Earlier I posted a Basic Checklist for resumes, so I felt it was time to develop a more advanced list of items to consider when developing or revising your resume. But don’t consider a checklist the end-all for guiding you through the resume writing process. I’m assuming you already have a decent resume to start with. If not, many of my prior postings can help you through the design and development, but there are also some very good books on the topic.
Still, a checklist is always beneficial as a final review before you begin the distribution of your resume, thus the purpose of the following list. If something in the list is relevant to an article I wrote on the topic, I’ve provided you a link to that posting.
- Does your resume look clean, use a standard (not fancy) font with a with a modest font size, and have clearly labeled sections? Hold it at arm’s length — does it look attractive or does it look confusing or plain?
- If your resume takes two pages, do you have your name & contact information on the 2nd page (usually the last line of the page or in the footer)? Also, are the page breaks in logical locations, minimizing confusion when the recruiter turns the page?
- Is it absolutely clear to the average reader what your career objective is? This might be in the job titles you’ve held, in the objective line, or in your professional summary at the top of your resume. (No “generic” or “old-style” objectives should be used.)
- Is your resume targeted to a single career, industry, or job? You don’t want an historical reflection document or a one-size-fits-all that doesn’t fit anything well. Remember that recruiters are not looking for a jack-of-all-trades for their very specific positions.
- Does your career summary highlight only the roles you have performed in the past 8-10 (no more than 15) years? Make sure that 70% of your career summary highlights are drawn from your most recent jobs and the text in your career history section supports the statements in your summary. (When writing the summary, remember the simple concept that nothing existed before cell phones and web browsers…so don’t mention it!)
- Does your resume have an outdated look? Don’t underline anything. Don’t put colons after headers. Don’t use the words “duties” or “responsibilities” or “assigned tasks”. Don’t say “references available upon request“. Don’t list the dates of jobs down the left margin – put them on the right edge. Don’t list the day (“dd”) on dates, use just “mm/yyyy”.
- Is there too much or too little white-space on your resume? Keep margins about 1 inch (no less than 0.75 inch) all around. Leave a blank line between resume sections.
- Don’t put personal information on your resume — no hobbies, no bank accounts, no children, no spouse, no certification or permit numbers, no religions, no politics, no age, no health, no home-ownership, no sports, etc. Stick with business details and only list other activities if they relate directly to your career or job search (i.e. Toastmasters, professional organizations, civic-minded groups, or advanced studies).
- Read the job description — read your summary — read the job description again — everything in your summary should reference, expand on, or point to something in the job description. If it doesn’t match, consider removing it. It should be as close to a 100% match as possible.
- Action verbs! Use a wide variety of action verbs…and it’s usually best to start the sentence with them (while avoiding the use of the pronoun “I”). Grab a list from Boston College’s career site.
- Degrees generally go at the end of your job history unless you don’t have a job history (new college grad) or you are changing your career to match your new degree.
- Do you have enough (but not too many) industry terms and buzzwords sprinkled throughout your resume? There are lists everywhere, but here’s a good set from TheLadders.com.
- Do you provide evidence of your skills using a STAR or CAR statement? Don’t say “An experienced leader…”, instead allow an example/STAR to support your statement, such as: “Applying leadership skills by…”
- Is everything in your resume carrying a positive tone? There is NO need to have anything negative in a resume.
- Make your resume easy to read. Use the Readability Statistics setting in your word processor (under the Grammar options in Word) as a way of determining if your text “grade level” can be brought down to 12th grade readability or less.
- If you are pointing to your LinkedIn profile from within your resume, is your profile in full support of your job goals and not a detriment because it’s another social media repository of your rantings?
Bottom Line: Develop the best resume you can. Then using this check list and the prior basic checklist, refine your resume. Remember that any checklist is only a way to “tweak” an already well-written resume. If you’re having problems developing a real solid resume, look at the book list on this site or consider finding a moderate-priced resume writer to revise or even author your resume. (Updated: 2/9/14)
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See the Index of all my Job Hunter articles on my Backlog tab.