What is a Resume? (Resume Definition, Detailed Guide and Examples)

Kellie Hanna, CPRW
By Kellie Hanna, CPRW, Career Advice Expert Last Updated: November 22, 2023

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It’s no secret that a resume is a crucial part of a job application because it demonstrates your qualifications for a specific job. But it’s more than that. 

A good resume lays the groundwork for professional growth through: 

  • Serving as a reference point for job interviews. 
  • Showcasing your personal brand. 
  • Recording your professional growth and career development. 

So, what is a resume exactly and why are they so important? How do you write one effectively, and what does a good resume look like?

Read on! We’ll share a basic resume definition, tell you how to write a resume, provide resume examples and share tips for crafting a resume that shines above the rest.

What is a resume?

According to Merriam-Webster, the standard resume definition is “a short account of one's career and qualifications.” 

Moreover, a resume is a concise document that provides an overview of your education, work experience, professional skills and other qualifications such as certifications and awards. It is typically used when applying for job opportunities or internships. The purpose of a resume is to showcase your relevant accomplishments and abilities to potential employers, helping them assess your suitability for a particular role.

Our Resume Builder can help you create a professional resume in just minutes!

Types of resumes

Now that we've answered "What is a resume?" let's look at the three core resume types.

There is no one-size-fits-all resume. Different resume types can emphasize different job qualifications, depending on your background, career goals and the specific job you are applying for. Remember to customize your resume for each application to highlight the most relevant information.

There are three traditional types of resumes or resume formats

Chronological: This format is the most widely used. It presents your work experience chronologically, starting with your most recent position. This format suits you with a consistent work history and want to highlight your career progression.

Functional: This format focuses on your skills and qualifications rather than your work history. It highlights your abilities and achievements, organized by skill categories. 

Combination: As the name suggests, this format combines elements of chronological and functional resumes. It highlights your skills and work experience, allowing you to showcase your qualifications while providing a chronological overview of your employment history. 

Resume examples

Use the resume examples below for inspiration when it's time to craft your resume, remembering to tailor your resume for each job application you send.

Chronological resume example for an experienced teacher.

Notice how this teacher used a professional summary instead of an objective and the work history section is emphasized over skills.

Chronological Resume Example for a teacher

Functional resume example for a graphic designer

Since Alfie is applying for his first professional graphic design job, he used a career objective in place of a summary and showcased his hard and soft skills over his internship work.

Functional Resume Example for a Graphic Designer.

Combination resume for a account manager

Victoria Holt wants to highlight her 10 years of experience and her steady work history but she wants to showcase her impressive mix of account management skills equally, so she chose the combination resume format.

Combination Account Manager Resume Example3

How do you write a resume?

So far we've answered "what is a resume?" and we've taken a close look at resume formats. Now you probably want to know how to write an effective resume.

Writing a resume can be a straightforward process if you follow these steps:

  1. Choose a suitable format. Select a resume format that best suits your background and the job you are applying for.
  2. Prepare to write your resume.
    • Start by thoroughly understanding the job you are applying for and the company you are targeting. Review the job description and research the company's values, culture and industry. This will help you tailor your resume to match their requirements and showcase your fit.
    • Identify your key skills and experiences: Make a list of your relevant skills, experiences, achievements and qualifications. Consider both hard skills, such as your technical abilities, and soft skills, like communication and leadership. This will help you determine what to highlight in your resume.
    • Gather the necessary information: Collect all the information you must have in your resume. This includes your contact details, educational background, work experience (including job titles, dates and responsibilities), certifications, relevant projects and any additional sections such as volunteer work or professional affiliations.
  3. Start with the header: Begin by including your full name, contact information (phone number, email address) and, optionally, your LinkedIn profile or personal website
  4. Add a resume objective or summary statement: Write a concise statement highlighting your career goals, relevant skills and what you can bring to the position or field you are applying for. Tailor this statement to match the specific job requirements.
  5. Create a work experience section: Detail your work history, internships, or relevant volunteer experiences. Include the job title, name of the organization, dates of employment and a brief description of your responsibilities and accomplishments. Use action verbs and quantify your achievements whenever possible.
  6. Skills: Create a section to highlight your hard skills and soft skills. Aim for six to ten of your top job-relevant strengths.
  7. Education: List your educational background in reverse chronological order, starting with your most recent degree or current enrollment. Include the institution's name, degree earned or pursuing, major or field of study and graduation date or expected graduation date.
  8. Projects or extracurricular activities (Optional). If applicable, showcase any significant projects, research, or extracurricular activities demonstrating your skills and accomplishments. Provide a brief description and highlight your role and contributions.
  9. Awards and certifications (Optional). Include any relevant awards, honors, or certifications you have received. This can showcase your achievements and dedication to your field.
  10. Format your resume. Keep your resume clean, professional and easy to read. Use a consistent font style and size and logically organize information. Utilize bullet points, headings and white space to enhance readability.
  11. Proofread and edit: Before submitting your resume, proofread it for grammatical or spelling errors. Ensure that the information is accurate and up to date. Consider asking a trusted friend or mentor to review it as well.

What is a resume template?

A resume template is a predesigned resume layout that serves as a framework for creating a professional resume. It provides a structure and organization for the content of your resume, including sections such as contact information, summary or objective statement, work experience, education, skills and any additional relevant sections.

Resume templates are designed to be visually appealing and easy to read, with consistent formatting and styling. They often include placeholders or prompts to guide you in filling in your own information. Templates can be found in various formats, such as Microsoft Word, Google Docs, or online resume builders.

Using a resume template can save you time and effort in creating a resume from scratch — especially when combined with a resume builder. It ensures that your resume follows a standard format and includes all the necessary sections. However, it's important to customize the template to fit your specific skills, experiences and the job you are applying for. This customization will help you stand out and tailor your resume to the specific requirements of each job opportunity.

5 tips to build an effective resume

  1. Tailor your resume to the job: Customize your resume to match the specific job requirements you are applying for. Highlight relevant skills, experiences and achievements that align with the job description.
  2. Format your resume correctly: Ensure your resume is well-organized and easy to read. Use headings, bullet points and a consistent font to make it visually appealing. Avoid using excessive colors or fonts that may distract the reader.
  3. Highlight your achievements: Instead of listing your job responsibilities, focus on your professional or academic accomplishments and how you added value to previous roles. Use quantifiable metrics and specific examples to demonstrate your impact.
  4. Include relevant keywords: Many employers use applicant tracking systems (ATS) to scan resumes for specific keywords. Research the job description and industry trends to identify relevant keywords and incorporate them naturally throughout your resume.
  5. Use numbers to quantify your experience. Incorporating numbers on your resume helps quantify your achievements, make a strong impression and provide evidence of your skills and abilities. It enhances the effectiveness of your resume and increases your chances of getting invited for an interview.

Key takeaways

  • A resume is a concise document that outlines your professional qualifications. Resumes are crucial because they tell employers what you can do for them, showcase your brand and serve as a timeline of your professional success. 
  • All resumes must be customized for each new job. 
  • Numbers make a strong impression and provide proof of your professional abilities.
  • Use relevant keywords on a resume to help get past ATS and to catch recruiters’ eyes. 
  • There are three standard resume formats: chronological, functional and combination. Each one displays your qualifications differently, based on your experience and goals. 
  • Resume templates provide the framework for your resume and can help you write a professional-quality resume quickly. 

What is a resume? FAQ

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