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Resume Definition & Meaning

A resume is a formal document created and used by a person to show their career background and skills. Resumes are used for a variety of reasons, but they are most often used to secure a new job by supplying information such as relevant job experience and education. Resume originated from the french term résumé, which means summary. The term is also similar to the latin term curriculum vitae, which is a written overview of someone's life work.

Resume format

The purpose of a resume is so that a job candidate can introduce themselves to their employer, present their qualifications, and hopefully obtain an interview. A resume should include a candidate's experience, education, and skills in an easy-to-read format

A resume is typically limited to one or two pages of size A4 or letter size. It highlights only the experience and skills the candidate considers the most relevant to the desired position they are applying to. A good resume contains keywords or skills the employer is looking for, heavily uses active verbs, and displays the content in an attractive manner. The complexity or simplicity of a resume varies from person to person—occupation to occupation. For example, a doctor or professor may have a longer resume than a general business resume because of the specialized field. Other industries may require special cases. An artist might include an extensive list of solo or group exhibitions they've shown.

Resume vs. cover letter

A cover letter is a short, three or four paragraph document that introduces a candidate's resume. It provides detailed information on why the candidate is qualified for the desired position. It goes beyond listing experience by explaining why the experience makes the candidate a strong match for the job. Essentially, it is a sales pitch for marketing credentials and securing an interview.

While a resume states the facts, a cover letter provides an opportunity for explanation and adds personality to the candidate. It can provide more details about particular career moments. The cover letter sells the qualifications to prospective employers; the resume provides the details to back up the information laid out in the cover letter. 

Resume writing tips 

Here are some tips for writing a successful resume: 

  • Use a legible font and set the size to 11 or 12 pt.
  • Present contact info in a separate resume header.
  • Keep the resume short and direct. A common rule of thumb is to keep the resume under one page in length.
  • Use bullet points as recruiters are more than likely going to be skimming the resume first.
  • List the most recent job experience first. 

Types of resumes

The four standard types of resumes include:

  • Chronological: The most commonly-used format. Work history is listed in chronological order, starting with the most recent job. This type of resume is useful for those with a solid work history and no lapses in careers.
  • Functional: A functional resume focuses on skills and experience first. It downplays the dates worked and employment history. This type of resume is useful if there are lapses in employment or no clear career path is evident.
  • Combination: A combination resume details both skills and experience along with a chronological work history. This format is useful for tailoring the resume to prospective job openings. 
  • Targeted: A target resume is customized in detail to the prospective employer. Objectives, qualifications, and education mirrors the job requirements. This format is the most time consuming as it must be changed for every job applied for. It is, however, the most effective when applying online as each company has specific keywords they are looking for.

The future of resumes

With the advancement of human resource hiring software, digital copies of resumes are necessary. An Applicant Tracking System (ATS) enables the electronic handling of recruitment and hiring needs. This system will scan resumes for keywords related to the field or job. Websites such as LinkedIn are often used as a supplement to the resume. ATS software will take information from both places.










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