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What is a Resume?

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A resume is your opportunity to tell the world who you are, and sell yourself to an employer, in one or two pages. Resumes are required for professional, technical, administrative, managerial, and other office or sales jobs, and many skilled jobs. They are not required for unskilled jobs.

Before preparing your resume, you need to have information about yourself (your work history, your education, your skills, and your goals) and the type of job(s) you are interested in or applying for (so that you can match your skills and background to those jobs).

Resumes come in two formats -- reverse chronological and functional. But they all should describe your work experience, education, skills, awards or honors, and accomplishments. No matter what the format, your resume generally should include the following categories:

  • Personal Information - Name, address, telephone number, and e-mail address (if you have one) where you can be reached or have a message left for you.
  • Objective - A personal goal that is connected to the job that you are applying for.
  • Education - The school(s) that you have attended, degrees or certificates that you have earned, and other training that you have received.
  • Experience / Work Experience - The jobs that you have held, including your employers' names, your positions, the dates that you worked there, and what your job responsibilities were. You also may include experiences or interests that may be relevant to work.
  • Skills / Qualifications - Any abilities you have that may help you qualify for a job or be attractive to an employer.
  • Honors / Awards - Any awards that show special abilities and make you stand out.
  • References - People who can say good things about you, your experience, your skills, and your work habits.

Reverse chronological resumes list the jobs that you've had. Your most recent job is listed first, your previous job is listed second, and so on. Each job has employment dates and job duties. This kind of resume generally should be used if you have recent job experience with more than one employer and you have demonstrated advancement from one job to the next.

Functional resumes describe your skills, abilities, and accomplishments that relate to the job you're applying for. Employment history is less detailed than chronological resumes. This kind of resume generally should be used if you have little or no job experience, gaps in your work history, or are applying for jobs that are different from your present or recent experience.

All resumes should be:

Easy to read

  • keep information concise
  • use appropriate font styles and sizes (10-14 points)
  • have enough white spaces between sections so that they are easy to skim
  • center text and have adequate margins
  • create visual impact, using bullets, boldface, underlining, italics, and font sizes to emphasize key points
  • print on high-quality (16-25 lb.) bond paper
  • have letter-quality print


  • put your strongest qualifications or most recent experience first
  • be concise, yet comprehensive


  • begin phrases or sentences with powerful action verbs
  • use brief, succinct language; avoid vague and other unnecessary words
  • be free of grammatical, spelling, punctuation, usage, and typographical errors

Include all relevant information. Make sure you list the following:

  • your address, telephone number(s), e-mail address
  • your objective (optional for chronological resumes; required for functional resumes), indicating your job or career goal(s) and a summary of your skills or expertise
  • your education and training, with the highest and most recent degree and school first
  • your employment experience, including paid, volunteer, intern, or other (with the most recent first), indicating your employer, title, responsibilities, and dates
  • your skills and accomplishments
  • your extracurricular activities, such as community service, associations, hobbies

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Data Source: Employment and Training Administration, US Department of Labor