Why Is a Resume Important? (Types and Why You Need One)

Updated August 31, 2023

A resume is an important tool for your job search as it offers a page or two where you can display your relevant skills and qualities for a job. Resumes help employers make hiring decisions and help you get your first interview. That's why it matters how you structure your resume and what information you decide to include.

In this article, we explain what a resume is, five reasons why a resume is important to have, the different types of resumes and actionable resume tips that may help you achieve your next career move.

Image description

The headline of the image says, "Resume format"
An applicant is looking at a resume with a magnifying glass. In the middle of the image, there's a simple resume represented by lines. To the left of the resume, there are labels for the section of the resume.
The labels are:
• Name and contact information
• Summary or objective
• Professional history (most recent first)
• Education
• Skills
• Optional

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What is a resume?

A resume is a formal summary of your qualifications, professional background, skills and achievements. The term "resume" comes from "résumé," the French word for "to summarize." Most resumes consist of sections that detail your professional summary, work history, skills, awards, education and any other accomplishments that align with your career path and goals.

Resumes, usually accompanied by customized cover letters, get sent to employers to determine your eligibility and qualifications for a job. Employers use resumes to get a deeper understanding of candidate skills, strengths and experience. Your resume is your first point of contact with the employer and sets the tone for subsequent steps such as the first interview, second interview, pre-screening and onboarding.

Related: The Purpose of a Resume: Uses for Job Applicants and Employers

Why is a resume important?

A resume is important because it helps to immediately display why you're a good fit for a job. In today's competitive market of professional jobs, a resume is usually a base requirement for moving forward in the interview process. Here are some reasons why you need a resume to get your next job. An effective resume:

1. Outlines your relevant skills and experience

A well-structured resume clearly highlights your most attractive skills and experience to potential employers. This allows them to move forward with the best candidate. It's important to make sure your most recent skills and experiences are reflected in your resume for this reason. A strong resume uses formatting elements like color, appropriate margins and design to ensure relevant work experience is shown in such a way that highlights achievements.

2. Displays the benefits you offer employers

More importantly, a resume shouldn't just offer skills and experience, it should tell employers what you bring to the company. For example, if you're leaving a sales position, instead of just saying that you are a "high performer," say you "achieved $250,000 of new media sales in one year". This allows employers to understand the value you bring to the company in quantifiable terms.

If you can use three or four achievements under each piece or relevant experience that offer verifiable metrics. Consider using numbers in your resume and phrases like increasing profit or reducing loss by 5%, growing a social media following by 1,500 users or increasing sales by 10%.

Related: How to Quantify Resume Accomplishments (With Examples)

3. Grabs the attention of employers

The part of the resume known as "above the fold"—usually the top quarter of the resume—is considered the most attention-grabbing. Make sure to include important summarized information above the fold in addition to your name and contact information. Another way you can get an employer's attention is to use a layout that allows for appropriate colors or images.

Some people will use a headshot portrait or personal logo to brand themselves to employers. If you have to print your resume, always make sure to use a resume paper stock that sticks out. There are a lot of options to choose from, so pay attention to industry standards when deciding on paper.

Related: How to Write a Resume Employers Will Notice

4. Matches you to the position

A good resume matches your skills to the position's needs. One way to do this is by making sure your resume contains the same keywords found in the job description.

For example, if the job description asks for "knowledge of JSON" make sure to include "JSON" on your resume. By doing this, employers will be able to filter what makes you good for the position. If submitting your resume electronically, some companies auto-sort by keywords. To ensure your resume is seen, you should pay attention to them.

Related: How to Use Keywords and Phrases in Your Resume

5. Can lead to an interview

Ultimately, a good resume is going to allow you to move forward to the next step in the process: interviewing. You'll likely need to conduct at least one interview to be offered a position, so having a resume is essential.

Related: How To Make an Online Resume

Types of resumes

Candidates who want to move forward in the interview process need to have a strong resume. In this section, we'll review three of the most common types of resumes so you can decide which is best for you:

Chronological resumes

Most resumes are formatted as chronological resumes. It's traditional to put your most recent job at the top of the experience section. From there, experience goes in descending order. Ideally, you want to display seven to 10 years of relevant work experience, in addition to other accolades. Chronological resumes usually include work experience and education both sorted by chronological order.

Functional resume

Functional resumes focus more on relevant skills than work history. While the chronological format highlights work experience with detailed summaries of the achievements within each position, the functional format focuses on the applicant’s skill set relevant to the role you are applying for.

Combination resume

A combination resume is a blend of the chronological and functional resume types. This resume format allows you to emphasize both your work experience and relevant skills. Because your skills and employment history will consume most of your resume space, you may need to eliminate optional sections such as a summary statement, volunteer work or special interests.

Related: Top Resume Formats: Tips and Examples of 3 Common Resumes

Do you need help with your resume?

Resume writing tips

Here are some tips for organizing your resume:

  • Review industry-leading examples: Reviewing examples of resumes in your industry can inform you as to what's appropriate. For example, the brightly colored, photo-heavy resume of a marketer may not make sense for an executive in manufacturing.

  • Apply fonts that are professional: Professional fonts like Calibri, Arial, Times New Roman and Helvetica work well on resumes. While you want your resume to stand out, you need it to be clear to read to be well received. Focus on aesthetically pleasing, clean fonts. Use font sizes 10 to 12.

  • Include relevant information: If possible, format it to fit on one page, and it shouldn't go longer than three. Sticking to the most relevant information makes this possible. Hiring managers briefly skim resumes for the most relevant information and having a clean, concise, relevant resume makes your continued candidacy more likely.

  • Organize by importance: While there are many ways to organize your resume, focusing on importance displays the qualities that make you the best candidate for the job. In a competitive workforce where employers are likely to have a lot of options, organizing by importance offers a strong focal point.

  • Consider active language: To keep your resume concise, focus on active verbs and reduce extra words. For example, instead of saying "I received the achievement of controller within five years of working for the company," say, "Achieved controller within five years."

  • Proofread and make edits: Before you send a resume to an employer, proofread for grammatical errors and typos. An edited resume with few mistakes will make a good impression on potential employers and indicates that you are capable and pay attention to detail.

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