Companies hire people with the right skills and experience.
Unfortunately, not all of us have the perfect work history. But is it still possible to give employers the confidence that you have what it takes to do the job well?
The short answer is yes, by using a skills-based resume. This is a format that puts your abilities first over your experience.
Writing a skills-based resume is about portraying a clear narrative of your ability. You’ll need to show you have the right skill set to succeed.
In this ultimate guide, we’ll cover everything you need to know. Let’s dive in.
What Is a Skills-Based Resume?
The skills-based resume revolves around your skills as opposed to your career growth. This type of resume focuses on specific parts of your work experience that are transferable to the role you’re applying for rather than looking at your overall professional background. It’s also known as the functional resume format.
What Makes a Skills-Based Resume Different?
The purpose of it is to prove you’re a qualified candidate by showcasing your technical skills and competencies. Often because the applicant has gaps in their work history.
This format doubles down on three things:
Let’s briefly compare it to the other ats resume format.
Skills-Based Resume vs Reverse Chronological Resume
- The former provides an overview of specific transferable skills and knowledge. In contrast, the latter provides an overview of work history.
- Skills-based resumes emphasize what you could offer to the company. On the other hand, the reverse chronological resume emphasizes your career timeline.
- Both are designed to present you as a qualified candidate. The skills-based resume does so by presenting relevant abilities you’ve developed. Whereas, the standard reverse chronological resume does so by highlighting corporate experience.
Skills-Based Resume vs Combination Resume
- The skills-based resume focuses on your areas of expertise. But, the combination resume has a balanced focus on both skills and experience.
- Combination resumes are well-rounded. Whereas, skills-based resumes are mostly based on your abilities.
When to Use a Skills-Based Resume
Treat the skills-based format as a last resort. Only use it if you’re in one of the following scenarios:
- You have no formal work experience
- You’re making a big career change
- You have employment gaps
- Your previous job titles don’t add up
Whichever category you fall into, it’s worth writing a cover letter alongside your resume. Anyhow, we’ll go into each of these scenarios in a bit more detail.
You Have No Formal Work Experience
It’s an option for those of you with how to make a resume with no experience. This usually includes students and recent graduates.
However, you can still position yourself as a qualified candidate. Meet the job description criteria using resume keywords. Then, showcase your knowledge and abilities to give recruiters confidence you have potential.
You’re Making a Big Career Change
Making a career change means moving into a different job or industry.
In this case, you might not have any direct work experience in the new field you’re interested in.
So, it makes sense to use a skills-based resume because it enables you to emphasize the relevant parts of your career background. Unlike listing all of your previous jobs, this approach helps you make an application that’s more how to tailor your resume to a job.
You Have Employment Gaps
An employment gap refers to a period in your career where you were unemployed.
Having nothing to show for during an extended period of time raises questions. So using this format for your resume helps you steer the focus away from your time off by putting most of the spotlight elsewhere.
In this situation though, it’s important to show your skills and knowledge are up-to-date.
Your Previous Job Titles Don’t Add Up
Another way to put it is that you have no direct experience in the job or industry you’re applying for.
If you’ve had a range of different jobs in the past then it might not portray a clear narrative of your growth as a professional. So rather than looking at quantity, focus on quality by going in-depth on the relevant jobs with transferable skills.
How to Showcase Your Ability in a Functional Resume
There’s two main ways to do it:
- Mention different types of skills and describe how you put them to use via responsibilities or how they were developed
- Share achievements that demonstrate your expertise
In essence, reflect on your different types of skills and accomplishments. Think about these aspects from both your academic and corporate backgrounds.
Reflect on Different Types of Skills
Here’s a few examples of different types of skills to reflect on:
- Hard skills: skills directly related to the core job responsibilities.
- Soft skills: related to interpersonal ability and communication.
- Transferable skills: skills developed from previous work experience that’s applicable to the role you’re applying to.
- Leadership skills: your ability to perform as a leader.
These can be listed in the skills section or described under your work experience. Alternatively, describe them under another resume section where it’s appropriate.
Reflect on Your Achievements
Achievements demonstrate excellence. It’s a form of recognition from times you exceeded expectations. Or from times when you completed something which required a level of knowledge and commitment.
Here’s some examples to consider:
- Awards: formal recognition of your accomplishments when you’ve gone above and beyond.
- Certifications: documents from companies or institutions stating you’re knowledgeable about a subject.
- Results: any positive outcomes that were achieved as a result of your own efforts.
How to Write a Skills-Based Resume in 6 Steps
Don’t overexaggerate or write about something that’s ambiguous. Even worse, common mistakes on resumes. Give recruiters the information they’re looking for and present it accurately. If you can’t, then try to find other aspects of your professional background to make up for it.
As you’re going through the steps below, keep the job description and company’s best interests in mind.
1. Complete the Header
The resume header includes contact details using basic personal background information such as:
- Full name
- Email address
- Phone number
- LinkedIn profile
Nothing else is needed in terms of personal details – learn the resume dos and don'ts.
2. Write a Summary of Why You’re Qualified for the Role
The resume summary is your hook to get recruiters engaged.
This gives you the opportunity to immediately make an impression by providing an overview of your strengths and career highlights.
Here’s some things you could talk about to prove you’re a qualified candidate:
- Areas of expertise
- Best skills
- Relevant core values
- Quantified results
Or, this space could be used for writing about your resume objectives.
3. Describe Your Skills in the Work Experience Section
All resumes need to show what to write in a resume for work experience. It’s the most important section. There’s no way around it except on rare occasions.
Only list the jobs with transferable skills. If not, then it defeats the purpose of a skills-based format.
Aim for at least 2-3 job titles with at least 2-3 how many bullet points per job on resume under each role. These should still be listed in reverse chronological order, so starting from the most recent job position first and then going back to the oldest.
When it comes to writing the bullet points, focus on describing the skills you’ve learned and developed. Highlight relevant responsibilities as well as the results of your actions.
4. List Qualifications in the Education Section
Formal qualifications such as your university degree belong in the how to list education on resume.
This includes the following:
- University degree
- Place of study
- Date of graduation
Your academic background is also an indicator of your skills and knowledge. Unlike the standard resume format though, this section could go after the resume summary followed by your work experience.
5. Categorize Your Skills
Use the skills section to group your skills together into specific categories.
On top of making them easier to read through by adding structure, it highlights your expertise in different areas. This is ideal for a functional resume format because it helps create the impression that you have a diverse skill set.
However, don't go off listing everything you can. Only mention relevant skills for the role.
6. Use Additional Sections to Further Showcase Your Skills
You’re naturally at a disadvantage when you lack work experience.
Besides putting more emphasis on your skills, another way to make up for it is by using additional resume sections. For example, write about volunteering experience. Or include a certifications section to make a list of certificates you’ve earned.
Other sections may include:
Tips for Structuring a Skills-Based Resume Format
There are other ways to structure your application. Here’s a few examples to explain what I mean:
- Work experience doesn’t always have to go last
- The summary section could still be omitted
- You don’t always have to categorize your skills
Ultimately, it’s your application. Review both your strengths and the job description to determine how to best present your value. From there, customize your resume accordingly.
To be specific, we’ll go through some functional resume samples with different structures.
Example 1: Start With Your Academic Background
After the summary section, it brings us to the main body of your resume. This can begin with your academic background by putting the education section first followed by the work experience section.
Here’s an example below.
Example 2: Start With Your Experience
Work experience could be the first section of your resume even if you decide not to write a summary.
Although the work history could be saved until last, the reality is that doing this can make career gaps more noticeable. Whereas, structuring your resume in a similar format as the standard resume suggests there’s nothing to hide since you’re embracing your career timeline.
However, the only difference is that it’s mainly focused on showcasing your skills. Here’s an example below.
Instead of Writing From Scratch, Try Using These Free Resume Templates
Try giving one of the resume templates below a go. They’re optimized for getting past the resume scanners and are easily customizable.
Above all, they’re free.
Bold Resume Template
Alternative Resume Template
The Advantages and Disadvantages of a Functional Resume
- It helps conceal gaps in your employment timeline
- Positions you as a qualified candidate despite having limited experience
- Enables you to create a more customized resume
- Doesn’t provide a clear picture or narrative of your professional growth
- Some companies might not accept them
Are Skills-Based Resumes Any Good Then?
They’re effective when you don’t have much direct work experience. The skills-based format prompts recruiters to determine your competency through transferable skills and knowledge. It positions you as a qualified professional by leaning more towards what you could offer to the company.
Do Employers Prefer Skills-Based Resumes?
The reverse chronological resume is preferable because it’s the most common resume format. As skills-based resumes put more attention to your skills, it raises questions about your work experience. But a good counter to this is following a similar structure to the standard resume and using cover letters.
Create Your Own Custom Resume Automatically Based on Your Needs
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Well, it’s one way to not have to worry about tailoring your application.
But more importantly, it’s useful for quickly coming up with ideas based on your needs. The AI writer does this effectively by using the job title and job description you’re applying for.
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Watch the short clip below to see how the AI feature works.
The skills-based resume is often approached the wrong way.
Some people write them with the main priority of hiding career gaps rather than proving their value. It does technically help you do this by putting less attention on your work history and more on your skills…
But that shouldn’t be your biggest priority. Otherwise, it tends to lead to taking things out of context and writing fluff.
Establish your expertise by customizing your resume with the appropriate sections based on your strengths.
Or at least, use the steps in this guide to communicate that you’re the person with the most potential.