What is a 'Resume'

A resume is a one- to two-page formal document submitted to job recruiters as means to see a list of an applicant's work experience, education and skills. The document is designed to provide a detailed summary of an applicant's qualifications for a particular job - it is not usually meant to provide a complete picture. A good resume gives the potential employer enough information to believe the applicant is worth interviewing. A one-page cover letter, submitted along with the resume, can provide additional information about the applicant's qualifications.


A resume is typically a requirement when applying for most white collar jobs, as well as other professional positions. Job recruiters may screen out applicants whose resumes show they do not possess the necessary skills to fill the role effectively.

Individuals should use their resumes to highlight specific achievements and emphasize their accomplishments. For example, when describing past work experience, a good resume will not just run through the applicant's day-to-day job responsibilities, but will also list specific accomplishments at the job, such as cutting costs or beating sales goals.

The Importance of a Resume's Layout

The structure of resumes often follows an outline pattern that first presents the applicants goals and desires in a new position. Usually the most recent and current positions held by the applicant come next, then other jobs follow in chronological order to show the timeline of their career. Recruiters not only examine the details of prior jobs held, but often search for any gaps in employment, unusual patterns such as extremely short-term stays at recent jobs, as well as the direction the applicant’s career has been heading.

There have been suggestions from some human resources and hiring professionals that for applicants with extensive careers not list every job they have held. The interests of newer companies in particular may put more of an emphasis on up-to-date technical skills as they seek to futureproof their operations as the pace of technology change continues to accelerate. Legacy skills that see reduced demand may even detract from resumes that otherwise show a candidate to be astute and capable of performing the job. Each prospective employer has their own set of needs they are searching for when looking for potential hires; effective resumes aim to highlight how the applicant can most effectively perform in that specific role.

With the increased preference for electronic resume submissions, there have been changes in the dynamics of resumes. Traditionally these documents were strictly text-based, yet with digital submissions now may include small charts, graphs, or other elements as ways to further illustrate where the applicant’s strengths and interests are most pronounced.