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What Is A Resume? (Professional Guide and Examples)

What Is A Resume? Definition and Examples

Simply put, a resume is a concise one- to two-page document that showcases a person’s qualifications and credentials to potential employers. The word “resume” stems from a French term meaning “to summarize” and that’s exactly what this tool does: it summarizes an applicant’s relevant work experience, skills, education, and professional accomplishments.

We emphasize the word “relevant” in our resume definition for good reason. A strong resume only includes information that aligns with the job at hand. This document is not meant to serve as a comprehensive rundown of everything you’ve ever done professionally or academically.

To get a better idea of what a resume is and what purpose it serves, take a look at our collection of resume examples and templates for more inspiration!

Why do you need a well-crafted resume?

A resume outlines your suitability for a particular position. It can have a huge impact on whether or not you’re invited for an interview and ultimately land the job.

With a well-written resume, you can:

    • Make a good first impression on hiring managers without having met them.
    • Emphasize the qualifications and experiences that are most relevant to the job.
    • Set yourself apart from other candidates by showcasing your unique strengths and achievements.
    • Make it easy for employers to see why you’re a perfect fit for the position
    • Draw attention to your most impressive accomplishments.

Resume vs. CV

If you’re applying for a job in the United States, hiring managers will almost always expect you to submit a resume. It’s a standard job application requirement that helps employers effectively and efficiently screen and assess candidates.

If you’re based outside the United States, you might be more familiar with the term “CV” or “curriculum vitae”. In places like the UK, Europe, New Zealand, and South Africa, this is essentially the same thing as a resume. In the United States, however, there are distinct differences between a CV and a resume, so don’t confuse the two when hunting for a position on local soil.

 

5 Key Sections Of A Resume

A resume is a carefully structured document that always features the same five essential sections at a minimum. The order of these sections might shift slightly depending on your professional background, but they should always be present.

These critical resume parts are shown below:

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Here’s a more detailed description of what to include in each of these five main resume sections:

    1. Contact information: This section sits in a header at the top of your resume. Here, you should prominently display your full name and list your current phone number, a professional email address, your city and state, and your LinkedIn profile. You might also want to include links to other job-relevant websites or social media accounts.
    2. Professional summary or objective: A resume summary is a persuasive, three- to four-sentence opening statement that highlights the value you can bring to the role. It should summarize your top skills and most notable accomplishments as they relate to the vacancy. If you’re changing careers or applying for your first job, you can write an objective statement instead. This paragraph also notes key skills and achievements, while outlining your career goals and linking them to the open position.
    3. Work history: This section should feature your previous jobs in reverse chronological order, with your current or most recent role appearing first. For each position, include your job title, the company name and location, your dates of employment, and several bullet points highlighting significant accomplishments (use data to quantify these achievements where possible).
    4. Skills: Here you have another chance to draw attention to your most relevant skills in an easy-to-read format. List six to eight skills that are pertinent to the job you’re applying for, and try to include a mix of hard skills, soft skills, and technical skills. You can also categorize your skills into subsections like “Technical”, “Interpersonal” and “Language Proficiency”.
    5. Education: Your academic credentials should appear here, also in reverse chronological order (most recent degree first). For each entry, list the name of the university, college, or school you attended, the month and year you graduated, and the title of the degree you earned. If you recently graduated and don’t have much work experience, you can include more details, such as your major and relevant coursework. Don’t include your GPA unless you recently finished school and it’s higher than 3.5.

These five sections are all you need to include in your resume. However, in some cases, you might want to throw in one or two additional sections if you think they’ll enhance your application. These could include:

    • Certifications and licenses
    • Awards and achievements
    • Volunteer experience
    • Hobbies and personal interests

Make a Resume in Minutes with Our Builder

With our powerful online resume builder, you can quickly and easily write a job-winning resume, even if you have only just learned what a resume is. Pick a professional resume template from our library, follow the prompts and suggestions, download the final product, and just like that, you’ll have the perfect tool for your job search.

3 Resume Formats

In any resume definition, it’s important to note that there are three main types of resumes that differ in format: the chronological resume, the functional resume, and the combination resume. Each type has its own structure and is suited for different professional situations and job seekers.

Here’s a quick look at these three alternatives:

1. Chronological Resume

The chronological resume is the most commonly used format and is often preferred by hiring managers. This resume type places most of the emphasis on your work history, presenting it in reverse-chronological order with lots of detail about each position.

The format highlights career growth and serves to demonstrate a clear career path. For this reason, it is best for job seekers with a consistent and progressive work history in the same industry. The general consensus is that it’s most suitable for seasoned professionals with 10+ years of relevant experience.

2. Functional Resume

In contrast to the chronological resume, the functional resume format focuses on your skills, training, and qualifications rather than your experience. It puts the spotlight on your professional know-how – often grouping skills based on the specific job requirements – while keeping your work history section very brief and sparse.

This resume type is ideal for applicants who have very little work experience or big gaps in employment, as well as job seekers who are changing careers. That’s because it highlights relevant abilities and qualifications without drawing attention to unrelated jobs, extended work breaks, or limited time in the job market.

The risk with this resume type is that because it doesn’t provide a clear work history timeline, employers might assume you’re hiding something. But if used in the right context, it can boost your chances of securing an interview.

3. Combination Resume

The combination resume combines elements of both the chronological and functional formats. It allows you to showcase your skills upfront while still providing a reverse-chronological work history.

This type of resume is versatile and can work well for several different career situations. New grads and professionals sometimes use it with less than 10 years of experience, but can also work for people making slight career shifts or seeking a promotion. If you want to put equal emphasis on your abilities and your work timeline, this format is a good option.

Top Resume Writing Tips

Now that you’re familiar with what a resume is, you can focus on writing one that stands out from the rest. Keep these tips in mind to perfect your document:

  • Use a professional resume template to ensure your document is neatly structured and looks polished.

  • Keep your resume to one page if possible. Only extend to two pages if you have more than 10 years of experience.

  • Always tailor your resume to the job you are applying for and only include relevant information.

  • Use keywords from the job description so that applicant tracking systems (ATS) flag your qualifications as relevant.

  • Choose a classic, clean, and professional font, such as Arial, Cambria, or Times New Roman.

  • Quantify your accomplishments with numbers and percentages to show impact.

  • Include strong action verbs to make your descriptions stand out.

  • Don’t simply list skills; provide examples of how you’ve applied them.

  • Proofread and edit your resume carefully before submitting it to catch spelling, grammar, and formatting errors.

For more tips, see our comprehensive guide on how to write a resume.

Key Takeaways

    • A resume is a succinct one- or two-page document that outlines your experience and qualifications for the purpose of applying for a job.
    • A well-crafted resume is the key to unlocking interviews.
    • The standard resume includes five main sections: contact information, summary or objective, work history, skills, and education.
    • There are three types of resumes that follow different formats: chronological, functional, and combination.
    • Your resume must always be tailored to the position you’re seeking and should only highlight your most relevant qualifications.
Pro Tip:

Use an online resume builder to make the process of writing a resume faster, easier, and much less stressful.

Resume FAQ

Updated: September 11, 2023

In simple terms, a resume is a tool used to apply for jobs. It’s a one- or two-page document that provides a tailored snapshot of a job seeker’s work experience, skills, education, and professional accomplishments. The aim is to prove suitability for an open position to secure an interview.

The term “resume” is more common in North America. Many other parts of the world use “CV” to refer to the equivalent.

In most countries outside of the United States, there is no difference between a resume and a CV. They are simply different terms used to describe the same thing.

However, in North America, “resume” and “CV” have different meanings. Here, a CV is typically much longer and more comprehensive than a resume. It provides a full and detailed overview of a person’s academic career and achievements, publications, and professional experience. It’s not tailored for a specific vacancy like a resume is.

While a resume is used to apply for regular jobs across most industries, a CV is usually used to apply for academic and research positions, grants, fellowships, and certain types of government jobs.

The three main resume types are the chronological, functional, and combination resume. Each of them differs in format and the right one for you will depend on your career background, goals, and the specific job you’re applying for.

The chronological resume emphasizes your professional experience with an extensive reverse-chronological work history section. It’s best for job seekers who’ve followed a clear and consistent career path and have many years of experience behind them.

The functional resume, on the other hand, is better suited to recent graduates with no work experience, career changers, and those with long gaps between jobs. This format puts the spotlight on an applicant’s relevant skills while distracting from a sparse or inconsistent work history.

Finally, the combination resume brings together bits from both the chronological and the functional formats, giving equal focus to work experience and skills. It’s a great option for well-rounded professionals who have some experience and also want to show off impressive professional competencies and transferable skills.

To learn more about these three formats, see the section on resume types higher up on this page.

A good resume is concise, well-structured, and customized for the position in question. It includes only relevant information and incorporates keywords from the job description to align your qualifications with the employer’s specific needs.

The best resumes start with a strong and persuasive opening (summary or objective statement) and highlight accomplishments using numbers and metrics. They also use a clean, professional layout, an easy-to-read font, proper spacing, and consistent formatting.

The standard length of a resume is one page. That said, if you are a seasoned professional with a long and eventful career behind you, it’s acceptable to spill over to two or even three pages. The rule of thumb is to add one page for every 10 years of work experience. It’s still always important to be as concise as possible.

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Conor McMahon, CPRW
Conor McMahon, CPRW
Content Writer

Conor is a Certified Professional Resume Writer (CPRW) for Hloom.com. He has over three years of professional writing experience as well as experience in professional development training. As a member of the Professional Association of Resume Writers & Career Coaches (PARWCC) Conor has written on career development topics ranging from resume and cover letter best practices, employer/employee communication, job seeking help, and more. He received his degree in Music Industry at Northeastern University and plays guitar in his free time.

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