What Is a Resume? [Definition, Elements, Tips, Examples]

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What is a resume? A resume is a formal document that you use during a job application process. It is commonly used for job applications or also university applications, and it usually contains your qualifications, experience, skills, and other relevant information to help the employer evaluate if you fit the position.

Read on if you want to know more about what a resume is, how it looks and what it contains, read on.

What Is a Resume?

The term resume (or résumé) is a French word that means a summary. That’s essentially what a resume is: a 1-page document summarizing your qualifications, skills, and work experience. 

So, what is the purpose of a resume?

During the job application process, you need to submit your resume, then proceed to an interview with the hiring manager, and finally get the position if you are the right person for the position. A resume is the key to showcase your qualifications and gets you the chance to have an interview with the hiring manager.

Many people think that a resume and a Curriculum Vitae (CV) are different terms of the same thing. Actually, they are slightly different. A CV is about your course of life, which is why it is longer than a resume because it has more details on everything that you have done. 

Types of Resumes

There are three types of resume: reverse chronological, functional, and combination resumes. We will now take a good look at these three types of resumes so that you can pick the resume format that suits your needs best.

1. Reverse Chronological Resume

A reverse chronological resume states your work experience by starting from the latest to the oldest. By highlighting the most recent work experience, employers can review if you have been working in the same industry or a similar position. The employer would be able to save time on the job training after hirement. 

If you have been working for different jobs and have a lot of work experience, a chronological resume is the way to go.

Pros: 

  • Recruiters are familiar with this resume formatting.
  • Recruiters can scan through the highlighted professional experience more easily.
  • Showcases the most recent work experience that recruiters are looking for.

Cons:

  • Layout and format is very commonly used, which makes it hard to stand out.
  • Not much emphasis on one’s relevant skills and capabilities.
  • Job changing histories and employment gaps are accentuated.

2. Functional Resume

You might be wondering, what is a functional resume? It is a resume that highlights one’s relevant skills by listing them as the body of the resume. The work experience and other information come after the skills.

A functional resume does not only list the relevant skills. The details about the skills mentioned should also be included as subpoints.

If you are someone who often changes careers, planning to change careers, or has an employment gap that you prefer not to show to the employer, a functional resume will be a perfect choice for you.

Pros: 

  • Recruiters will know your skills that could bring benefit directly.
  • Hide employment gaps in work history.
  • Higher flexibility that allows you to make more subtle changes.

Cons:

  • Might draw employer’s attention to the covered-up work experience.
  • Cannot show career growth.
  • Recruiters are not familiar with the format.

3. Combination Resume

So, what does a combination resume mean? It is a combined format of chronological and functional resume, which includes the details of work experience and relevant skills.

This type of resume format is very flexible and it allows you to adjust to the needs of the position that you are applying for.

It does not matter if you have much or less work experience. You can use this hybrid resume format and balance the information out to present yourself better.

Pros: 

  • Allows you to fully utilize your information to the needs of a position.
  • Allows you to avoid including employment gaps.
  • Can impress employers with detailed qualifications and skills.

Cons:

  • Career growth is not shown at first sight.
  • Can easily overcrowd the space if not planned well.
  • Might not be accepted by traditional employers.

What Needs to Be on a Resume

A resume is an important document that will represent you before you can see the employer in person. Knowing what needs to be on a resume is essential because only then you can create the best resume.

Contact details

The contact information section lies at the beginning of your resume. This includes your phone number and email address so that employers can contact you if they have any further notices to inform you.

💡 Pro Tip: Avoid using inappropriate email addresses if you want to look professional in the employer’s eyes.

Introduction

A strong introduction makes you look good on a resume. It is a simple phrase or paragraph that describes who you are and what your goals are. 

The simplest way to write it is to include adjectives that describe your personality, how long you have been working, and what you are looking for.

Since it is the first statement that employers see, it should be brief, concise, and direct, yet impactful.

Education

If you are a fresher, your educational background will be an especially important element in your resume. This is because recruiters can have an idea of your level based on your GPA/grades. 

When listing education in your resume, include the school name, the attendance year, degree, and GPA.

💡 Pro Tip: Only include your GPA if it is above 3 or 3.5.

Experience

When employers look at the work experience section, they look at these 3 key parts: your job title, the company that you have worked for, and dates of employment.

However, employers would not know any other details if you do not include any descriptions about the job but basic information. Hence, you should incorporate sub-points about what you have worked with.

💡 Pro Tip: Aside from listing your job responsibilities, mention notable achievements or milestones that you’ve achieved during your time working. Back it up with some numeric data to illustrate it better.

Skills

Having attention-catching skills can make you look good on a resume, but before you start writing it, it is important to know that skills can be categorized into two different types: hard skills & soft skills.

Hard skills are technical knowledge that you can learn and train. The proficiency level of hard skills is usually measurable. Skills like software skills relevant to the job are the best example of hard skills.

Meanwhile, soft skills are the personality traits that will make you a good fit for the position. Since these are personality traits, they can be subjective and are more difficult to measure in terms of proficiency. Examples of soft skills are leadership skills, communication skills, and team working skills.

If you have extra space on the resume that you want to fully utilize with information that you think will be relevant and worthy to show the employers, here are some options that you may consider.

Certifications & licenses

Jobs like an accountant, teacher, and civil engineer need official certifications or licenses as a requirement. If you are applying for jobs that have a high-level requirement, it helps show your credibility. 

Language skills

Being bilingual or multilingual is a benefit to you because employers would want to hire someone who can represent the company overseas, or to work with foreign partners and clients. Listing any language skills that you have to your resume will be a huge plus point.

💡 Pro Tip: When listing your language skills on your resume, don’t forget to include your proficiency level: Native, bilingual proficiency, professional working proficiency, or elementary proficiency.

Awards & honors

Awards and honors from competitions can be quite an impressive addition to your resume. If you got any awards or honors for an outstanding academic or non-academic performance, you could mention them in your resume.

Volunteer

Volunteer work not only shows one’s kind-hearted personality, but also how you apply a certain skill into practice. You may list volunteer work experiences in your resume while also listing out the details of what you have done if it is related to the position that you are applying for.

Publications

If you have written a thesis, contributed to a journal or research, published some books, articles, or news, you may provide information about these publications on your resume. It illustrates professional knowledge of a certain topic and can also serve as a part of your portfolio.

Projects

Listing projects that you’ve worked on previously is a good way for employers to know what you have achieved and how you applied your skills into practice. They will understand your level better by knowing what you have worked on.

Tips for a Good Resume

Here are some tips that not only create an outstanding resume but will also help you look good on a resume:

💡 Tailor the resume to the job description.

A resume serves to tell employers who you are but they have specific requirements when hiring new employees. Hence, you should incorporate relevant information that is helpful when applying for the position and eliminate those that are not.

💡 Proofread again and again.

Employers have to read resumes from a great number of applicants, which means they can easily notice if there is a slight error in the resume. To avoid mistakes from happening, you should always proofread before handing it to the company. 

💡 Utilize action words.

Action words are very helpful in showcasing what you have done during your time in other jobs. Utilizing some action words might give a better impact in showing your experience.

📚 Further reading: 300+ Action Verbs List for You Resume to Make Your Writing Stronger

💡 Use powerful keywords.

Some companies, especially big companies use Applicant Tracking Software (ATS) that helps them to filter out resumes, finding keywords that meet the requirements from the job listing. Therefore, keywords in a resume are essential.

The best way to find powerful keywords is to refer back to the job listing for skill-related keywords and include them in your resume accordingly.

💡 Keep your resume format clean and tidy.

A clean and tidy resume will always make information easy to read. There are some formats that you should follow when creating one.

  • Every side of the document should have a space of 1 inch.
  • Use the appropriate font for the resume and use sizes 11pt or 12pt.
  • Separate your information into categories for better viewing. 
  • Make good use of bullet points when including details as subpoints.

Example of a Resume

Now that you know what things to include in a resume, you might wonder, “What should a resume look like?”

Here is an example of a resume that can help you get an idea of how a resume looks like.

Peter Simson

Developmental Editor

098-1234567
Taoyuan city
[email protected]

RESUME SUMMARY

A 3-year experience English lecturer at National Taiwan University(NTU). Seeking a career change to a developmental editor to extend my skills into different fields. Planning to join the editor field and help authors refine their works while learning more different skills. 

WORK EXPERIENCE

English Lecturer
National Taipei University (NTU)
2016 - 2022

  • Taught university students English writing classes.
  • Judged and organized English writing competitions.
  • Counseled students who needed help.

Freelance Translator
2015 - 2020

  • Translated advertisements for multiple companies.
  • Proofread translation works from other translators.
  • Focused on English - Chinese translations. 

EDUCATION

National Taiwan University (NTU)
Foreign Languages and Applied Linguistics
2012 - 2015

GPA 3.9/4.0

SKILLS

Hard Skills:

  • Microsoft Office
  • Communication skills
  • Time management skills
  • Organizational skills
  • Attention to detail

Soft Skills:

  • Problem-solving skills
  • Emotional intelligence
  • Openness to feedback
  • Patience
  • Enthusiasm

Language Skills:

  • English: Fluent
  • Chinese: Mother tongue
  • French: Intermediate

🔑 Key Takeaways


Now that you know what is a resume, here are some key takeaways that you should keep in mind:

  • A resume is a one-page document that represents you to showcase your qualifications and help land an interview.
  • The essential elements in a resume are contact information, introduction, education, experience, and hard and soft skills.
  • Always proofread before handing it to the company to avoid possible mistakes.
  • Tailor your resume to show that you are the best candidate for the company. 

With CakeResume, you can easily create a resume online, free download your resume’s PDF formats, and utilize ATS-compliant templates to create a resume. Land your dream job, create your resume online (free download) now!

--- Originally written by Ryan Goh ---

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