Sometimes, your typical reverse-chronological resume isn’t the best choice.
You may have a six-month gap in your employment history, or your current job doesn’t reflect the skills needed for the new position you’re after. Even if you've got nothing to hide in your employment history, there are many reasons you may not want to direct a recruiter to that portion of your resume.
When that happens, a combination or hybrid resume is the best format for you.
But what is a combination resume exactly? A hybrid or combination resume combines the best characteristics of a chronological and functional resume. Instead of presenting your work history towards the top or on the first page, a combination resume format replaces this with other categories such as a list of skills or achievements. This way, a recruiter isn’t immediately turned off by gaps in your employment history or by the fact that your last or current job title isn’t exactly what they’re looking for because they’ll see your most relevant achievement and skills first, which will hopefully entice them enough to keep reading.
Use a Professional Resume Template
Before we get started on how to make a combination resume, let's quickly examine resume templates. One way to make sure your combination resume makes a great first impression is to use a professional template. We've got a number of great professional resume templates on GraphicRiver. Or, you can get unlimited access to a variety of professional resume templates with an Envato Elements subscription. The resumes from both of these sources have numerous features to build a chronological resume, functional resume, or combination resume.
Many of these templates also have additional creative options for displaying your portfolio, include a well-branded cover letter template, and more. All these features can help you stand out visually and land that job you're applying for!
Here's a sample of a professional resume template in combination resume format that's available on Envato Elements:
Now let's take a closer look at combination format resumes.
When Should You Use a Combination Resume Format?
Unfortunately, this format only works for a few people. Use it only if you meet at least one of the characteristics below:
- Executive or mid-career professional with a long work history or concurrent jobs
- Applicants with a specialized skill set or a good track record of accomplishments for several skills
Here's what several HR professionals have to say about when to use a combination resume:
“This could also work if you want to return to a field you left because you wanted to explore new opportunities, but then you ultimately decided that you prefer the original industry you were in to begin with” — Aerielle Ludwig, Certified Professional Resume Writer (CPRW)
“You’ve been in the same company for more than 15 years, such as people in the military with 30+ years of service. This format highlights your achievements over the years at the functional part of the resume, before showing the chronological order of your promotions at the bottom of your resume” —Dawn Boyer, Resume Writer and Career Consultant at D Boyer Consulting.
“You have multiple temporary or short-term jobs but you don’t want the recruiter to notice your unstable work history without first seeing what you can offer”— Hallie Crawford, Certified Career Coach.
How to Choose Between a Combination Format & a Reverse Chronological Format Resume
Below are two methods to help you decide between a hybrid resume and a chronological resume:
1. Job Title Similarity
Is your current job title the same or at least have a semblance with your target job? If you’re not confident of their similarity or if you’re doing a slight career change (same job in a different industry), then a combination resume that shows a wider scope of your skill set would be a better option for you.
2. Position Hierarchy
Are you applying for a higher position—one that you’ve never held or never been trained to do? One glance at a chronological resume will quickly show recruiters that you don’t have the experience they need and are therefore a risky candidate compared to applicants who’ve had the job for a few years. On the other hand, a combination resume will show leadership and other transferable skills needed for a higher position. This will make your job application more appealing to the hiring manager.
How to Choose Between a Combination Resume Format & a Functional Resume Format
Both formats start with your skills and achievement, so the deciding factor here is your work history. How close is your professional history to the job you want? Are you making a major career change?
Use a combination resume if 70% of your existing skills, responsibilities, and achievements are required for your target job, but use a functional format if only your soft skills and a few job-specific skills are relevant. Go with a functional resume if you’re having a hard time justifying why your new employer would hire someone with your skill set.
Examples of the Best Resume Format to Use When You Switch Jobs
Before and After Jobs
Best Resume Format
Construction project management > IT project management
Real estate agent > Accountant
Nurse RN > Copywriter
Graphic Designer > UI/UX Designer
Sales Manager > Division Sales Manager
Advantages of a Combination Resume Compared to Other Formats
You already know that a reverse-chronological resume focuses on your career advancement, while a functional resume highlights your skills regardless of when and how you acquired them. A combination resume gives you the advantages of both formats without sacrificing your employment history, so you can still address career changes and other red flags a recruiter might see while reviewing your application.
1. Main Advantages of Combination Resume Format
- Captures the attention of the recruiter immediately with a list of your skills and achievements, and then supports this introduction with a chronological breakdown of how you acquired said experience.
- If you’ve been in the same position or company for a long time, recruiters don’t need to go over every bullet point in your job history just to see your achievements because a combination format puts this information right at the top.
- The flexible format allows you to restructure the layout or sequence of the resume so you can choose which information the recruiter sees first.
2. Disadvantages Combination Resume Format
No resume format is perfect, so you might be better off picking another format if the disadvantages below feel like a big deal to you.
- Job hopping and career gaps will still be noticeable in your employment history.
- Some of your skills, tasks, and qualifications may be repeated in several sections, so your resume may end up longer than expected.
What to Look for in a Combination Resume Template Structure
A combination resume is comprised of two main parts, the first part is similar to that of functional resumes wherein your skills and professional achievements are highlighted first. Then it’s followed by the chronological part that lists your job history.
A typical outline of a combination resume in chronological order:
- Name and contact details
- Qualifications summary or professional summary
- Achievements organized according to skills used
- Job history
As mentioned, however, this format is flexible and that’s an advantage and a disadvantage at the same time. On one hand, recruiters and hiring managers expect resumes formatted in a certain order, but as the applicant you’re supposed to lead with your best-selling points which aren’t always found in your work history. The key in this situation is to strike a balance, you can follow the combination format described above or you can revise it to your advantage but not to the point that it looks confusing. Use a scannable resume template with lots of white space.
Need inspiration? Choose from any of the beautifully-designed resume templates in the article below:
How to Make a Combination Resume (With Examples)
Below is an in-depth explanation of the different resume sections and how they’re written when you're using a combination resume format.
1. Name and Contact Information
It’s the same as other resume formats. Just list your name, contact details, and URLs relevant to your application such as your LinkedIn profile, website, GitHub profile, and portfolio.
2. Qualifications Summary or Professional Profile
You can use either of these options since they both emphasize your skills in slightly different ways. A qualifications summary includes your most impressive skills, while a professional summary gives a more holistic view of your skill set, not just where you excelled.
Ludwig adds, “a summary of qualifications should match and address the needs outlined in the job announcement, the hiring company’s mission, and the pain points of their industry.”
Applicants with specialized skills or technical certifications sometimes include a list of skills or core competencies just below their resume introduction. Be careful not to list the same skills again your professional history section, as that can make your resume unnecessarily longer.
Below is an example of a Senior Healthcare Executive from Jessica Holbrook, President of GreatResumesFast.com:
Here’s an example of a professional profile with the
skills listed under the subheading “Value
Offered” by Michelle Riklan of Riklan Resources.
Here's a quick guide on how to best include your skills in a resume:
3. Achievements Categorized per Skill
Write the skills mentioned on the job announcement or the ones you know are most relevant to your target job title, then group those related to each other. For instance, sales and marketing might be grouped together, as well as leadership and team management. List the achievements validating the skills mentioned underneath each group sub-heading.
You don’t need to list all of your skills in this section—only the ones where you've got accomplishments to back them up. If you've got other skills that you can’t connect directly to an achievement, list them in the core competencies section mentioned previously.
Combination resume sample of achievements section for a Senior
By organizing your achievements according to the skills used, recruiters won’t have to read through every line of your job history to appreciate your amazing talents.
Quantify your accomplishments whenever possible and format the keywords in bold to emphasize them, especially if the bullet points are long.
4. Work History or Professional History
This is where you’ll see the chronological part of a combination format resume. Write your job title, your employer’s name, and the employment duration followed by a list of your job’s important responsibilities. You can also include a brief description of the company or the department you work for, in case your employer is a huge multinational with several divisions.
Below are different combination resume examples for the work history section.
Here’s an example for an HR Executive:
In the example below, the combination format is used to show the applicant’s upward career trajectory and career changes after moving from one division to another within the same company. Adding a separate section called “Additional Roles Included” for jobs held that are no longer relevant allows the candidate to provide a complete work history, in case the recruiter questions their past employment.
Since the combination resume format is flexible, you can get creative in how you arrange your work history.
Below is a combination resume example professional history from Crawford where the applicant’s experience is lumped into different skill sets or job titles, while the dates shown reflect cumulative dates of how long said skills were used, instead of the actual employment duration.
Crawford adds, “As you can see, by following this or a similar structure, you can avoid using the functional format, which recruiters don’t like. But you can still show your career history without shining light on all the various start and end dates for each position.”
An applicant’s education isn’t emphasized in this resume format because this is often used by mid and senior-level professionals. Even if you've got lots of on-the-job experience, your educational history can be a good source of keywords for employers that use an ATS to filter applicants based on skills.
You should also include a sub-section for continuing education to distinguish between your formal education and the short courses or conferences you attend.
Find the Best Combination Resume Layout that Works Best for You
Don’t limit yourself to the examples and the format described here. The combination resume format is flexible, so use it to your advantage. Instead of just re-arranging the sections to see which resume format or template looks most favorable for your application, you can test your assumptions by sending different versions to hiring companies to see which one generates the most response. From there, you just have to keep tweaking the information you emphasize and the resume’s format until you find one that lands you the most number of interviews.