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What Kind of Resume Do You Need?


Question: I’m getting ready to separate from the Navy and was told I needed a “functional resume.” What is that, and is that what employers want to see?

Answer: It’s important to recognize what a resume does -- it highlights your past experiences and accomplishments, lists your certifications, awards and credentials, and gives the reader an idea of your qualifications for a specific position. The resume is a tool to get you an interview, which might lead to getting hired. There are two popular formats for resumes: The functional resume and the chronological resume.

The Functional Resume

The format of a functional resume highlights your skills, qualifications, interests and goals at the outset. This helps the hiring manager see what you are passionate about, how you have developed your skills to align with your goals (and the goals of the company), and where you seek to apply your abilities, experience and talents going forward. A functional resume might also include a chronology of your work history, but it would do that farther down on the page, rather than at the outset. If you are changing careers or have many different jobs on your resume, consider a functional resume to help the viewer make sense out of your career to date.

The Chronological Resume

By contrast, a chronological resume lists your skills, accomplishments, and experience in consecutive order, with the most recent job first. On this resume, you’ll list each employer you’ve had, the goals you were hired to reach, and a bulleted list of the results you achieved. This way, a hiring manager can see how your career progressed in experience, capabilities, responsibilities, and results. Chronological resumes are widely accepted by hiring managers, and fit well for someone:

  • Transitioning out of the military and into a civilian career
  • With significant work experience
  • Seeking work in a traditional industry
  • Looking for work in a foreign country

In these instances, the format of reverse chronology, with bulleted lists under each position highlighting successes, milestones and accomplishments works very well.

What Your Resume Should Accomplish

Whichever format you choose, your resume should list more than just your skills, experience and accomplishments. Be sure the tone of your resume reflects your goals and passion. For instance, if you seek to make an impact, be challenged often, and drive significant results, state that. If you say, “Seeking to influence the direction of the company,” you send a different tone than if you say, “Looking to drive significant, measurable and impactful change in the organization and the industry.” See the difference?

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Lida Citroën, a branding expert based in Denver, has made a career of helping people and companies create new or enhanced identities. She is passionate about helping veterans learn how to compete for careers in the civilian sector. A TEDx Speaker, Lida presents her unique personal branding training programs across the U.S., at military installations and events, serves on the Board of Directors of NAVSO  volunteers with ESGR, and has produced numerous programs and materials to help military veterans successfully transition after service. If you have a transition question Lida can help answer, email her at She is also the author of the best selling book, "Your Next Mission: A personal branding guide for the military-to-civilian transition," available at and on Amazon.