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  1. Career Advice
  2. Resume & CV's
  3. What is the purpose of a resume? A complete guide
What is the purpose of a resume? A complete guide

What is the purpose of a resume? A complete guide

Artwork by: Veronika Kiriyenko

  • What is the purpose of a resume?
  • Why employers need resumes
  • 6 Things a resume should accomplish
  • Key takeaways

You know you need a resume, but did you ever wonder why? What’s the point? In this article, we’ll discuss the purpose of a resume, why you need one, and how it can help you land the job you want.

If you’re looking for a job, chances are every job description you read states that you should “send a resume.” (And perhaps a cover letter, too, but that will be covered in another article.) The ritual of sending a resume to a potential employer has meaning on both sides—they have a job they’re looking to fill, and you would like to get that job. But have you ever wondered why the resume is so important? In the current job market, a resume is still the best tool in your toolbox to get your foot in the door and get the job you want.

In this article, we’ll discuss the concept of a resume, including:

  • What the purpose of a resume is

  • Why you need a good resume

  • How employers utilize resumes

  • How to make the most of your resume

What is the purpose of a resume?

Basically, a resume is your “calling card.” It’s a document that briefly introduces you to a potential employer, and highlights your background, experience, skills, and education. People often think that a resume gets you a job. That’s actually untrue—a resume gets you an interview. A resume is meant to show the hiring manager how your experience and skills align with the job they’re looking to fill and motivate them to learn more about you. 

Expert Tip

Don’t confuse the terms “resume” and “curriculum vitae (CV).” While they’re used interchangeably in the U.K., in the U.S. they have different purposes. In general, while both are a summary of your skills, a CV is a longer document that provides detailed documentation of a person's research experience, education credentials, certifications, professional affiliations, and publications and is most often used in academia or research fields. For most other positions outside those areas, use a resume.

Why employers need resumes

Research shows that approximately 118 candidates apply for each open position, per the industry average, and it’s even higher in a corporate environment. And recruiters spend only seconds scanning each resume. You need to have an effective resume that allows the recruiter to quickly find the information they need to determine if you’re a good fit for the job.

They also need to be able to quickly eliminate those who aren’t qualified. Resumes, especially ones that are tailored to each individual position, give hiring managers a quick snapshot of who you are, what your experience is, and what you can do for the company. 

6 Things a resume should accomplish

If the whole purpose of a resume is to introduce yourself to the hiring manager, you need to make the most of the space. Hiring managers see hundreds of resumes, and if yours is hard to read, it won’t catch their attention. There are several purposes for a resume, beyond, “This is who I am and what jobs I’ve held.”

1. Tell your story

While not a personal magnum opus, a resume allows you to highlight your experience, achievements, and education — in a clear, concise way that shows the hiring manager who you are and why you’re applying for the job. Your resume helps you control the narrative, as you decide what you want to put front and center to catch the hiring manager’s attention.

Even if you think you haven’t accomplished much, or that maybe you don’t have the relevant experience the employer is looking for, by crafting a well-thought-out resume, you can effectively identify your important skills and how they match up with the position you're applying for. 

2. Demonstrate career growth

Showing career growth on your resume can also make you more competitive for future opportunities, as it demonstrates you’re someone who gets results for your employer and demonstrates your value. Giving a clear picture on your resume of how you’ve progressed in your career places importance on your professional achievements and shows potential employers that you’re a forward-thinking, dedicated professional who gets results. 

3. Make an impression on the recruiter

As we’ve mentioned, a resume isn’t a place to brag, but you can, and absolutely should, use your resume to “dazzle” the hiring manager. The important thing is to put a spotlight on your relevant skills and experience, showing how you’d bring value to the company. In a way, it’s a “here’s what I can do for you” document.

4. Establish your personal brand

At its core, creating your “personal brand” helps the hiring manager get an idea of who you are and what sets you apart from the potentially hundreds of other applicants. It blends your professional persona with a dash of the personal, providing the hiring manager a glimpse of your personal style and flair. To start the process of creating your personal brand, think about why you’re good to work with—what are you known for? What has gotten you positive recognition in the workplace? What value do you consistently deliver?

The work history section is also a great place to convey your brand. This is where your company research will come in handy. Use the three to six bullet points for each job in your work history to tell the hiring manager a story.

  • The story should be about accomplishments at previous employers that are specific to the hiring manager's needs.

  • Convey the context of the story

  • Show the results, the climax of the story, using quantifiable data

These stories should be highly individualized, and not something that could go on anyone else’s resume. Your consistent, regular accomplishments are a big part of your personal brand.

5. Show that you’re a top-notch communicator

Writing a resume isn’t easy. But by crafting a well-written, organized resume that is tailored to each position that you’re applying for, you can demonstrate your communication skills, and if you’ve remembered to proofread for typos, shows that you have excellent attention to detail as well.

6. Get noticed by the ATS

Many companies use an ATS, or Automated Tracking System, to collect, sort, and organize applicant resumes. If your resume is optimized for ATS by using appropriate keywords from the job description, your resume is much more likely to be noticed and flagged as a suitable candidate. Studies have shown that up to 75 percent of qualified applicants never have their resumes read because they weren’t keyword-optimized and were rejected by the ATS. Use your resume to customize your experience to the job description. While you want to remain truthful and not exaggerate your experience, make sure that you take the time to tailor each resume so that you get noticed. In this case, a generic resume is no better than having no resume at all. A resume should be evolving, not static.

Need help writing a resume that gets you noticed? Check out our professional resume writing service!

Key takeaways

  1. The purpose of a resume isn’t to get you a job—it’s to land you an interview.

  2. A resume is your “calling card.” It’s a document that briefly introduces you to a potential employer, and highlights your background, experience, skills, and education.

  3. An effective resume allows the recruiter to quickly find the information they need to determine if you’re a good fit for the job, and it also lets them weed out candidates who aren't qualified.

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