I received yet another executive resume for review today that for reasons that are completely a mystery to me was prepared using a functional format. The candidate is a highly experienced CFO with a solid work history showing increasingly challenging and responsible positions. His current resume falls so short of doing his career justice that I was shocked to learn that he had paid a professional resume writer to develop it.
As you may know, a functional resume allows you to highlight major accomplishments up front regardless of where in your work history they occurred, categorizes accomplishments from different positions, and eliminates repetitiveness in a work history consisting of very similar positions. It also permits de-emphasizing current or recent positions not related to your career objective, frequent job changes or gaps, or apparent demotions in responsibility. These last characteristics of the functional resume are, of course, the very reason that employers and recruiters almost universally do not like them!
Generally I recommend preparing a chronological resume unless there is an extremely compelling reason to do otherwise. If a functional format is used, you will want at the very least to include a brief employment chronology after your functional presentation of experience and accomplishments.
There is another option which allows you to have the best of both worlds: the combination or hybrid style resume. In this style, you create a powerful profile or overview section which states up front your skills, knowledge, and capabilities in such a way that you make a “business case” for why an employer should consider hiring you. It can also be very effective to highlight a small handful of accomplishments you are particularly proud of and which exemplify the potential value you bring to the table. Then your work history backs up the claims made in the opening section of the resume, providing specific examples of when, where, and how you have applied your skills, knowledge, and capabilities to benefit your employers.