Is a combination resume right for you?

Use a combination resume to incorporate the best of the chronological and functional formats. Here's how.

Is a combination resume right for you?

The right resume format will amplify your strengths.

Of all the choices you make when job searching, one of the most important is the type of resume format you select. The right one will amplify your strengths and downplay your weaknesses, guiding the reader to understand your value proposition and ultimately decide to interview you. The two most common resume formats are chronological and functional, but there's also a combination resume that could be of use to certain job seekers. 

A chronological resume focuses on work experience, providing a reverse-chronological employment section with ample detail on job duties and accomplishments. This type of resume is often used by job seekers with strong and steady career histories.

On the other hand, functional resumes focus on skills over experience. The functional resume format is typically used by career changers and job seekers with sketchy work histories, including excessive job-hopping and employment gaps.

Enter a third option: the combination resume. The combination (aka hybrid) resume melds the best features of the chronological and functional formats. Generally, combination resumes lead with a qualifications summary and skills list, followed by a reverse-chronological employment history.

This format allows you to state your most relevant qualifications at the top of the resume, while providing the employment timeline that hiring managers like to see. The disadvantage is that this hybrid format includes a detailed employment history, so job-hopping, gaps, and unrelated experience will be more apparent than they would be in a functional resume.

Who should use a combination resume?

Many job seekers would benefit from using a combination resume. If you fall into any one of the following categories, consider going this route with your resume:

  • Students, new graduates and entry-level workers: Job seekers with limited work experience may gravitate towards a functional resume, but a combination resume is often the better choice. The qualifications summary and skills sections can outline your career goal and top qualifications, and the employment section can be labeled “Experience” and filled with both paid and unpaid activities.
  • Job seekers with a steady employment history: A combination resume format is a no-brainer for workers with a consistent work record. The qualifications summary is the perfect place to call out your strongest credentials so employers readily see you’re a great match for the job opening.
  • Job seekers with employment gaps or job-hopping: The qualifications summary and key skills at the forefront of the resume can crystallize a job seeker’s key selling points, diverting attention away from employment history issues. In the employment section, watch how you position employment dates—place them close to job titles so they blend in and avoid surrounding by white space, which draws the eye.
  • Career changers: Most career changers can be successful with combination resumes, as long as the work history highlights transferable skills and relevant accomplishments. If you’re making a drastic career change, a functional resume probably makes more sense.
  • Workforce Re-enterers: If you’re returning to the workforce after an absence, a combination resume could work for you. Use the summary to prove that your skills and qualifications are still relevant. Your work history section will have a time gap, but that’s okay. Dazzle the reader by playing up your most impressive achievements from before you left the workforce, and your absence will suddenly become less noticeable.
  • Older workers: If you have a long employment history, a combination resume format gives the document focus—the summary section is the perfect place to synthesize decades of experience into a cohesive value statement.

How to create a combination resume

One of the advantages of a combination resume is flexibility to structure the document so that it works best for you. The main strategy is to lead with a compelling summary, enticing hiring managers to read the rest of your resume.

The summary section should include content that reinforces your brand, and may incorporate a headline/tagline, career goal, skills, expertise, and notable accomplishments. Follow with a reverse chronological experience section to keep your resume in the chronological format most employers prefer. If you’re a student or recent graduate, consider placing education above experience.

Keep in mind that because you’ve included a qualifications summary, you’ll have less room for work history. Be clear and concise when writing your experience section. Emphasize accomplishments rather than job duties and avoid adding information about jobs and tasks unrelated to your career goal.

Other sections on a combination resume depend on your specific experience, but may include education, training, affiliations, volunteer work, specialized skills, languages, and other miscellaneous information unique to you.

Test-drive it

When you change your resume's format, test-drive the document before distributing it to employers. Need help with that? Get a free resume evaluation today from the experts at Monster's Resume Writing Service. You'll get detailed feedback in two business days, including a review of your resume's appearance and content, and a prediction of a recruiter's first impression.

You can always go back and modify your resume based on feedback. Monster's experts can help you select the format that's right for your situation so that your resume will be a more effective marketing tool for your career.