The Pros and Cons of Skills-Based Resumes for Older Workers

April 4, 2024

Learn how this alternative resume format benefits older job seekers.

Older workers face unique concerns when it comes to navigating a job search. One of the biggest challenges? Chronological resumes—the type that list work history by date—may detract from the wealth of skills, accomplishments and potential older workers bring to the table. People re-entering the workforce and those with non-traditional career paths face similar misconceptions.

Enter the skills-based resume. If you’re wondering if a skills-based resume is right for you, read on. In this post, we’ll discuss the features of this type of resume, how it differs from other formats and the pros and cons of this approach.

What is a skills-based resume?

Skills-based resumes, sometimes called functional resumes, highlight the applicant’s strongest skills, abilities and accomplishments relevant to the desired position, rather than specific jobs and dates.

By organizing qualifications under skill categories, such as communication, technical proficiency or leadership, applicants make a clear and strong case for their suitability for a given role. Its format is also beneficial to job seekers who don’t have a college degree or linear work history, but have acquired valuable skills through non-traditional routes such as military service, training programs, caregiving and on-the-job experience.

How is a skills-based resume format different?

Stack of resumes
Skills-based resumes prioritize capabilities versus chronology.

Skills-based resumes are perfectly acceptable but not as common as the chronological resume, also called a traditional resume.

A traditional resume lists the candidate’s work history—usually the most recent 10-15 years—in reverse chronological order, including dates worked. These resumes also list the applicant’s educational background and any additional professional training coursework.

With their linear presentation of work history, traditional resumes have long been the standard in job applications.

Advantages of skills-based resumes for older workers

For older workers, especially those with gaps in their work history, career shifts, frequent job changes or periods of unpaid labor such as caregiving, skills-based resumes offer several benefits:

  • Highlights relevant competencies prominently, regardless of chronological work experience.
  • Emphasizes the most desirable skills specific to the job requirements, helping them stand out to employers.
  • Showcases transferable skills, making them particularly useful for career changers or individuals re-entering the workforce.
  • Addresses potential gaps in employment history or unpaid labor by focusing on the candidate’s relevant qualifications.
  • Mitigates potential age bias by de-emphasizing chronological work history.

Drawbacks of skills-based resumes

While skills-based resumes have many advantages for certain candidates, they also pose some drawbacks.

  • The lack the context provided by chronological work history can make it difficult for employers to understand the depth of a candidate’s experience.
  • A skills-based format could omit valuable experiences or achievements not directly linked to specific skill categories.
  • Some employers may simply prefer the traditional format. A skills-based resume could be perceived as unconventional or even cause confusion.

Final thoughts

For older workers with diverse career paths or employment gaps, the traditional resume format may inadvertently detract from their wealth of experiences and skills. A skills-based resume can be a powerful alternative that helps these workers put their best foot forward.

In a future article, we’ll dive into some strategies and tips for creating a strong skills-based resume.

This article is part of our series on skills-based resumes. Also check out Creating an Effective Skills-Based Resume: 7 Tips for Older Workers.