What Is a Resume?

FT Contributor
A person pointing to a section of a resume with a pen.
Reading Time: 3 minutes

A resume is a document that highlights all of your experiences in a way that is relevant to the role you are applying for. Your resume should include information such as the educational degree(s) you have, previous work experience, any awards or certifications you may have obtained, and a variety of skills that you bring to the table.

Your resume is your first contact with a potential employer, so it’s important to put it together in a professional manner. Your resume should be carefully formatted and free of any spelling or grammatical errors. Additionally, your resume should only include the experiences you have had that are relevant to the position you are applying for.

Whether you’re searching for your first job or you’re looking to refresh your existing resume to start applying for a new job, the tips and tricks below will help you understand what a resume is and how to make your resume stand out so that you impress potential employers.

Purpose of a Resume

A resume is one of the most important components of landing a job. Think of your resume as a self-advertisement, where you are able to highlight everything you have done in the past and are capable of doing for that employer.

Most, if not all, job applications require that you submit a resume. This is because your resume gives a hiring manager a better idea of who you are as a professional and whether your experiences meet the requirements of the role they are hiring for. Additionally, your resume showcases the skills you can bring to a team, skills that a hiring manager may not have considered previously.

Resumes are useful for introducing yourself to employers, but also in impressing them and showcasing your communication skills.

Introduce Yourself

A resume allows you to display your intent. In the objective portion of your resume, you might include the things you are passionate about as well as what you hope to gain out of a career in the industry you are applying for.

You can also give a good first impression by communicating your best skills on your resume. This demonstrates your desire to succeed and gives the employer a chance to know what you are looking for before they ever meet you in person.

Impress Employers

While bragging can be standoffish, a resume is supposed to shine by showcasing your accomplishments in a professional manner. These can be accomplishments that you earned during your educational career, like a “Student of the Month” award, but they can also be achievements from your first job or your volunteer work in the community.

You should also impress employers with your previous work experience. Whether it’s your first resume covering the jobs you had in college or a more substantial resume, giving your employer a quick summary of what you can bring to the team allows you to stand out from the competition, so showcase your experience as such. If you are out of a job and worried about gaps in your resume, there are ways that you can bulk up your resume while you are unemployed.

Make sure your previous work experience, education, and skills are highlighted and easily skimmable, not presented in novel paragraphs. This will allow the employer to get to know you quickly and easily. A skimmable resume will help them decide whether they want to bring you in for an interview to get to know more about your experiences. At the interview, you can go in-depth about the things mentioned in your resume.

Show Communication Skills

It’s important to remember that your resume is the first thing an employer — who has never met you before — will see. In other words, your resume is an employer’s first look at how well you can communicate. As such, you’ll want to communicate clearly and succinctly.

As mentioned previously, a resume shouldn’t be a novel. Your experience should be detailed in bullet points with action verbs used to describe what you’ve done in previous roles. When it comes to your soft skills — those that can be used in almost any role — and hard skills — those gained through training or education — list them in a bulleted format as well; hard and soft skills typically don’t require an explanation.

Resume vs. Cover Letter

While resumes and cover letters are each important components of getting a job, they are very different in format and purpose. A resume should summarize your experience and be easy to go over quickly, while a cover letter should be longer and more detailed.

A cover letter is your chance to go into more detail about your specific interests pertaining to a job. Additionally, you can use your cover letter to explain how your experiences, technical skills, and interpersonal skills can be applied to the duties of the job you are applying for.

Your cover letter is also a chance to showcase what it is that you’re looking to get out of the job. This demonstrates to the employer that you’re invested in the opportunity and may make them more inclined to reach out and schedule an interview.  

Use your resume to impress a potential employer and inspire them to bring you in for an in-person interview.

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