Dear Sam: I read your recent article and found your reply right on target, given I have spent the past nine years supporting and training transitioning service members. I do have a question regarding when or if a hybrid resume format is appropriate versus the more common reverse-chronological resume format.
When I am working with soldiers transitioning from a career/body of work from the military into a civilian career/job, I encourage them to use the hybrid format. To be clear, by hybrid format, I mean one where the main content is organized by one’s top 3-4 main skill areas (preferably the skill areas that the target job is asking for in the job posting, and you have examples of how you did these things), and your job history where you acquired those skills are simply listed.
It makes no sense to me that as a transitioning military person, you would document all your jobs along with what you did in each position in the military and hope that a civilian employer would see you as a match for their job. So for “career-changers,” like military personnel, the hybrid format “connects the dots” more effectively. To me, the reverse-chronological structure only makes sense if you are trying to get a job along the lines of what you have done in your career up to that point. What are your thoughts on this? – Bill
Dear Bill: Thank you for your work with our veterans transitioning to the civilian sector. I agree that a traditional reverse chronological resume would not always be the best choice for a career changer attempting to highlight relevance over recency. I would, however, caution using what you were referring to as a hybrid resume—I believe you were actually speaking of what we call a functional resume—as hiring managers typically dislike this approach because it does not allow for a clear understanding of the candidate’s journey.
A functional resume is much like you described in that it highlights someone’s experience with functional subheadings instead of the employer. It ends with an employment history section that notes the employers, positions, and employment dates. This format allows for the presentation of the most relevant aspect of one’s career instead of perhaps what is most recent in their career. The functional resume was designed to minimize the impact of potential disqualifiers such as significant employment gaps, frequent job hops, limited related experience, titles not aligned with roles, and more. This was also a format that many would choose when entertaining a career change because it allowed for a focus on qualifications versus potential disqualifiers.
What I would recommend for a career changer or someone transitioning sectors and needing to highlight their most relevant qualifications would be what we refer to as a combination resume style. Because hiring managers dislike the functional approach and immediately dig to find those disqualifiers, a combination approach provides the benefits of the candidate being able to tell their story in a relevant way while also giving hiring managers away to better understand their entire journey. This format would begin with a qualification summary, flow into selected highlights, and be followed by a fully developed professional experience section. The selected highlights section would mimic what you are referring to in the hybrid approach. In the professional experience section, the candidate would want to try to make their experience sound as transferable as possible, ensuring it allows the hiring manager to understand their journey and the story of their career.
I hope this helps provide some additional insight into the strategic option that might work best for those transitioning from the military to the civilian sector or those in a career change situation.