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What Is a Resume? A Brief Overview

Simply put, a resume is a one- to two-page document that sums up a job seeker's qualifications for the jobs they're interested in. More than just a formal job application, a resume is a marketing tool that job seekers use to communicate their value to employers.

What Goes into a Resume?

A resume summarizes the most important information an employer needs to know when they consider a new hire. The job seeker's relevant qualifications, training, and work history are listed under easily understood resume headings such as "Summary of Qualifications," "Professional Experience," or "Education." A typical resume will include the following:

  1. Contact information
    Job seeker's name, address, phone numbers, and email.
  2. Objective or Summary of Qualifications
    Relevant and impressive qualifications for the desired position, presented at the top of the page, directly under the contact information.
  3. Work History
    Present and/or past employment, including dates, companies, job titles, and relevant skills and accomplishments.
  4. Education
    Highest level of education completed.

If appropriate for your field or job, it can also include topics under such headings as Achievements, Licenses, Computer Skills, Professional Affiliations, and Related Coursework.

Who Needs a Resume?

You'll need to submit a resume if you're applying for a job with an organization that doesn't rely solely on standard, handwritten application forms. Companies that require resumes will say so in their job postings, and those that don't will ask you to fill out an application. But it's also a good idea to have a typed resume to submit with the application form, especially if your handwriting can be difficult to read.

What's the Purpose of a Resume?

The popular belief is that resumes land jobs. Not true. The resume's sole purpose is to land you an interview. If employers like what they see in your resume, they'll contact you to schedule an interview. During the interview, they'll evaluate how well your skills match the job requirements, and how well your personality fits with their team.

Types of Resumes

Many kinds of resume templates are available, but the top three formats are:

  • Chronological: With work history listed in reverse chronological order (most recent position first, oldest position last), this traditional type of resume focuses on titles and dates.
  • Functional: This less-common format focuses on skills and accomplishments, rather than dates and titles. It divides your qualifications into functional categories, such as Administrative, Marketing, or Project Management.
  • Combination/Hybrid: Featuring a mix of elements from both of the above resume types, this format is the most versatile for individual scenarios. Many feel this format gives hiring managers the best of both worlds.

To learn more about resumes than the basic information presented here, follow these links for helpful tips and advice on specific resume topics:

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