Since I was 18, I’ve used a chronological resume style with my relevant work experience listed newest to oldest. My education started at the top and stayed there until I had a couple years of work experience, and my objective statement disappeared after securing my first full-time job. With the exception of updating the information over time and tailoring the content to particular companies and job opportunities, I’ve used the same format for years.
As I gained more experience in marketing and communication at work, I started to see issues with the chronological resume style for experienced professionals, particularly managers and leaders. This style does not provide the latitude to tell a story; instead it requires the reader to put together a story on their own based on a lot of detail. Frustrated, I looked for different options. Functional resumes focused too much on nebulous skills and taglines and were too much “tell” rather than “show”. Artsy and fancy formatted resumes were too distracting and bold, especially for more conservative industries.
Finally, I found a style that merged the best parts of various resumes together and used the most valuable real estate on the page - the top half of page one - as an executive summary of you. This style - the “combination resume” is exactly how it sounds - a combination of the best parts of different resumes styles. It maintains your work history and accomplishments while providing space to craft a your personal brand and story.
Should you use a combination resume?
In my opinion, the combination resume style works best for people who have at least five years of professional experience and people or project management or leadership experience, since it allows you to highlight transferable competencies and accomplishments. Otherwise, a chronological resume is still an appropriate format since you are likely working in a more defined career path.
Why is this important? What is wrong with a chronological resume?
As you advance from a producer of something to a manager of teams or projects, you focus less on developing your your technical skills and depth of knowledge and more on gaining transferable competencies and skills. Additionally, your career options often expand from a specific career track to a number of options within a particular functional area (HR or supply chain, for example) or industry (healthcare, consumer goods, etc). You may also want to position yourself for a broader set of opportunities. As more people apply for jobs - the latest stats show that there are 250 applicants per job - you need a way to sell yourself on paper. A combination resume helps you do all of these things more effectively.
How does a combination resume work?
A combination resume uses three things to tell your story to recruiters: a personal “title”, a personal tagline, and an executive summary of accomplishments. Together, this section tells your reader who you are in five to ten seconds rather than relying on them to piece together the right story from your entire resume. The rest of your resume includes the details that support this story. As recruiters are given more positions to recruit and rely more on automated Applicant Tracking Systems to filter candidates, a clear personal story is even more important to getting your foot in the door.
How do you create a combination resume?
A combination resume starts with a compelling personal brand. Take some time alone to reflect on who you are and how you would describe yourself in 30 seconds.
Step 1: Brainstorm.
Start by writing down every positive word that comes to mind about you: energetic, fastidious, ambitious, driven, conservative, risk-taker, entrepreneur, efficient. Identify five that are the most relevant.
Step 2: Give yourself a personal title.
A personal title is a different title than your work title; it is more descriptive of the general type of work and value you bring. The personal title goes at the top of your resume and describes your general career interests. It might include a title similar to your own - for example, if you are currently the Director of Operations for a manufacturing plant, it might start with “Operational Leader”. Let’s also say that you have a Six Sigma Black Belt and experience implementing changes from Six Sigma projects. Six Sigma Black Belts are rare, and both these and change agents are in demand across every industry. The idea is to highlight this at the top of your resume, so your full title might be “Operational Leader | Six Sigma Black Belt | Change Agent”. Conversely, if you are in marketing, your title may be something like “Marketing Executive | Social Media Influencer | Brand Ambassador”. The key is to pick three phrases that describe your ideal career track.
Step 3: Pick your top three accomplishments.
Remember my article about keeping things simple and grouping them in threes? The same concept applies here. Write down as many accomplishments as you can think of, focusing on those with quantitative results. Then, go through and select three accomplishments that highlight different skills and capabilities that are relevant to your career interests. One might show how you create high performing teams, another might document your ability to manage a budget, and a third could show how your metrics exceeded results. These three accomplishments will be part of your executive summary and will be one of the first things a reader looks at when reviewing your resume.
Step 4: Write a personal slogan.
Brands have slogans - short statements that describe their mission and brand promise, like Nike’s “Just Do It” or Apple’s “Think Different”. Slogans are memorable and share a key benefit of the brand. Just as companies have slogans, people can have personal slogans that describe their mission and unique brand promise as a leader. Going back to your list of descriptive words, find one or two that articulate your brand promise. Are you an entrepreneur who brings new ideas to life? A finance leader who provides strategic leadership to startups? A visionary leader who creates high performing teams? Figure out who you are “at your best” and articulate it in one sentence.
Step 5: Fill in your resume content.
The remainder of your content is similar to a chronological resume, with your most recent work experience listed first. To help give the reader context, include a company summary for each employer, and a scope summary for each job. The company summary uses standard language from the company’s website, while the job scope summary explains your span of control (the number of teams and people directly or indirectly reporting to you), your budget (labor and/or department), and your reporting relationship(s) (who you reported to in the organization). After the scope summary, list key accomplishments during your tenure in the role that describe your hard and soft skills as well as show quantitative results. The reader should see that each point reinforces the content in the executive summary, including your personal title, slogan, and key accomplishments.
Interested in creating a combination resume ? Click here to download my combination resume template, and comment below if you have questions. You can also check out my other posts about chronological resumes here.