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Time and place for a functional resume

Dear Sam Modified: March 8, 2013 at 12:09 pm •  Published: March 9, 2013


Sandra came to me with a wealth of nursing experience and some major concerns: (1) Some of her most impressive experience occurred in the 1980s and 1990s; (2) Sandra was concerned that she would be competing against younger, less-experienced, and therefore potentially less expensive candidates;” (3) Sandra was seeking employment with a major health system and knew there would be hundreds of applicants for just one open position.

Sandra provided me with nine pages of handwritten notes, most of which were a simple narration of employers’ names and locations, the titles Sandra held, and a few words about what she did in each setting. It was clear from Sandra’s presentation of her experience that she really placed a lot of value on some of her earliest roles, including one in particular that she pursued on a volunteer basis.

Turnaround Strategy:

After learning more about Sandra’s background, I decided a functional format was necessary. While I take this approach on very few résumés, I felt in this case that it was vital in minimizing the appearance of the number of positions Sandra had held in recent years. This approach would also greatly reduce the redundancy that would come from presenting the same job functions multiple times.

Fueling my ability to position Sandra in this manner was the additional insight I gained during our consultation. From listening to Sandra during our chat, I captured a sense that one of her strengths was the ability to identify conditions others overlooked. She also conveyed to me that due to her maturity, and her work on a volunteer basis launching a free clinic, she possessed excellent patient and physician relations skills. I used these, along with her fantastic accomplishments, as differentiating factors on her résumé. This painted a picture of a true professional who, through experience, could offer a refined bedside manner and an expansive nursing skill set.


The key to success for Sandra’s résumé was the unique Notable Accomplishments section. Following a rather brief qualifications summary, this accomplishment-focused section provided a window into the value Sandra was positioned to provide. Exploring examples of opportunities she had to participate in capital improvement projects, initiate process improvements, launch a free clinic, and the reputation she had gained for patient care excellence along the way, this section proved vital in differentiating Sandra from her potentially less expensive competitors.

Following Notable Accomplishments was a Professional Highlights section which reviewed key aspects of her nursing roles. Combining all past experiences to create one very strong section, this provided for a much more engaging read than a reverse chronological résumé would have. If I had used the more standard format for her résumé, the hiring manger may have been turned off by the recent movement in her career and the number of positions she had held, not to mention the redundancy that would have been hard to avoid given she had held very similar roles in many positions.

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