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What Is a Resume (Definition, Purpose & Key Elements)

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Your resume is an essential item in your job application and an absolute go-to for recruiters to get to know you as a potential candidate. However, it may seem overwhelming to grasp immediately if this is your first job search.

Learn what a resume is exactly and what it aims at, along with what information it requires to be complete and job-winning.

You’ll discover:

  • What is a resume.
  • What is resume purpose in a job search.
  • An example of a resume to understand what kind of details you need to include.
  • Four types of resumes and the difference between them.

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 made with our builder—See more resume examples here.

Learn more about application documents from our other guides:

What Is a Resume: Example

Joseph Hill

Marketing Manager



Results-driven Marketing Manager with over 10 years of experience. Eager to support MarketMagnet Strategies in driving consumer engagement and brand recognition by using strong market research skills. Increased BrandBurst Innovations' sales by 30% in one year after developing new marketing strategies.


Marketing Manager

BrandBurst Innovations, Kenosha, WI

June 2011–Present

Key Qualifications & Responsibilities

  • Orchestrating and executing 10 innovative marketing strategies.
  • Leading a team of 15 to implement campaigns across digital and traditional platforms.
  • Managing 30 partnerships with influencers to increase brand reach.
  • Mentoring 5 junior team members.

Key Achievement:

  • Increased company's sales by 30% in one year.

Marketing Associate

Catalyst Marketing Solutions, Kenosha, WI

July 2006–May 2011

Key Qualifications & Responsibilities

  • Assisted in the development and execution of 48 marketing campaigns.
  • Conducted 17 market research projects to identify new opportunities.
  • Handled social media content and engagement strategies.

Key Achievement:

  • Executed a social media campaign that increased website traffic by 25%.


Bachelor in Business Administration, Major in Marketing

The University of Wisconsin-Parkside, Kenosha, WI

September 2002–May 2006

Relevant extracurricular activities

  • Member of the Marketing Association (2004–2006)
  • Student Leader for the annual Business Week conference (2005)

Academic achievements

  • Dean's List (Fall 2003, Spring 2004, Fall 2005)


  • Strategic planning
  • Digital Marketing
  • Social media strategy
  • Team leadership
  • Communication
  • Data analysis
  • Problem-solving


  • Certified Professional Marketer (PCM®), American Marketing Association, 2007


Member of the American Marketing Association since 2007

  • Delivered a lecture on "Impact of Digital Marketing" during the 2018 AMA Conference, Chicago


  • English—Native
  • Spanish—Intermediate proficiency


  • Running a personal blog on marketing trends and strategies.
  • Participating in local charity runs, demonstrating dedication and community involvement.

What Is a Resume for a Job

A resume (also spelled résumé) is a formal document presenting your career background and skills. Usually, along with a cover letter, it’s created to help you land a new job. A traditional resume includes a professional summary, work history, education, and skills sections.

Pro Tip: In the US, you can use two types of documents to apply for a job. One of them is a resume. The other is a CV. The significant difference between them is the purpose. You use resumes to apply for traditional jobs, like accounting, IT, or communications. But you use a CV for academic applications, like research positions, fellowships, or grants.

Pro Tip #2: In the UK, a CV means exactly the same as a resume for Americans. 

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. Writing a resume aims to showcase your experience, education, and skills in a standardized format that is easy for recruiters to read.

Resume Example

Here’s what a resume generally looks like:

what is resume example

Want to learn how to create a resume like the one above? Fantastic! Read about it here: How to Make a Resume in 9 Simple Steps.

Types of Resumes

There are four types of resumes, and they are:

  • 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: a format that focuses on skills rather than work history. It’s ideal for career changers and those with gaps in employment.
  • Combination resume: a hybrid of chronological and functional resume formats (the most flexible). It begins with a summary of skills, then proceeds to the most relevant experience moments.
  • Targeted resume: a resume written for a specific position. Create it by matching the resume keywords referring to skills, qualifications, qualities, and responsibilities listed in the job description. Targeting your resume for a specific job is what truly makes a good resume.

Choose the format that will help you best advertise yourself to the recruiter. Read more: Best Resume Format

Key Elements to Include on a Resume

See what the key sections of a resume are and what to put in your resume:

Those resume sections are more than necessary. But you can also list others depending on the job your resume is targeting. Consider adding extra information to your resume as well: 

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

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

Key Takeaway

Here’s a recap of what you should know before sending your resume to a 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!

About Zety’s Editorial Process

This article has been reviewed by our editorial team to make sure it follows Zety's editorial guidelines. We’re committed to sharing our expertise and giving you trustworthy career advice tailored to your needs. High-quality content is what brings over 40 million readers to our site every year. But we don't stop there. Our team conducts original research to understand the job market better, and we pride ourselves on being quoted by top universities and prime media outlets from around the world.

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Emilia Mucha
Emilia is a career expert and a job-hunting advisor. Her articles are informative and engaging, providing readers with practical tips and strategies for creating job-winning resumes and cover letters and navigating the job market with confidence.

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