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What Is a Résumé? Meaning, Definition & Use

What Is a Résumé? Meaning, Definition & Use

What is a resume (or résumé if you're feeling a bit pretentious), what is its purpose, and how to use it.

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 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.
  • What a resume should look like.


Want to save time and have your resume ready in 5 minutes? Try our resume builder. It’s fast and easy to use. Plus, you’ll get ready-made content to add with one click. See 20+ resume templates and create your resume here.


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sample resume templates

Sample resume made with our builder—See more templates and create your resume here.


 Are you looking for a different kind of job application document? See these guides:



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.


Resume, meaning summary, comes from French (though the French themselves call this document a CV).


What is the purpose of a resume?


The purpose of a resume is to introduce yourself to employers, present your qualifications, and secure an interview. The goal of writing a resume is to showcase your experience, education, and skills in a standardized format which is easy for recruiters to read.


Now that you know what it is, here's our guide on How to Build a Resume.


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?


Resume vs. cover letter:


  • 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 Cover Letter for a Resume


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.


When making a resume in our builder, drag & drop bullet points, skills, and auto-fill the boring stuff. Spell check? Check. Start building professional resume template here for free.

When you’re done, Zety’s resume builder will score your resume and tell you exactly how to make it better.


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:



OK, a great 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: Best Resume Format for 2021.


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:



These resume 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:



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. According to our HR statistics report, 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. Targeting your resume for a specific job is what trully makes a good resume.


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.



Plus, a great cover letter that matches your resume will give you an advantage over other candidates. You can write it in our cover letter builder here. Here's what it may look like:


matching set of resume and cover letter

See more cover letter templates and start writing.

Key Takeaway


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!

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Emilia Mucha
Emilia is a career expert sharing all kinds of job hunting advice. At Zety, she writes dedicated guides that help readers create job-winning resumes and cover letters.

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