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What Is a Skills-Based Resume and When Should You Use One?

Caroline BantonUpdated Oct 14, 20214 min

What Is a Skills-Based Resume and When Should You Use One?

Updated Oct 14, 20214 min
What Is a Skills-Based Resume and When Should You Use One?

What Is a Skills-Based Resume and When Should You Use One?

Caroline BantonUpdated Oct 14, 20214 min

What Is a Skills-Based Resume and When Should You Use One?

Updated Oct 14, 20214 min
What Is a Skills-Based Resume and When Should You Use One?

A resume is a one-page snapshot of someone's professional experience, but that one page can come in many forms. There are different types of resumes—skills-based resumes, chronological resumes, and hybrid (combination) resumes—and each serves job seekers better depending on the type of job they are targeting and the candidate's circumstances.

This article explains what a functional or skills-based resume is, when it is best to use this resume format, how to structure it, and what to include. The article provides resume samples and provides an example of a skills-based resume template.

What Is a Skills-based Resume?

Most people see a chronological resume style when they think of a resume. In a reverse chronological resume, the candidate’s employment history is laid out in the main section of the page with their most recent job listed first. The entries show where the candidate has worked, for how land, and their job title.  

The chronological resume is designed to show career progression.

But what if you are a recent graduate with limited work experience and no career progression to speak of? What if you are transitioning to a new career and don’t yet have much work history in that industry? What if you have employment gaps in your career that might put off a recruiter? 

In these cases, a skills-based or functional resume is a better format to use for a job search. A skills-based resume showcases your skills in a certain area rather than your work history. Accomplishments appear under competency headings rather than under company names and dates. 

Here's a skills-based resume example.

skill resume

The third type of resume is called a hybrid resume. This format highlights competencies and skills but also provides a brief work history. A hybrid resume offers the best of both worlds. You can highlight the best of your skills and the best of your work experience.

Here’s an example of a hybrid resume for someone hoping to transition from sales to IT. This candidate highlights the skills that they have attained in IT and shows that their work history in sales gives them transferable skills to the IT industry; for example, managing clients.

hybrid resume

For more details on how to write a resume when you are changing careers, read the article, “The Resume Summary for Career Change.

Which Format Is Right for You?

The best format for you will depend on what competencies the employer wants to see and your circumstances. For certain jobs, your hard technical skills will be more crucial than progressive management responsibilities. Therefore, emphasize your technical skills using a skills-based format. 

For example, a hiring manager looking for an expert coder with competency in Javascript or Python will scan a resume for those languages. Your work history is important, but in those few seconds that the recruiter's eyes are on your resume, your critical technical skills should jump out. 

However, a recruiter looking for a sales manager might look for soft skills, where a person has worked, how many people they managed, and for how long. So, in this case, a chronological or hybrid resume is best.

If you are a recent college grad with limited work history, someone who is switching careers and lacks tenure in an industry, or someone who has gaps in their work history, a skills-based resume is best.

What to Include in a Skills-based Resume

The basic components of a skills-based (functional) resume are similar to those of a chronological resume. However, they are presented differently. Here are the main components.

  • Contact information

  • Summary statement/objective statement

  • Competencies/Skills

  • Work history (can be integrated with the skills and competencies section; dates can be excluded)

  • Education

  • Awards or Certifications

Let’s look at each component and see how it should differ in each resume.

Contact Information

Your contact information should include any credentials that you may have after your name, such as CPA, CFA, or MBA. Also include your email, phone number, and social media handles, such as LinkedIn, Twitter, and a website address if you have an online portfolio.

A LinkedIn URL is expected these days, and it is worth spending as much time developing your LinkedIn profile as you spend on your resume. Recruiters definitely look at your online profile. The information on your LinkedIn profile should be the same as your resume. For example, check the dates of employment if you include them in your resume.

Summary Statement/Objective Statement

The summary appears at the top of a professional resume and acts like a headliner—it should be short yet include key points. The summary should highlight the relevant skills that a potential employer is looking for. 

Check the job description and use the same terminology because applicant tracking systems will look for that terminology on your resume. For example, if the job description uses the phrase “solutions developer,” use that in your resume and in the summary statement.

Here’s an example of a resume summary for a skills-based resume:

Seasoned solutions developer fluent in Cobol and C++. Successfully re-programmed three legacy products before launch. Seeking an opportunity to lead a solutions team for a dynamic tech group. 

This objective statement contains the keyword skills that appear on the job description (Cobol, C++, solutions development” and gives measurable results for the candidate’s achievements (re-programmed three products).

The Skills/Competencies Section

On a skills-based (functional) resume, you could incorporate your work history into the skills section. For example, you could use the heading “Product Management” and list under that heading the company name where you practiced that competency.

Use bullet points to show your accomplishments in two or three short, clear sentences. Address the skills that the job description calls for, and don’t add anything irrelevant.

Remember to use metrics and action verbs to showcase your achievements with each employer. Use three to five bullet points for each position you held.

Here’s an example of the layout:

Heading: Competencies

Competency #1

  • Bullet point 1

  • Bullet point 2

Competency #2 

  • Bullet point 1

  • Bullet point 2

Here’s how it would look on paper.

Competencies

Product Development

  • Leader of agile development engineering team for Addecco Solutions with five products successfully launched.

  • Developer of beta testing for six newly launched games for GameCity stimulating 60 percent increase in user adoption.

Engineering

  • Lead engineer for problem-solving on a high-priority project that ultimately became the top income-producing product for Addecco Solutions with record-breaking sales.

  • Transformed three legacy products to cutting-edge concepts for pipeline development for GameCity.

Note that there are no dates on this section on the skills-based (functional) resume. However, you could add a separate experience section with dates to provide additional employer information. A resume with work history added to the skills section is a hybrid or combination resume.

A hybrid resume might be useful for a recent graduate who wants to highlight competencies or skills over their work history but also wants to include internships in a work experience section.

Work Experience Section

Here’s how the work history section would look on a hybrid resume. As with a chronological resume, don’t add more than your last three previous jobs. If you have skills gained with another employer a long time ago, you can add those skills to your skills list without stating the timeframe or the company name.

Going back more than ten years on a resume can put recruiters off are biased toward younger candidates—sadly, ageism is a thing in recruitment. This is partly because more mature and experienced candidates expect higher salaries.

Here’s an example of a work experience section on a hybrid resume.

Experience

Lead Engineer

Addecco Solutions

July 2020 to Current

Led development teams and spearheaded project management for ten portfolio products.

Engineer

GameCity

September 2018 to June 2020

Spearheaded new concept development to maintain product portfolio.

What If You Have Gaps In Your Work History?

If you have gaps in your work history and don’t want to draw attention to them, you can omit employment dates. If you do decide to add employer information and dates, the cover letter is a good place to explain any gaps.

Post-COVID-19, recruiters are well aware of the difficulties people have experienced in their work and personal lives, so most will be understanding of your circumstances. Consider how your time out of employment might have added to your skillset. Did you take on any volunteer work? Did you take any online courses or expand your skillset in any way? Did you take on any freelance work? Add these endeavors to your cover letter If they are relevant to the job.

Education Section

Add your degrees and education under the header "Education." Any industry-specific certifications should be included here, but they can also be included in a separate section under “Achievements,” so that they don’t go unnoticed.

Some resumes place education in a separate column along with skill categories and other information, such as awards. This can make a resume visually more appealing and the skills more noticeable.

Awards/Certifications

Add this section if you have unique achievements, such as languages, awards, presentations, publications, or hobbies if they are relevant. Depending on what you include here, you can use a different title such as “Achievements,” “Presentations,” or “Publications.”

Key Takeaways

  • A skills-based or functional resume format will showcase your skills and competencies for highly technical jobs.

  • Use a skills-based resume if you want to de-emphasize any gaps in your resume.

  • Remember to tailor your resume for each job application. For details on how to tailor your resume, read the article “Creating Resumes Tailored to Specific Jobs.”

  • Add keywords for the key skills that appear on the job description to satisfy the application screening software.

  • Always proofread your resume and have someone else check it too.

For more help writing your resume, read the article, “The Ultimate Guide to Writing the Perfect Resume.”

Caroline Banton
Expert on career acceleration and business topics with vast experience writing for globally-recognized publications
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