What Is a Resume? (Plus How To Write and Format a Resume)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Updated 30 January 2023

Published 30 August 2021

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Resumes help hiring managers determine whether you're fit for a role. While every resume differs depending on a person's education, professional history, industry and position, they often have the same key sections. Understanding what a resume is, what it includes and how to write one can give you a greater chance of getting a job. In this article, we define 'what is a resume', explain what it includes and list the steps for writing and formatting a resume.

Related: What To Include in a Resume: 7 Important Components

What is a resume?

When answering 'what is a resume' it's important to consider the role you're applying for. A resume for a job is a professional document that summarises your qualifications for a particular position in the workforce. For example, a resume for a teaching job highlights your professional experience in academia, whereas a resume for a customer service job may highlight your background in retail. The goal of a resume is to help employers learn who you are and whether your skills and experiences match the position you're applying for.

Related: Cover Letter vs. Resume

What does a resume include?

While you may decide to add, remove or alter parts of your resume depending on your application, here are some of the most common resume sections:

  • Full name and contact information: The top of a resume includes personal details such as your first and last name, phone number and email address. It may also include a link to your website or online portfolio.

  • Resume summary or objective: While the former describes your skills and qualifications as they relate to the position you're applying for, the latter highlights your relevant short-term career goals.

  • Academic history: This section of your resume showcases your relevant education. For example, it may include details about any diplomas, degrees or credentials you've earned.

  • Professional experience: A professional experience section lists your most recent and relevant jobs and the duties you performed for each. It can also include any of your accomplishments during your previous employment.

  • Relevant skills and certifications: The end of a resume often includes a section that highlights any skills that align with the job description. You can also include any relevant certifications here or in the education section of your resume.

  • Additional accomplishments, volunteer work and personal projects: Some resumes include a section about your relevant awards and accomplishments. You can also detail any of your volunteer work, personal projects, or include this information in the work history section of your resume if you have little to no professional experience.

Related: A Guide on How To Format Biodata on a Resume (With Example)

What is the difference between a resume and a CV?

The main differences between a resume and a CV lie in their function, length and the type of information you include. While a resume provides hiring managers with a concise outline of your skills and qualifications for a specific job, a CV provides a full look at your career journey.

In addition, a resume is often a one page that briefly showcases your relevant credentials, whereas a CV is a comprehensive, two- to three-page document that includes everything you've done in your professional career. This can include any of your publications or achievements. Essentially, a resume summarises your work experience, while a CV is a longer document highlighting your academic achievements.

Related: Curriculum Vitae (CV) Format Guide (With Examples and Tips)

How to write a resume

Use the following steps as a guide to write an effective resume for any position:

1. Include your name and contact information

At the top of your resume, you may include personal details such as your full name, phone number and email address. Depending on the type of job you're applying for, you can also include a link to an online portfolio or professional website. Including your information at the beginning of your resume can help hiring managers quickly identify the owner of the resume. Your contact details give them a way to reach you in case they want to schedule an interview.

Related: 139 Action Verbs to Make Your Resume Stand Out

2. Write a resume summary or objective

A resume summary and resume objective are brief sections on your resume that introduce you to the hiring manager. While a resume summary briefly describes your work experience and background for a job, a resume objective highlights your relevant career goals. No matter which you write, it's important to review the job posting to determine what the employer is looking for in a candidate.

Typically, a resume summary suits candidates with work experience they can quickly summarise, whereas a resume objective is best for recent graduates with minimal job experience. Here are examples of both a resume summary and a resume objective:

  • Resume summary: “Thoughtful construction labourer with over five years of experience helping manage teams toward successful and safe completion of housing projects.”

  • Resume objective: “Recent graduate eagerly looking to expand construction labour experience with a growing contractor.”

Related:

  • How To Write an Executive Summary for a Resume

  • 27 Resume Objective Examples for Different Job Titles

  • What Is a Bookkeeper Resume Objective? (Plus Examples)

3. Describe your academic history

The education section of a resume helps employers who are looking for candidates with a certain degree, certificate or experience level. Include your most recent and relevant education. You can include some of the following elements in this section of your resume:

  • Credential, diploma or degree

  • Field of study

  • School name

  • School location, if outside of Singapore

  • Graduation year, if applicable

You can also include a high GPA or any relevant honours or academic recognition, coursework, activities or other achievements obtained during your education.

Related: How To List Achievements for a Resume (With Examples)

4. Highlight your professional work history

The experience or professional work history section of your resume lets you showcase the value you provided to your previous employers. This part of your resume lists your most relevant work experience, starting with your most recent job. Focus on your experiences from the past 10 to 15 years. If you have little to no job experience, list any jobs that required the same soft skills as the job you're applying for. You can also list any relevant volunteer opportunities.

For each job, include the following information in your employment history section:

  • Previous job title

  • Former employer

  • Years of employment

  • List of your relevant duties or achievements

When possible, use numbers to measure your success. Keep your bulleted list short and focus only on the most valuable achievements you had with that employer, so long as they relate to the job you're currently applying for.

Read more: How To Write Work Experience in a Resume (With Tips and Examples)

5. List your relevant skills and certifications

No matter the job you apply for, it's important to have a skills section that highlights your relevant technical or hard skills and soft skills. You can also include any tools you've mastered or certifications you've obtained. Make sure the skills you include relate to the job you're applying for. You can also include any relevant certifications here or in the education section of your resume.

Review the job description to determine the skill set and potential certifications your prospective employer is looking for in a candidate. Consider writing down keywords from the job description that match your own skills and include them in your skills section as appropriate.

Related: 10 Best Skills To Include on a Resume

6. Include additional relevant accomplishments, volunteer work or personal projects

At the end of your resume, consider adding a short list of any other relevant accomplishments, volunteer work or personal projects. Only include those that are relevant or that may help create a better idea of who you are as an individual as it relates to the position you're applying for.

Consider any of your experiences outside of the professional history you already added. Keep in mind that it's important for the information you include to help employers understand your relevant qualifications. You may also use this section to showcase your personality and where your passion truly lies.

Related: 6 Universal Rules for Writing Your Resume

How to format a resume

Use these steps to format your resume:

  1. Keep it to one page. Write a brief resume with a maximum of one page. Only include information that's relevant to the job you're applying for and write clearly and concisely.

  2. Maintain simplicity. Opt for one or two font sizes max—the smaller size for your body text and a slightly larger font for your headings. In addition, use a maximum of two colours for a cleaner look.

  3. Use strategic formatting. Use bullet lists, bolding and italics to your advantage. For example, use bullet lists to break up long paragraphs, make your resume easier to read and attract attention to sections like your previous job duties.

Related:

  • How To Write a Job Description in Resume (With Examples)

  • How to Write an IT Resume (With Template and Example)


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