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What is a resume: definition + example

A resume (also spelled “résumé” meaning “summary” in French ) is a formal document that job seekers use to present their professional qualifications and skills to a hiring manager for a desired role.

A resume is a job application document, like a curriculum vitae (CV) and cover letter. Resumes are the primary job application document in the U.S., and part of the definition of a resume is that they’re brief and tailored to a specific job.

Pro tip: Not sure whether to use a CV or resume? If you’re applying for positions in Europe or the UK, the terms “CV” and “resume” are essentially interchangeable. Both documents offer a summary of your professional qualifications for potential employers.

Resume example

Like this example, resumes should include five main sections: Contact information, a professional summary, skills, work history and education.

This example is one page, which is common for resumes. However, your resume may extend onto multiple pages; the general rule is that your resume should be one page for every 10 years of work experience you have.

See more resume examples.

What’s the purpose of a resume + benefits

A resume’s purpose is to convince hiring managers that you’re qualified and a good fit for a job. The more you give your resume meaning by filling it with persuasive reasons you deserve the job, the more likely you will score an interview.

Many hiring managers only spend seven seconds reviewing a resume on average. So, if you want to grab their attention in that brief window, you should focus your resume on the most relevant experience, skills and achievements for that specific role.

Providing a full overview of every job you’ve ever had will not serve you. Instead, keep your resume focused. Tailoring and targeting your message to the employer’s needs will benefit you more.

Next, we’ll cover what to include in your document and show different types of resumes.

But, if you want to write a resume primed for your unique job search, check out our Resume Builder.

It will help you create a personalized resume in less than 15 minutes. All you have to do is type in your desired job title, and our Builder will suggest expert-written text to fit this role!

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What to include in your resume for a job

Here, you’ll find a concise breakdown of the resume sections you should include when writing your resume.

Assistant Principal Definition Experienced Example Resume
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  • Contact information

    Include your name, email address, phone number and city, state and ZIP code. You can also share relevant social media accounts or a link to your portfolio.

  • Professional summary

    The resume summary includes a two-to-five sentence introductory paragraph describing your top job-relevant skills and at least one unique career achievement or qualification.

    Resume objectives are an alternative to a professional summary, better suited for recent grads and entry-level applicants who want to focus on their goals and skills.

  • Work experience

    The work experience section includes a list of your jobs in reverse-chronological order, and each entry should have the following:

    • Your job title
    • The name of your employer
    • Dates of employment
    • Bullet points describing your accomplishments

     

  • Skills

    Your resume skills section must include six to eight professional skills. Include a balance of soft and hard skills and ensure they’re relevant to the position you’re applying for.

  • Education

    When writing your education section, add your degree and the college or university you attended. You can leave out your graduation date to avoid hiring bias because employers are guessing your age. If you’re still completing your degree, you can share your “Expected Graduation Date.”

Optional resume sections

  • Certifications and licenses: Use this section to highlight any additional training or qualifications that are helpful for the job. For instance, an accountant might mention their CPA status, or a delivery professional might note their commercial driver’s license.
  • Languages: Speaking multiple languages is valuable in today’s globalized job market. It will benefit you to mention your ability to speak foreign or computer programming languages and note your proficiency level.
  • Awards and honors: Include any accolades that reflect your expertise and achievements in your field. This can distinguish you from other candidates by underscoring your recognized contributions and excellence.
  • Volunteer work: Relevant volunteer experiences can be listed under work experience to highlight transferable skills and your commitment to community service. If unrelated, consider adding this towards the end of your resume to demonstrate your communication, dedication and interpersonal skills.
  • Publications: Roles in academia, writing and thought leadership value a publications section. Share any noteworthy articles you’ve published online or in print, and include links if possible.

Tailoring these sections to align with the job you’re applying for can significantly enhance the impact of your resume, making it a powerful testament to your qualifications and potential as a candidate.

Our Builder helps write all your resume sections!

Pick a template you like, enter your years of experience, and the Resume Builder takes care of everything else!

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Our Builder helps write all your resume sections!

Types of resumes

While resumes share the same purpose, there are three types of resumes. These resume “types” –– also known as resume formats  — are chronological, combination and functional.

Each type organizes your resume sections differently to highlight your strength(s), whether that’s your experience or skills.

Which resume format is right for you?

The right resume format depends on your work experience. Chronological formats serve experienced professionals best, whereas functional resumes are for people new to working. Combination formats are perfect for people in between.

We’ll provide more depth about each.

 

Chronological

 

This is the most common type of resume format that recruiters often prefer. That’s because it focuses most on your work experience, which makes a convincing case for why you’ll succeed in a new role.

Who should use a combination resume format?

  • Applicants who want to focus on both skills and experience.
  • Job seekers with a career history between three and 10 years.
  • Career changers, promotion-seekers and anyone reentering the workforce.

Functional

 

The functional format is ideal for people with less than three years of experience working. It focuses primarily on your skills and education to draw less attention to your lack of experience.

Who should use a functional resume format?

  • Candidates with little to no paid experience.
  • Applicants who want more focus on their skills and education because they need more experience.
  • Job seekers with noticeable employment gaps.

Combination

 

This type of resume combines chronological and functional formats, giving equal weight to your experience and skills. That makes it fitting for mid-career professionals or job-type changers.

Who should use a combination resume format?

  • Applicants who want to focus on both skills and experience.
  • Job seekers with a career history between three and 10 years.
  • Career changers, promotion-seekers and anyone reentering the workforce.

How to make a resume: writing tips

Now that you understand more about what a resume is, you’re ready to write. Follow these tips to create a powerful resume:

1. Use a template: A resume template is a preformatted document that provides a professional-level design for your resume. That allows you to skip straight to writing your document instead of tinkering with the formatting details like margins, headers and layout.

2. Target your resume to the job: Your resume must meet the job requirements the employer lists in the job post exactly. Many employers use applicant tracking systems (ATS) to scan resumes, looking for terms the employer has programmed. Ensure you’ve got the right keywords listed by carefully reviewing the skills, qualifications and experience they request.

3. Discuss achievements, not duties. Your resume should focus on your accomplishments and notable successes at each job, not the day-to-day tasks. So, instead of just listing your responsibilities, tell a story of how you were successful at your job by explaining the results you achieved.

4. Use numbers whenever possible. Including numbers on your resume is attention-grabbing and provides clear evidence of your skills. Try to have your best career statistics in your professional summary and work experience. It shows the results of your work, which will help you impress employers!

5. Proofread and check your document. Errors in your resume will help your job chances by showing a lack of care or attention. So, before you send your resume, run it through a grammar and spelling checker, read it aloud or ask the most intelligent person you know to read it for you and give feedback.

You could also get the highest level of help for your resume and hire professional writing services. An expert will consult with you and then write your document for you!

Get expert resume help

Key takeaways

To help you solidify what is a resume, here’s a recap:

  • Remember the definition of resume: A brief document summarizing a job seeker’s professional achievements and qualifications.
  • A resume purposefully assembles the details of why you’ll succeed in a new role.
  • Tailor resumes to your desired job by featuring skills and experiences from the job requirements.
  • A resume should contain sections for your contact information, professional summary, work experience, skills and education.
  • There are three types of resumes, also called resume formats, which organize your resume sections to showcase your strengths. These resume formats are chronological, functional and combination.
  • Use numbers to describe the impact of your achievements whenever possible.

Now, if you’re ready to start making your resume, we’ve got a tool to help!

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Frequently asked questions

How do I make a resume?

To make a resume, pick a professional resume template and fill in your contact information with your name, phone number, email, city, state of residence and ZIP code.

Include a resume introduction as a resume summary or objective statement, depending on your experience level. Write two to five sentences that mention your top career highlights and include at least one measurable achievement.

Add a work experience section where you list jobs from your last 10 years and include the job title, employer name, employment dates, location and three to four bullet points describing accomplishments instead of responsibilities.

Feature six to eight soft and hard skills in your skills section. Complete your education section by listing your degree and the university you attended, and you’re good to go!

How far back should a resume go?

Your resume should go as far back as 10 years or the previous three to four jobs. Ten years is a good range of experience for recruiters to determine how well you’ve progressed in your career and what skills you’ve developed.

Try to avoid gaps in your employment; however, if they’re inevitable, follow these tips to explain employment gaps and prevent a negative impression from employers.

Does the way your resume looks matter?

Yes! Although the most crucial parts of your resume are the experiences and skills you showcase, the resume design you pick can help you stand out. A resume’s purpose is to help you look good.

When choosing a resume design, opt for a professionally designed resume template to ensure it includes all five main resume sections. Choose a design that fits your personality but also seems appropriate for the job!

About the Author

Eric Ciechanowski

Eric Ciechanowski Certified Professional Resume Writer (CPRW)

Eric Ciechanowski is a Certified Professional Resume Writer (CPRW), certified by the Professional Association of Resume Writers and Career Coaches (PARWCC). He graduated from Tulane University in New Orleans with a B.A. double major in Creative Writing and Philosophy. His career background includes fields as diverse as education, hospitality, journalism, copywriting, tech and trivia hosting.

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