Résumé Purpose & Types

Resume Purpose

decorative imageA résumé is your first introduction to a potential employer. It is a written picture of who you are—it’s a marketing tool, a selling tool, and a promotion of you as an ideal candidate for any job you may be interested in. The word résumé comes from the French word résumé, which means “a summary.” [1]  A contemporary résumé summarizes transferable skills, employment history, education, and experiences in a clear and concise format for potential employers.

A résumé serves three distinct purposes that define its format, design, and presentation:

  1. to represent your professional information in writing
  2. to demonstrate the relationship between your professional information and the problem or challenge the potential employer hopes to solve or address, often represented in the form of a job description or duties
  3. most importantly, to get you an interview by clearly demonstrating you meet the minimum qualifications and have the professional background help the organization meet its goals

More specifically, a résumé can:

  • represent you when you’re not there

    Your résumé can be uploaded to online global job boards like Monster, CareerBuilder, and others, or can be sent to a company’s online database. It can then be shared with dozens of recruiters and hiring managers without you even knowing about it. In fact, it’s a lot easier to get your résumé in front of a recruiter than it is to have a physical presence in their office; therefore, make certain it’s a well-written, well-positioned document that makes an exceptional first impression.

  • quantify your accomplishments

    Quantifying your accomplishments gives your résumé readers the specific information they need to know about your abilities and to be intrigued by what you can do for them.  For example, in a sales position, you may have reduced errors by 35 percent, increased profits by 55 percent, and created a situation in which 75 percent of your customers are repeat customers.  Or as an administrative assistant in a dentist’s office, you may have been part of a marketing team that increased new patient accounts by 10 percent last quarter.  If you have detailed information such as this, include this type of specific information clearly and succintly to quantify your accomplishments.

  • clearly state your abilities

    Focus on the results of your actions. Being results oriented helps résumé readers understand your abilities. What exactly do you do, or what have you done in the past? Your résumé should answer this question very quickly. For example, if you have been responsible for opening and closing a retail store on a daily basis and for managing the register that took in approximately $5,000 worth of merchandise a day, state that clearly and concisely.

  • show your command of the written word

    Remember that if it has misspelled words, wrong words, and/or incorrect punctuation, your résumé could easily be dismissed, along with your candidacy. It’s critical that you write clearly and correctly, and proofread your resume multiple times before submitting it.

  • create talking points for a future interview

    Many individuals have to think about the results of their work. Including this detailed information on your résumé actually allows you to more easily talk about the value you’ve brought to previous employers and can transfer to future employers. For example, if you worked in a library which processed approximately 1,000 books daily, and you headed a project team which implemented a database system resulting in an 80% decrease in lost books, you may have talking points related to teamwork, your project management strategy, and the training you developed for staff.

  • prove your worth to your past employers

    Information relating to a company’s profits and output is exactly what employers want to read. Highlighting results such as reducing errors by 35%, increasing profits by 55%, or boosting repeat sales to 75% increases your chances of having your résumé noticed.

  • demonstrate what you can do for your future employer

    Past performance is an indicator of future success, so include and quantify your past performance, and future employers will be inclined to believe you can do the same for them. Remember that your résumé is introductory in nature; past performance can get attention and initiate interest in you as a potential employee.

All of these resume capabilities work toward the ultimate goal or purpose of a resume: to get an interview for a job.

These two very brief videos identify resume purpose and uses, and stress that a resume is a targeted marketing document (and not an autobiography).

Resume Types

There are different types of résumés which highlight and organize information differently. There is no one, correct resume type and, as a job seeker, you may end up using different types for different jobs. The following types are the most common. Note that the examples in the text files are very clear, clean, and easy to read.  These are samples only; resumes vary according to context.

  1. Reverse chronological résumé: A reverse chronological résumé (also called a chronological résumé) highlights your job experience, a section which usually occurs after the initial skills summary or professional profile. In this type of resume, you list your job experiences in reverse chronological order, starting with the most recent job and working backward for a set number of years. You may or may not go back to your first job, depending on how many years you have been in the workforce and how relevant some positions are to the one for which you are now applying. The work experience section of a reverse chronological resume includes job title, starting and ending dates, and a brief description of the work duties you performed for each job, as well as job accomplishments.The reverse chronological résumé is a common, traditional resume type. It is good for showing a solid work history, especially if your employment was focused in one particular area, as well as showing growth and development in your field. It may not be appropriate if you do not have much experience in the particular field for which you are applying, if you’ve changed employers frequently, or if you are looking for your first job.Reverse Chronological Resume Sample
  2. Functional résumé: A functional résumé is organized around your skills and abilities more so than work duties and job titles. It emphasizes specific professional competencies, such as teamwork, communication, technical skills, etc. Specific job titles and dates may be included, but information is organized around skills.Use a functional resume if you are seeking work in a field that differs from what you have done in the past, are entering the job market, are in a career in which certain skill sets are vital, or have gaps in work experience.Functional Resume Sample
  3. Combination résumé: A combination résumé blends functional and chronological approaches, highlighting both relevant skills work experience. With a combination résumé, you may list your jobs in reverse chronological order with titles, dates, duties, and accomplishments, and then include relevant skills under each job title.  Or, you may include a separate skills section that is equally as developed as your work experience. Or, you may opt to organize by skill categories and then list relevant jobs in reverse chronological order under each skill. You decide on the best way to present your competencies and work experience, remembering that both are of equal importance.A combination résumé is useful in most situations, when you want to emphasize both your specific skills and job experience.Combination Resume Sample
  4. Video résumé: A video resume offers some employment history and information about skills, as appropriate to the job being sought.  More importantly, a video resume shows how you are able to apply your skills and present yourself.  Know that a video resume enhances, but usually does not replace, a written resume, simply because effective video resumes should be relatively brief. A video resume may be suitable if you are in a multimedia or creative career. Video resumes also may be appropriate for professions or particular jobs calling for strong communication, sales, and/or technical skills, among others.  You may want to check out Jobscan’s page on How to Create Your Video Resume, which offers tips and some examples.

Try It

View the following video resume. Identify video and written resume strategies that the speaker has applied effectively. What other strategies, edits, or information would you recommend if you were a recruiter or a person in charge of hiring?


  1. Infographic resume: An infographic resume immediately captures attention by using images, design, and color to offer information about your qualifications, work experience, and skills.  Infographic resumes can also tell a story about you through images and words that are designed to highlight certain qualities.  View sample infographic resumes on Monster.com to get a sense of their creators’ backgrounds, work experience, and more intangible, personal qualities that you can infer from the infographic. Know that an infographic resume enhances, but usually does not replace, a written resume; infographic resumes often provide a link to a traditional resume, which can be more easily scanned.An infographic resume may be suitable if you are in a multimedia or creative career. Infographic resumes also may be appropriate for professions or particular jobs calling for strong graphic design, information design, and layout skills. The article, How to Create an Infographic Resume, on thebalancecareers.com, discusses what this is and when to use one, in addition to offering important tips that lead to a quality infographic resume.

Below is an interesting example of an animated infographic resume, from a professional consultant for video, animation, and design.  In this case, the combination of infographic and video resume makes sense, given the professional’s career objective.

[1] Here’s an interesting piece of information. Leonardo da Vinci is credited with writing one of the first known résumés, although it was more of a letter that outlined his credentials for a potential employer, Ludovico Sforza. The résumé got da Vinci the job, and Sforza became a longtime patron of da Vinci and later commissioned him to paint The Last Supper. You can see the letter and read the translation at Leonardo da Vinci’s Handwritten Resume (1482)