The Masking Problems Myth

It’s a real head shaker to me how many job seekers believe a functional resume serves to distract potential employers from a spotty employment history. For me, the experience is the opposite. I joked in a blog some time ago about functional resumes sometimes coming off like Febreze. Febreze may smell good, but there is good reason to suspect something stinky lurks underneath it all. My brain goes on alert with functional resumes. To top if off, if a person’s background is all over the place, I’m more aware of it when I have to sort out which skills and accomplishments belong with which positions. In fact, I’m likely more annoyed at the game of hide the skeleton than I’d of been had the job seeker tackled the issue head on.

In my opinion functional resumes serve one purpose. They allow the candidate with redundant experience to state that experience once in a concise way versus saying the same things multiple times under several positions. Individuals with a varied past and with problematic history have no business using the functional format. Again, this is my opinion.

So I’m not confused, it is certainly wise to draw attention to aspects of your background that are a stronger sell for why you are right for a position. Candidates should definitely highlight what an employer would care most to see and organize the information so the most relevant details of your background come before the less relevant. That’s just good old fashioned marketing. What’s bad form is to adapt any marketing strategy that relies on your audience being too dumb to see the obvious. It rarely works and it’s insulting to the other party that you clearly thought it would.

Simply put, when you have problems in your background you should focus more on effectively addressing them with a potential employer versus attempting to mask them. This usually means not leading with your resume when chasing a job. Your resume can’t help explain blemishes, gaps or sidesteps in your career path…you can. Network,network, network. Establish credibility through solid references and referrals. Approach decision makers honestly, with sincere intentions and genuine respect for their intelligence and their hiring process.


  • Scot Richards says:

    In my opinion, “The Masking Problems Myth”….is just that, a myth. If problems exist the sooner the prospective employer knows about them, the better. I can think of a number of pretty good reasons why I feel this way. Do you really want to work for someone knowing you may have got the job under false pretenses? Are you capable of your best daily performance when each may bring the day the hiring folks “find out” about your skipped past?

    Do yourself and others a favor by being honest. It is respect for them and respect for yourself.


  • Emily says:

    I completely agree with you. Whenever I see a resume that omits dates, I automatically worry that there is a good reason for omission of this information. I have talked a few job candidates through this fact and through how to improve the “red flag”. As a recruiter, I’m digging for the solid work history and skills that you can bring to my client. This is present in a functional resume, however, if you blatantly omit information…my eye leaps to that omission. I saw one resume where the work experience was simply listed as companies and titles on the bottom right hand corner of page 2. After a thorough discussion with the job candidate, I learned that it was because he felt he was being passed over for jobs because of his long career history with just three companies. I explained that it was a red flag for recruiter and we worked on altering his resume to move the career history to the front and keep the date omission (he wouldn’t budge on that…).

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