In this guide you’ll learn *when* and *how* to use a general, universal resume. Plus, you’ll see an easy-to-use template you can copy and tweak in no time.
It's that document you send to employers, right?
Wait... isn't that a job application? Uhm, CV? A cover letter?!
Confusion abounds, but we're here to help.
This article will show you:
- What a resume for a job is.
- Why it’s so important.
- How a resume should look like.
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Sample resume made with our builder—See more templates and create your resume here.
What Is a Resume For a Job Application?
A resume (also spelled résumé) is a formal document that serves to show a person’s career background and skills. In most cases, it’s created in order to help a candidate to land a new job. A traditional resume consists of a professional summary, work history, and education sections. It works like your job hunt marketing document.
In other words: a resume must sell you to the recruiter right away.
And your resume is usually 1 of 250 others. So, there is no second chance.
Don’t sell a bill of goods. According to a survey by CareerBuilder 75% of HR managers spot lies in resumes.
Why Is a Resume Important
Resumes are the first thing the prospective employer sees about you. They need to make the best first impression on the recruiter. That’s why a resume is considered to be one of the most important steps in the job application process.
A resume is definitely a must-have. Without it, you can't expect to be invited to a job interview.
But it’s usually sent along with a cover letter. What’s the difference between the two?
- A resume is a bulleted overview of your work experience. A cover letter, as the name suggests, shows your skills and accomplishments in the letter form.
- Resumes cut to the chase and are a point of reference for the recruiter during a job interview. Cover letters get into more detail about particular career moments.
If you’re interested in how to write the perfect cover letter, check out our guide: How to Write a Covering Letter for a Resume [+Examples]
Pro Tip: If you came across a job ad that asks for a CV (or Curriculum Vitae), be aware it’s not the same as a resume. CVs include an in-depth description of your career history and are usually used for academic purposes. Check out CV vs. resume differences.
Key Components of a Resume
Since your future career depends on the quality of your resume, it is important to have it right.
So first, give your resume a clear structure so it pleases the recruiter’s eye right from the beginning.
Follow these simple resume formatting tips:
- Set one-inch margins on each side of the page.
- Go for single or 1.15 line spacing.
- Use the legible font for a resume and keep it 11 or 12pt.
- Present your contact info in a separate resume header.
- Divide your document into easy-to-navigate resume sections.
- Describe your experience in the form of bullet points.
- Leave enough white space for a balanced resume layout.
OK, the right resume template—check.
Now let's learn what resume format will help you convey your uniqueness to the hiring manager.
What are the standard resume formats?
- Reverse-chronological resume: a classic format known to most recruiters and your best choice in most situations. It puts your recent or current experience upfront and promotes your proudest achievements going back in time.
- Functional resume: puts a focus on skills rather than work history. It’s ideal for career changers and those with gaps in employment.
- Combination resume: a hybrid of both chronological and functional resume formats. Begins with a summary of skills, then proceeds to the most relevant experience moments—the most flexible format.
Choose the format which will help you advertise yourself the best to the recruiter. Read more: Resume Format: Samples and Templates for all Types of Resumes (10+).
That’s about it when it comes to resume structuring. But without the right content, the layout's just an empty frame.
So let’s see what the key components of a resume are.
What to Include on a Resume:
- Contact information: your name, phone number, email address, and optionally relevant social media handles, such as your LinkedIn profile.
- Resume profile: a short summary of your skills and proudest accomplishments. It tops your resume and serves as your job bio.
- Work experience: the meat and potatoes of your job application. It’s where you tell your career history. Your job titles, company names, duties, and years worked—these go into this section.
- Education on a resume: your school names, degrees, major/minors, and optionally—GPA plus relevant coursework.
- Resume skills: job-related skills that may be of value to your prospective employer. According to statistics, a well-crafted key skills section can boost your chances of getting a new job by 59%.
These sections are more than necessary. But you can also list other resume sections depending on the job you’re targeting.
Consider adding one of these resume nice-to-haves:
- Certifications and licenses
- Awards and honors
- Volunteer work
- Hobbies and interests
If you a fresher on the job market? List your education first, and don’t forget about internships, extracurricular activities, and volunteer work. Find out more: First Resume with No Work Experience Samples: Guide + Examples
Remember to double check your resume for grammatical errors and typos. These are always a big no-no.
Plus, keep it short and sweet. Hiring managers look at each resume only for about six seconds. If your resume feels like a never-ending story with plot twists and turns—it won’t sell well.
It’s much better to tailor your resume to the job post, instead of listing all skills and duties that come to your mind.
Pro Tip: Looking at your resume and “responsible for” pops out more than ten times? Avoid weak words and use resume action words instead. These will help your resume go through the Applicant Tracking Software (ATS), used by about 75% of hiring managers according to the Capterra’s survey.
When making a resume in our builder, drag & drop bullet points, skills, and auto-fill the boring stuff. Spell check? Check. Start building your resume here.
When you’re done, Zety’s resume builder will score your resume and tell you exactly how to make it better.
What is a resume? Why is a resume important?
Here’s a recap of what you should know before sending your resume to the future employer:
- Your resume is a marketing document. It’s used to make a favorable impression on the recruiter.
- Treat your resume as a summary of your work experience, education, and skills. Be concise and list only key career wins. Plus, be relevant.
- Make your resume aesthetically pleasing. Use the best formatting rules.
- Respect your reader, proofread your resume and make it high-quality.
What do you think about the resume definition above? Does this brief overview answer your resume questions? Give me a shout in the comments!