at least two or three examples of how/when you have demonstrated it. 
  • Make sure you include the keywords that you identified in the posting. You should also Include relevant skills gained outside the workplace. Volunteering, sports, community events, and even hobbies may all have contributed to your strengths.
  • In addition to ‘soft’ skills, such as teamwork, leadership, or communication, including the technical capabilities and experiences required by the role.

Professional experience.

By this point, the recruiter should be sufficiently impressed. Now is the time to share your brief details of employment history. 

Describe your most recent employment first, with dates, and work backward. Give only the basic information: position title, company name, dates from and to. Make sure you include relevant periods out of the workplace, with dates. e.g. gap years, career breaks, further education.

Other information.

Because of the emphasis you’ve placed on your skills and abilities, the ‘Other Information’ section is optional. Only include information relevant to the posting.

It's easy once you get the hang of it.

Sitting down to write a functional CV can be daunting at first. However, as long as it relates clearly to a specific posting, it can be a great tool to help you stand out from a myriad of almost identical chronological CVs. By letting the recruiter see exactly how you can add value to their organisation, you‘ll take a significant step closer to that all-important interview.

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