Combination Resume Formatting 101 - Guides and Samples

Every job applicant should have an up to date resume. But not all resumes are designed the same way. Some resumes have a “Professional Summary” section, others have an “Objective Statement.” Some resumes have a section for volunteerism, others do not. For a job seeker to be successful, they have to make sure they’re choosing the right type of resume so that their application can have the maximum impact.

There is a specific type of resume that has grown significantly in popularity in recent years. It is known as the “Combination Resume.” Combination resumes combine two distinctive types of resume formats, and takes the best of both to create a resume that is more impactful, and may be better for modern recruitment techniques.

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What is a Combination Resume?

Traditionally, there have been two main types of resumes available for job seekers. The most common type of resume by a substantial margin has been what’s known as the “chronological resume.” Chronological resumes tend to have a similar order:

  • Objective Statement or Professional Summary
  • Work History
  • Education

Some may include other sections, such as a section for volunteering or professional memberships. The work history section is also laid out with jobs listed in reverse-chronological order (hence the term “chronological” resume, even though this is slightly a misnomer). Your most recent job is listed first, followed by your next most recent job, and so on.

The vast majority of resumes are chronological, and they should be. In fact, hiring managers expect applicants to turn in chronological style resumes, and may be ignore resumes that are not in this format.

But there is also another type of resume that has long been available. It was known as a “Functional Resume” or a “Skills Based Resume.” With a functional resume, there is less information on your previous work history, and more information about your skills and experiences. With a functional resume, you may see a layout like so:

  • Objective or Professional Summary
  • Education
  • Skills Summary
  • Brief List of Employers

On a chronological resume, the work history section has all of the tasks and achievements you completed under each job. But with a functional resume, every skill and experience you had that you think is relevant for the job is listed on its own, independent of the employer you worked for. Then, near the end, the individual will simply list their previous employers.

Most hiring managers do not like receiving functional resumes. This is primarily because functional resumes are usually used to hide problems that would be apparent in a traditional resume. For example, one of the most common uses of functional resumes is overcompensate for large gaps in employment. They may also be used to hide the fact that your most recent employer may not have been relevant for the job you’re applying to. So while listing all of your skills may seem like a great idea, most hiring managers know that those that use functional resumes often have something to hide.

Which brings us to combination resumes – a type of resume that has only picked up in the past few years, as more and more combination resume templates have become available.

As we mentioned a moment ago, functional resumes do have one thing going for them: the idea of listing relevant skills without necessarily placing them underneath a specific job makes a great deal of sense. After all, employers are looking for people with your skills, so if they’re easy to find on the resume, it gives you an opportunity to show the hiring manager that you have the talent they need.

At the same time, you still want to discuss your work history – especially your achievements at various positions. For example, if you worked in sales, your “skill” is that you can manage a sales pipeline, but your “achievement” is that you earned $100,000,000 for the company. These are two distinctly different pieces of information for the hiring manager to consider.

This is what a combination resume is for. Combination resumes are essentially chronological resumes, except near the top of the resume is a skills section, where the individual can list all of their skills, abilities, and talents, and reserve the work history section for achievements and other relevant information. The typical combination resume format is as follows:

  • Objective Statement or Professional Summary
  • Skills Section
  • Work History
  • Education

Right at the top is a list of skills and abilities that are relevant to the job, just like a functional resume. But the list is briefer – only used to highlight the best and most relevant skills. Then, in the work history section, you can write your work history in the same style you would write a traditional chronological resume, but possibly focus more on achievements or job-specific experiences.

Benefits of a Combination Resume

By allowing you to highlight your best skills up front, it’s often easier to show employers that you have some of the abilities that they are asking for in the job description. Most hiring managers skim resumes, and so a combination resume allows them to skim more easily, while also making it easier for you to create a resume that highlights your best qualities.

There is also another benefit of combination resumes that has popped up in recent years. More and more employers are using databases, known as applicant tracking systems, to collect all of the applicants that have applied for the job. They then search those applicants either manually or using an algorithm for specific key words and phrases. Skills sections of the combination resume are a great way to add keywords easily, in ways that are sometimes difficult beneath the professional history alone.

Combination Resume Format – How to Write a Great Combination Resume

We have developed a thorough guide to completing a chronological resume, and you can follow this guide exactly as described for your combination resume as well. Both have similar sections and should be completed the same way, with a few key differences that are described below:

The Skills Section

Since the key difference between developing a chronological resume and developing a combination resume is the skills section, this is going to be the area that may be most unfamiliar.

The key to developing a great skills section is to focus on what skills and talents are most important to the role, and would be most likely to impress the hiring manager. In order to do this effectively, you should:

  • Thoroughly Review the Job Description – What talents are they asking for, and what do they want from a candidate? What are you most likely to do in the role? These are the questions you should be answering with your skills resume.
  • What Else Might Impress – It’s not just the information in the job description itself that matters. It is also useful to try to consider what may also be impressive for similar reasons. Take, for example, software knowledge. They may only ask for a candidate that knows one type of software. But if you mention that software AND all of the related software you are familiar with, it shows a thorough expertise that isn’t limited to only one system.
  • Consider Soft Skills – It’s not just hard skills and talents that may be useful. Proof of soft skills may also be valuable. An application for a management position, for example, may need someone with proven leadership experience. It may not be relevant to the position, but someone that is fluent in more than one language may also be impressive. Don’t limit yourself to software, technology, and hard information. Consider the other talents that may be useful.

It’s always a good idea to use firm examples and avoid cliché. “Hard Worker” still does not tell the hiring manager much about you. The more specific you can be, the better. But do your best to keep in mind all of the information that would make the hiring manager feel that you are the best for the job, and covers the possible keywords that the hiring manager may look for.

Writing a skill section is not unlike writing the bullet points underneath a traditional resume. However, there are two approaches – both of which have advantages and disadvantages.

The first approach is to simply list skills. An example of a skills section that just list its skills may look like the following:

  • PowerPoint
  • Leadership
  • Hiring and Recruitment
  • Bilingual (English and Spanish)

That is one approach. It provides very easy to digest nuggets of information that potentially can capture attention and get the hiring manager to read further. For those in a huge rush, a simple list of skills and experience like the above list may be what they need.

However, the above type of list certainly would not be described as “impressive.” If anything it is missing important information and it’s low in keywords. This type of list is best reserved for those that do not have much to say in their skills section, and are instead looking to simply captivate the hiring manager further.

The other approach is to be much more detailed. The risk, of course, is that you bore the hiring manager with too many words, or they miss the most important information in their rush to review all resumes. But the advantage is that it will naturally integrate keywords, and provides far more detailed information to help the hiring manager pick you over another applicant. This type of skills list may look like:

  • Developed branded campaigns in both digital and hard copy format.
  • Designed marketing collateral for large scale advertising campaigns.
  • Experienced in typography, layout, and journalistic design principals.
  • Familiar with HTML coding, JOOMLA, and WordPress.

These are much more detailed, and customizable to the job you’re applying for. They also are going to be more impressive. “Web Design” as a skill will never impress anyone as much as “Developed websites in JOOMLA and Drupal” because the more specific example gives experience that a one or two word skill doesn’t provide.

In the end, the choice with which one to use is going to be your own. You’ll see many combination resume examples that have detailed skills, and many more that are one word and basic. Choose the one that is most likely to get you the job given your experience and what job you’re applying for.

Achievements Over Skills in the Work History

One of the other things that a skills section changes for a combination resume is how you write the work history. In a traditional resume, it’s not uncommon to try to sneak skills into the work history. For example, if you worked in accounting, you may say “experience with Quickbooks accounting software” because if you don’t say it under the job, you won’t have an opportunity to say it at all.

But the skills section frees this up. Your work history section can and should now focus on achievements, rather than on skills. While all resumes should be focused on achievements as much as possible, this becomes almost necessary with a combination resume.

Achievements ideally are hard data. For example:

  • How many pallets did you move in a week?
  • How many customers did you help in a month?
  • What sales goals did you meet?
  • How many people did you manage when you were manager?
  • How much revenue did you bring in?
  • How much of some task did you complete in a day/week?
  • What systems did you implement?
  • What problems did you solve?

These types of questions will give you an idea of your own personal and professional achievements, and each one can then go underneath the job where you earned these achievements in order to show that you truly accomplished something in your past.

Not everyone has these achievements, but everyone should try. Achievements allow hiring managers to picture what you can do for them in a way that skills only hint at, and combined they create a better visual for what you are trying to show the employer about your capabilities.

Build a Combination Resume Online

Combination resumes are becoming more common than traditional chronological resumes, because the value of the skills section of the resume, while still maintaining the style and length of the chronological resume is clear. It helps to have a separate section where you can list all of the abilities you have that make you a desirable candidate, while also creating the timeline of your work history that lets hiring managers see what you can do.

Not everyone needs to have a combination resume, especially if they are not sure how to fill it out. But for those that are looking for a resume format that can make a great impression on the hiring manager, a combination resume may be the best option. If you would like to create a combination resume in only a few minutes, sign up with Online Resume Builders today.

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