Checklist: Is your resume ready for prime time?

Here's a checklist to use on your resume to make sure it's the best it can be before you send it out.

Here's a not-nearly-complete-but-close checklist to use on your resume before you send it out.

First impressions

  • Is your name and contact information in a header? If so, change that. Since most Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) are not able to parse information from the header, it means your resume will be loaded without your name and contact information.
  • Is your typeface consistent? You don't want to mix and match your typefaces. Using Times Roman, Arial, and Calibri in different places for emphasis doesn't work; it only distracts. Using different typefaces (bold, italic) is OK as long as you don't overdo it. You don't want your resume to be the one that induces vertigo.
  • Do you make good use of white space? Nothing is more intimidating than a text-packed document, as you can see in Figure A. I realize that white space is sometimes sacrificed in order to fit in all one's qualifications, but you also don't want a recruiter to dissolve into tears at the first site of that sea of words. White space breaks up the chunks of text into easily digestible pieces. So do bulleted points.

Figure A (click figure to enlarge)

  • Is your spacing consistent? If I walk into a room that has a wall full of pictures, my eye will go right to the picture that is a little crooked or spaced oddly from the others. Speaking on behalf of anal-retentive managers around the world, do yourself a favor and make the spaces between chunks of information consistent and not like Figure B

Figure B (click figure to enlarge)

  • Does your resume look original? For any recruiter or hiring manager facing a sea of resumes, Word's templates start to look really familiar (and stale) after a while. You need to set yourself apart with something different. (But not with clip art or pictures. For the love of God, not with clip art and pictures.)

The goods

  • Do you have a heading on subsequent pages of your resume? If you have a resume that is longer than one page, you should repeat your heading on subsequent pages. And somewhere in this heading, your name should appear.
  • If you include an objective statement in your resume, does it say what you want out of life or what you can do for the company you're applying to? It should do the latter. Don't do this: "To obtain a position as a Help Desk professional within a growing company." Do this: To obtain a position as a Help Desk professional on your team that utilizes my technical skills, work ethic, and ability to clearly explain technical details to end users.
  • Does your resume list your accomplishments rather than your duties? It's nice that you monitored network performance, but it's much more interesting to hear that you tracked network bandwidth for troubleshooting purposes and cut downtime by 25%. Use concrete measures of success.
  • Is your resume rich with keywords for your field and the job to which you are applying?
  • Is your resume relevant to the job at hand? (In other words, don't use the same resume across the board for any position you apply to.)
  • Is your resume free of typos and grammatical errors? (Here are a couple of tricks for catching typos: Take a break after you've written your resume and come back later to take a fresh look. Second, starting with the last paragraph, read your resume word by word in reverse. When you read normally, sometimes the mind accepts words for what they should be rather than what actually appears on the page. Third, get a second party to read your resume, preferably someone with a good command of grammar.)


Toni Bowers is Managing Editor of TechRepublic and is the award-winning blogger of the Career Management blog. She has edited newsletters, books, and web sites pertaining to software, IT career, and IT management issues.

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