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Employers look for both specific and general work skills when hiring employees, hoping to find a combination of functional and broader work-related experiences. Understanding the difference between the two will help you create better resumes and provide more targeted responses during interviews.
Functional vs. General
Functional job skills and experience are those that relate to a specific task, often defined by the department level. General skills and experiences include performances you can use to complete jobs in any number of organizations or departments. For example, functional experiences in human resources might include creating a wellness program, developing and updating a company’s organization chart and managing an employee benefits program. General experience would include holding team meetings, managing a project or writing reports on completed projects or meetings you attended.
Training you’ve received specific to a department function is an example of functional experience. If a landscape architect attends a workshop on how to use a specific landscape software program, that would be a functional experience. If the same person attended a workshop on time-management skills or general spreadsheet software use, that would be an experience of improving general work skills. List any in-house or external training courses you’ve taken on your resume to highlight these functional experiences.
If you become certified in an industry-specific skill by a professional agency, you go through a functional experience. A tennis professional who takes and passes a tennis-teaching certification test gains functional experience. If that tennis pro becomes certified in CPR, that’s a general certification and experience. Ask your company if they offer reimbursement for employee certification that benefits the company.
The work you do is either functional or general. If you work in marketing and create a social media campaign, conduct a consumer focus group, write advertising copy or create a media plan, you gain functional experience. If you prepare a budget for the marketing department, that might be considered a general managerial or accounting skill.
While most people create resumes that list their work experience in reverse chronological order, some create functional resumes for potential employers. This makes it easy for an interviewer to quickly find all of your experience specific to a certain discipline, such as marketing, human resources, accounting, information technology or sales. This is often useful for people with long careers and/or those who have made multiple horizontal moves during their careers or held widely varying responsibilities. Sending a functional resume alone can send up red flags with employers who might think you’re hiding an employment gap or work experience you don’t want them to see. Consider creating a one-page functional work history along with a traditional resume.
Sam Ashe-Edmunds has been writing and lecturing for decades. He has worked in the corporate and nonprofit arenas as a C-Suite executive, serving on several nonprofit boards. He is an internationally traveled sport science writer and lecturer. He has been published in print publications such as Entrepreneur, Tennis, SI for Kids, Chicago Tribune, Sacramento Bee, and on websites such Smart-Healthy-Living.net, SmartyCents and Youthletic. Edmunds has a bachelor's degree in journalism.
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