When you have six seconds to make the right impression, the layout of your resume is just as important as its content.

According to an eye-tracking study, recruiters spend less than 10 seconds reviewing a resume before deciding if a candidate is a fit for the job. When you have so little time to make the right impression, how you format the contents of your resume is just as important as what information you choose to include.

While there are a number of resume formats available, here at TopResume we've found one to be the most effective for the majority of our clients. This is known as the hybrid or resume.

What is a hybrid resume format?

The hybrid resume, also known as a combination resume, combines both functional and chronological information into one format. It includes a professional summary and “areas of expertise” or “core competencies” section at the top of the resume that outline your key qualifications, skill sets, and achievements and a chronological section that puts these selling points into perspective by describing how you leveraged these skills with each role you've held and what you were able to accomplish as a result.

As a resume writer, I prefer the combination resume format for a number of reasons. First, we know that recruiters prefer to see all of your experience lumped together in reverse chronological order. Second, most applicant tracking systems (ATS) do a better job at reading and interpreting a hybrid format because they rely on chronological data to parse much of your application. And third, this format gives you an opportunity to clearly support your skill sets by tying each qualification back to a specific position within your professional history.

When should you use a functional resume format?

In rare cases, you may choose to use a functional resume instead. In this resume format, the focus is placed on your abilities, rather than a chronological work history. You'll still include a chronological summary of your work history, but this information takes a back seat so the focus stays on your skills that are directly related to your target job.  

This format is typically used when your recent work experience doesn't support your job goals or you're dealing with a serious gap in employment. In those instances, you're more likely to land your next job by leveraging your network. In other words, don't expect the functional resume to work well with standard online applications. However, when a hybrid resume isn't going to present you in the best light, this functional version is the next option to consider.

The best way to format your resume

Regardless of the format you choose for your resume, keep the following things in mind:

Work with what you've got

Go back and think about your job goals. If you've recently graduated from college, your new degree is likely to be one of your best selling points and should be placed towards the top of your resume. However, if you've been in the workforce for a while, your years of relevant work experience take precedent and your education and professional development activities will likely be placed at the bottom of your resume.

Create white space

More often than not, your resume is being quickly scanned for important pieces of information. An organized layout with a clear, visual hierarchy is key. Avoid including dense blocks of text that the reader's eyes are sure to glaze over. Also, center your contact information and subheadings such as "Work Experience," "Education," "Technical Skills," and so forth, as the eye-tracking study found that most recruiters focus on the center of the resume when scanning for information. If your resume exceeds one page, include a header on the second page that includes your name and contact information.

Avoid endless bullets

Bullets points are a great technique for drawing the reader's eye towards important pieces of information. When everything is bulleted, you lose that ability.

Instead, when documenting your work experience, dedicate a few lines to describe your role and responsibilities and then use bullet points to call attention to your noteworthy accomplishments and contributions. This will allow you to more easily highlight your relevant achievements and qualifications.

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