What Is a Resume? An Essential Guide for Professionals

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What is a resume

Whether you’re looking for new employment or not, it’s important to build a resume and keep it up to date. Most recruiters require a resume for professional positions. If you’re not in the market for a new job, having your resume ready can help you respond quickly in the event that your dream job comes along.

This article will provide a full answer to the important question, “What is a resume?”

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What is a resume? 

Hiring managers will ask for a resume when hiring for professional positions, regardless of whether you’re a seasoned professional or just starting your career. A resume should be specific to the job description. It’s your opportunity to make a quick first impression of your qualifications and skills.

Your resume is important because it tells hiring managers and recruiters about you and why you fit a particular position. Think of it as marketing your professional brand.

Resume types

There are several resume formats, including reverse chronological, functional, or a combination of the two. The one you choose may depend on whether you’re early in your career or a seasoned professional.

Reverse-chronological resume

A reverse-chronological resume focuses on your work history, listing your most recent position first and going back to earlier relevant positions. Many recruiters prefer this type of resume because they can quickly scan and see your work history. It’s a good choice if you have an extensive work history to display to employers.

Functional resume

A functional resume shows off your skills, accomplishments, and standout professional experiences. It may or may not include your work history. This type of resume may be appropriate if you’re changing careers or have little work experience or gaps in your work history.

Combination resume

A combination resume blends the reverse chronological and functional formats. As with a functional resume, you would lead with your skills and accomplishments, but you would follow that with your work history, though it would be a brief summation and wouldn’t be the main focus.

This approach allows you to highlight skills that indicate why you’re a great fit for the position and still gives the recruiter a sense of your work history. Again, if you have gaps in your work history, this type of resume can demonstrate that you have the skills needed for a given job.

What is a resume template?


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A resume template provides a basic structure to guide you step by step through the resume-building process. Resume Official offers free resources for resume templates, lists of compelling verbs, and bullet points to help you create a winning resume.

Resume vs. curriculum vitae (CV)

The terms “resume” and “curriculum vitae” (CV) are sometimes used interchangeably in the United States and Canada, though “CV” is used more often in Europe. However, the two documents have different purposes and lengths.

“Resume” comes from the French word “résumer,” which means “to summarize,” while CV translates to “the course of one’s life” from Latin.

A CV is a compendium of an applicant’s education, teaching and research experience, and other academic qualifications and activities. It’s mainly used to apply for academic positions, fellowships, or grants.

CVs can vary in length since they contain an applicant’s education experience. Your CV would start with your education and include the name of your advisor and the title of your dissertation.

What are the key elements to include on a resume?

While every resume is unique, most (if not all) contain several of the same important sections. Your resume should provide your contact information, education, and work experience, but you’ll also want to include other sections that showcase skills relevant to the position you’re applying for.

Contact information

Your contact information should appear at the top of the first page of your resume. List your preferred name, telephone number, and email address, and include your city, state, and ZIP code; giving your street address is optional.

Professional summary

Below your contact information, list four to six bullets highlighting your skills, accomplishments, and experiences that relate to the job you’re seeking.


This section lists both the hard and soft skills you possess that are relevant to the position. Here, you can list field-specific certifications and licenses, the languages you speak, awards and honors you’ve received, works you’ve published, and freelance and volunteer work.

Work experience

Naturally, your work experience, paid or unpaid, and what you accomplished at each job goes in the work experience section.


The education section is where you’ll provide an overview of your post-secondary education. You can also mention additional coursework related to the field or industry you hope to work in.

What should you not put on a resume?

Resumes have evolved over the years. Many items once considered necessary for a resume are now passe. Consequently, knowing what to leave off your resume is just as important as knowing what to include in it.

Here’s a short list of what not to put on your resume:

  • Your age
  • Your personal information
  • Your street address
  • Hobbies and interests unrelated to the position
  • Primary school information
  • Salary preferences
  • Photos or graphics

Generally speaking, you should also plan on furnishing a list of references separately from your resume.

Draft your resume with confidence

Your resume is like a professional advertisement to sell employers on your experience and skills. It should align with the job description for the position you’re seeking and quickly convey relevant highlights of your career and education to prompt recruiters to request an interview.

If you’re applying for a job in the private or public sector, you’ll use a resume. If you’re after a position in education or research, use a CV instead. Whichever route you take, make sure you organize your information in such a way as to give yourself the best chance of capturing the hiring manager’s attention.


Why is a resume important?

A resume shows prospective employers your qualifications and what you want them to know about you. It can help you stand out, especially in a competitive job market.

What are the 10-second and 30-second rules for resumes?

The 10-second and 30-second rules refer to the time you have to make an impression on a recruiter. You only have around 30 seconds to make a good impression or have your resume moved to the “rejected” pile.

How many bullets should you have on a resume?

Each job on your resume can have four to six bullet points. For your most recent position, you might post as many as eight bullets. For past roles, consider limiting yourself to one or two points.

How long should a resume be?

Always keep your resume to one to two pages. Recruiters typically take five to 15 seconds to scan resumes and determine which stack to place candidates in. Taking up too much of their time may make them more likely to reject you.

How far back should a resume go?

You’re free to include 10–15 years of work experience on your resume. If you have older experience relevant to the job description, consider creating a separate section for outstanding early work history.

Is a resume enough for a job?

A resume can help you stand out. However, other aspects of the hiring process, such as interviews, references, and skills assessments, best determine your fit for a particular position and company.

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