Hardly any task is more arduous than putting together a professional resume, but it’s unlikely that you will ever get a serious job without one.
Whenever you receive a job offer or apply for a job on your own, you will almost always be required to present a resume. However, don’t wait until a resume is required to develop one. Because a resume is a reflection of your professional self, much thought and preparation should go into it so that possible employers can get a picture of the very best you.
Below is a checklist that will make writing your resume a breeze and help ensure that it is the best it can be.
Appearance, Formatting and Design
- Is it your own? No resume is completely original; they are all similar in some way. It’s fine to model yours from a template, but make sure it is not a direct copy.
- Does it have design? A resume is not just putting words on paper. It still must have some sort of style with clearly defined sections, parallel white space, bullet points, and lines so that a possible employer will find its appearance appropriate and inviting to read. However, do not use any photos, clipart or colored backgrounds.
- Is your resume as brief as possible? Most employers give resumes a quick look over at first screening (no longer than 15-seconds to a minute), so unless you have serious past experience in an area, keep it short to make sure it gets read.
- Is your text easy to read? It is best to use Times New Roman, Arial or some other Serif font, with the size being at 12 point. No more than two fonts or two sizes should be used together (e.g. headers are 14 point and in bold while non-headers are 12 point).
- Are all margins equal? They should be no less than 1″ and no more than 1.5″.
- Are you sending your resume via email or snail mail? More than likely it’ll be sent via email, however, if it is the latter, make sure it is printed out on quality 8.5″ x 11″ stock paper with no blurred letters or faded ink. If it is more than one sheet, use a paper clip to keep everything together instead of staples or tape.
- Have you included your contact information at the top of your resume? If someone wants to hire you, they need a way to let you know. Your contact information should include your name, address, phone number, email address, website (if you have one) and social accounts (Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc.). Business social media accounts are preferable. You might want to think twice about including personal social media profiles if you’re not confident about the content that’s on there.
- Is your writing logical? Instead of being all over the place, your text should be clear, focused and objective. Educational degrees, major accomplishments, skills and/or competencies should be listed in a well-thought-out manner.
- How creative is your resume? When listing previous work experience, use descriptive job titles instead of actual job titles (e.g. “Head Hamburger Flipper” instead of “McDonald’s cook”).
- Does it include an ample amount of industry buzzwords or keywords? These are words that are specific to a particular industry and can communicate to a possible employer that you have numerous skills and qualifications. For example, if a company is looking for a marketing manager, it will scan resumes for those that include keywords such as digital marketing, SEO, Google Analytics, and social media marketing. If your resume doesn’t include these keywords, you are less likely to be found, since often times the resume scanning is done via software.
- Does it make use of numbers? Your resume is more likely to stand out and impress a potential employer if you are numerically specific about your achievements, as opposed to generalizing (e.g. “increased annual revenue by $10,000” instead of “increased annual revenue”).
- Is your resume more professional than it is personal? Leave out any personal information that is irrelevant or any potentially discriminatory information that could cause possible employers to not hire you. Such information that should be excluded, for example, is your age, race, gender, religion, or marital status.
- Is your resume mistake-free? Spell check and grammar check it at least twice.
- Has someone else proofread your resume for you? It is helpful to have a close family member or good friend/coworker check for typos, spelling mistakes, grammar errors, and inconsistencies.
- Are you using acronyms or abbreviations? Don’t assume that a possible employer knows your personal jargon, or that of a previous company you’ve worked for. Spell everything out, including the titles of degrees (e.g. “Bachelor of Science” instead of “B.S.”).
- Is it complete? If it is applicable to the position you are applying for, make sure all work that you have done is highlighted. This includes volunteer work, community service, school honors, work awards, certifications, licenses, professional affiliations and memberships, and publications.
- Is your resume divided into sections? Having clearly delineated sections for your educational accomplishments, previous work experience, skills, awards, etc., will make it easy to read. Each section should be clearly labeled and ordered in such a way that your strongest credentials are at the top.
- Is previous work experience listed in reverse chronological order? This means your most recent (last) job should be listed first instead of the first company that you worked for.
- Does your resume include your career goal(s)? A career objective should be placed near the top of your resume. This is a short statement that sums up your experience, skills, and training under a section usually called “Career Summary” or “Qualifications Summary.” While this objective and the entire resume should be written in a first-person voice, avoid using personal pronouns such as “I,” “me,” “my,” etc.
- Is it targeted? A general resume that fits a variety of industries is less likely to be effective. It should instead be targeted toward one or two specific industries that you are seeking a career in. If you are making a career change, your resume should reflect this and show how your experience and skills from one industry will translate into another industry.
- Do you have a professional portfolio of work to share? If you are seeking a career as a graphic designer or photographer, this may be particularly helpful. An employer may be interested in reviewing work that you have already done. Including a statement near the end of your resume that lets them know you already have a portfolio of work is likely to pique their interest. If it is an online portfolio, include a non-hyperlinked link to it.
Tools To Consider
- Have you considered having your resume critiqued via Reddit? Reddit is a social news aggregation, web content rating, and discussion website. You can register to be a community member (if you’re not one already) and post your resume to have others review it. Reddit recommends that you do this anonymously by removing the contact information from your resume.
- Can Product Hunt help? Product Hunt is a website that curates the latest mobile apps, websites, and technology products that everyone’s talking about. When you search for “resume,” a good number of tools come up that you can use to quickly build or improve your resume, such as Strikingly, which generates an instant resume from your LinkedIn profile.
- Does your resume need a professional independent analysis? You can submit your resume to TopResume, get it evaluated by a resume expert, and receive suggestions for improvements within three days. If you’re not super confident in your writing skills, resume writing services are also available.