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What is a Resume?

Mary McMahon
Updated May 16, 2024
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A resume is a brief document that highlights an individual's experience, qualifications, and skills, in the hopes of securing a job interview. In some regions of the world, the term is used interchangeably with Curriculum Vitae (CV), while in other places, the two terms refer to very different documents. A resume is a standard inclusion with any job or internship application, and it may be requested for applicants into graduate and professional schools as well. As a general rule, this document is only one page long, although special circumstances may call for an additional page.

A good resume contains basic information about the applicant, organized in a way that is easy for the reader to comprehend. Clear contact information is usually at the top, followed by work experience, educational achievements, a list of skills, relevant certifications or awards, and contact information for references, though not necessarily in this order. The organization of a resume is a fine art, and it requires some work to create a strong one. In some cases, people ask for professional help when assembling a resume.

There are several different philosophical approaches to a resume. All are designed to sell the writer in some way or another, and by convention many job seekers tailor theirs to a specific job or employer. This tailoring allows job candidates to bring out their strongest skills for an individual position. Some job seekers also add deeper levels of personalization, designed to humanize them to potential employers. Some employers actively request more personal information, such as hobbies or favorite vacations spots, in an attempt to learn more about the psychology of the applicant.

In some cases, a resume is arranged strictly chronologically. In this instance, educational accomplishments will usually lead, followed by employment history. A chronological resume often includes all work experience, since gaps will be easier to spot. In other cases, the document is organized by relevance, with blocks of similar information clumped together. One put together in this fashion usually features only relevant work experience for a position, so that potential employers do not have to slog through the applicant's entire life history.

In nations that distinguish between a resume and a CV, a CV is much more detailed. The CV will include all life accomplishments ranging from awards earned in high school to journal publications, in chronological order. In the academic community, CVs are very common. They allow applicants to provide more information about themselves, and they may be several pages long.

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Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a SmartCapitalMind researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments
By anon36148 — On Jul 10, 2009

i want to take one wellness class and i want to become a wellness coach. how can i do this.

By teojoycelyn — On Apr 24, 2009

What is a job resume and how do you create one?

By bestcity — On Jul 13, 2008

For certain situations, such as mature professionals, career changers or employees closer to retirement might want to focus more on skills, and expertise in a particular area. So instead of giving a chronological listing of jobs and responsibilities, this type of resume pays attention to skills acquired over the years.

Even an entry level employee might want to use this type of resume, since there is no record yet to justify chronology.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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