IT Policies

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.)

About

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.

19 comments
neerajjain8
neerajjain8

The article is no doubt great. If you could add more items in this checklist, that would be more great :)

OurITLady
OurITLady

Is to keep a full length version of my resume with absolutely everything on there - and by full length I mean every single detail of jobs, education and certifications I can remember. Then, when you see a job you want to apply for you can use that job description to cut out the irrelevant leaving, hopefully, a two page or less resume that's tailored specifically to the position without having to redo it for each position. It also means that if you have formatted it properly and done all of the grammar and spell checks, you shouldn't need to go through too much of that again as you've only cut and not added to the "final" version.

benjaminperez
benjaminperez

I agree with JMasiwe, if you really want to show that you knew things why dont you try showing us a real sample "RESUME", you know what i mean...

razausman
razausman

I can see how most of these points make sense, and they are good points to follow, but the profusion of people into the head hunting/HR role has created an industry which tries to needlessly find fault with what should be a plain text document detailing ones abilities. Every time I read an article about resumes its something thats contradicting someone else, add indent dont add indent, use bullets dont use bullets...!!!! WAKE UP YOU ARE HIRING A PROFESSIONAL NOT A TYPESETTER FOR A GUTENBERG. STICK TO WHAT THE PERSON CAN CONTRIBUTE TO THE COMPANY. The HR industry really needs to start getting a life. Some professions really should not exist or require "specialization". ..and lets not forget the interview questions, the ones we all know the answers to, carefully designed to weed out the worst of us (backed up by sound statistical data IM SURE).

trobbins
trobbins

You may also want to include a neat binder containing samples of your work. If you code, some CD's with your code and a powerpoint on the highlights of it's functionality. Network engineer - photos of the data centers and network closets you put together. Server Admin - photos of the data center you helped setup and maintain, highlighting the cost savings you contributed to the company you work for. Of course, you should be careful of not violating any non-disclosure agreements with your current employer.

j2will
j2will

Great article but I would also suggest that the major points of the resume be bulleted. This improves white space and provides a smoother flow from point to point which makes it easier for readers to locate what they are looking for.

BilboRT
BilboRT

How can an application which reads resumes not read the header. I expect that means 90% or more of the resumes are read without applicant name and address. What is your source of this information?

harrishena
harrishena

Where in the hell is your name and contact info suppose to go? It would have been really nice if this info was included in the article.

oldbaritone
oldbaritone

A customer buys functions, features and benefits. What will be "better" because they have this thing than it was before they bought it? Add a little emotion to close the deal and you'll have a sale. It's the same thing when you're selling yourself - with a resume. You need to give the customer (company or recruiter) an understanding of how you will make things "better". Any clod can draw a paycheck; what will you bring to the organization that will be worth that payment, hopefully worth much more? It's not about "you" as much as it is about "how you will be functional and beneficial" to the goals of the organization. What can you do "better" than someone else, and how do you show a track-record of performance? Most people don't like the fast-talking "pitch man" selling gizmos on TV; likewise recruiters don't like a resume that sounds like "Micro-Machine man". (For those of you young pups, the toy company hired the Guinness world-record fastest talking person on the planet to do their commercials. It was funny - once. It got old fast.) Cluttered resumes are a turn-off. If you've done your homework about the company and the opening, you should know which strengths of yours match the requirements of the position. Keep those parts; cut irrelevant parts. Different strengths will be important to different companies, so don't be afraid to "tailor" a resume to an employer and position. "Custom-fit" is nicer than "off-the-rack" for resumes, too. And remember "one step at a time." Your purpose for the resume is just to get a phone call for a first interview. Your purpose for the first interview is to get a second interview. Your purpose for the second interview is to get an offer. Almost certainly, you will not get a job offer from your resume alone. But a bad resume will "weed you out" at the first cut. You won't get a job if you don't get the first interview, and a poorly-written resume will prevent you from getting the first interview. What you're really trying to accomplish with the resume is to get a call and an interview. After that you move to the next step.

mdbizzarri
mdbizzarri

I am currently farming out my resume to get ideas on how to make it stronger, and to network with people, and I am getting a lot of "You should to this" . It seems that everyone has an opinion and yet there seems to be no consensus as to WHAT makes a good resume. It seems that it is a combination of fact, and creativity to get you past HR. My question is would hiring someone or some company be worth the money? If I am going to invest $450+ in a resume writer when I have $0 coming in the door, then that is a big gamble. Anyone have any opinions on these services?

JMasiwe
JMasiwe

This article is good except that it could have been more complete had it included a sample of a well prepared resume.

framefritti
framefritti

I agree with the remarks about typographic look (font, spaces, ...). There is a very easy way to ensure consistency: do not use Word, but LaTeX. It can be somehow less intuitive in the beginning, but in the end you can concentrate on what you write and not on typographic details (which, I agree, can be a mental habit difficult to get if you are used to micro-manage the look of your text).

John_LI_IT_Guy
John_LI_IT_Guy

I have a problem with this whole accomplishments thing. It's not so much what someone did for the company, it's these arbitrary (cough BS) numbers and percentages. "I cut down time by 25%" or "I saved the company $25,000 in software expenditures". If your gonna quote stuff like that you better sure have someone to back those statements and NUMBERS. Or is putting down fiction just an excepted practice?

toni.bowers_b
toni.bowers_b

I used portions of a resume to illustrate the parts that needed illustrating. How would an entire resume make those points any clearer?

AlexNagy
AlexNagy

What about those starting out in a new field? I've recently graduated the Industrial Electricity program at a local trade school (I obtained my state's electrician's license several months before graduation in an attempt to jump on the searching for work wagon) but really have nothing that I could show in a portfolio (I didn't take pictures of completed work assignments (which included mock up motor controls on line voltage school-ish equipment and high-voltage real world application areas)). The best I could hope for is to take before-and-after pictures (which I didn't do on the only side-job I had before having to take time off to deal with a diagnosis of cancer). Should I include copies of those?

toni.bowers_b
toni.bowers_b

I mean the header function in Word. It looks like a watermark at the top of the page. Most people say their contact info is in the header, but what they really mean is it is at the top of the resume.

toni.bowers_b
toni.bowers_b

...which is not the same thing as the header. The header is a feature in Word.

mckinnej
mckinnej

First, a word of advice. Your numbers should NEVER be BS. There should be some sort of metric you can use, even if it is only on a personal level. It is definitely grounds for firing. After all, if there is one false thing on a resume, how can I trust anything on it? As a hiring manager, one thing that triggers the BS flag for me is the easy numbers. If the numbers on a resume are all on cardinal points like 10%, 25%, 50%, etc, that's a red flag. Real numbers tend to be ones like 12%, 23% and so forth. The odd numbers are usually a good indicator of real measurements behind .them. My years of writing military performance report bullets have been a big help in the resume world. I was taught a good bullet has at least two essential parts, but three are even better. Those parts are action, results, and (optionally) impact. Here is an example. - Reorganized help desk staff, reduced trouble ticket resolution time by 7%--customer satisfaction survey results increased 3% to 98% satisfied or better With a little thought and practice, you can make almost any action fit this format. It makes for a pretty compelling resume. Showing results and impact also indicates your understanding of how you fit into the overall picture. Mentioning how you contributed to a company goal is another good impact.

AlexNagy
AlexNagy

A compare-contrast of bad-vs-good would have been nice, though. Most of us already know the stupid stuff to avoid. My problem (and I'm sure I'm not the only one, especially by all the above comments) is I don't know how to properly format it because - while everyone tells you and shows you what to avoid - you only get told what to do. If you are going to show-and-tell on one end, please do it for the other as well.

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