by Randall S. Hansen, Ph.D.
Use This Resume Critique Checklist and Review to Determine if Your Resume is Ready to Help You Get the Job-Search Results You Desire.
While it is always a good idea to get numerous people -- career professionals, former bosses and colleagues, mentors, and the like -- to review and evaluate your resume, you might want to first consider reviewing and critiquing your resume using this simple table. The most important thing to remember is to be sure you totally understand each criterion -- and then be completely honest on how your resume rates. (If you feel you cannot possibly be honest with yourself, then get a professional critique.)
In fact, we suggest reviewing some of the many expert resume resources available on Quintessential Careers, such as our worksheets, resume tutorials, resume quizzes, or numerous resume samples. Remember the purpose of your resume -- to create enough interest from the employer to invite you to a job interview. A resume is a statement of facts (using keywords and action verbs) -- that highlights your accomplishments, skills, and education/training... as well as your fit for the position you seek.
Evaluate Your Resume: 10 Factors That are Critical for a Successful Resume
Appearance/Style. For traditional formatted "print" resumes, appearance and consistency are critical. Your resume must be professional and easy to read. Stick to using only one to two "normal" fonts. Use font sizes no smaller than 10 point. Keep colors to a minimum. Be consistent in the use of color, font, size, and style (bolding, italicizing, underlining). Use normal (3/4-1") margin widths so that there is plenty of white space. Don't use resume template; develop your resume from scratch -- with your own unique style. Use bulleted phrases to describe your accomplishments, rather than lengthy (and hard-to-read) paragraphs. Read more.
Completeness/Length. A resume should give a complete picture of why you should be called for an interview. U.S. resumes should rarely be longer than two pages (although you can have supplemental pages for things such as grants, consulting, references, and the like), and for entry-level positions, no longer than one page unless you have an exceptional background of internships, extracurricular activities, sports, volunteer work, and more. Read our article, The Scoop on Resume Length: How Many Pages Should Your Resume Be?.
Content/Layout. Use standard resume headings. All resumes must include certain critical information, such as contact information, experience, and education. Other sections include a portion of the resume that gives it a sharp focus, professional profile, honors and awards, professional interests and memberships, and keyword summary. U.S. resumes should never include names of supervisors, salary information, photos, or references. Read more. For more ideas on layout, see our large collection of job-seeker sample resumes and consider using Resume Components Worksheet.
Focus. Perhaps the most critical element of any resume is its focus. Your resume must have a specific theme -- related to the position (and employer) you are seeking. Do not include extraneous information on your resume. Your resume must be written in such a way that your job/career focus, as well as what you're good at, is obvious to anyone reading your resume. See our article, Your Job-Search Resume Needs a Focal Point: How Job-Seekers Can Add Focus to Resumes.
Format/Approach. There are three types of resume formats: standard chronological, functional, and combined chrono-functional. Most job-seekers -- and especially those job-seekers with a steady employment history in one field looking to advance within that field -- should use a chronological resume that focuses on employment history (starting with most recent). Because hiring decision-makers strongly dislike chrono-functional, and especially purely functional, resumes, we advise against them except for extreme cases of problematic job histories that can be handled no other way.
Perspective. Review your resume from the perspective of a hiring manager with just a few seconds to review your resume. Your resume must be attention-getting, good-looking, and sharply focused. Your resume should provide the employer enough reasons to invite you for an interview. One way to strengthen perspective is by branding your resume with a headline, branding statement -- or both. Read more in our article, Branding Your Resume: Tips for Job-Seekers.
Professionalism/Integrity. There's simply no excuse for resumes to have any kind of misspellings or typos. Employers often toss resumes with even just one error. The other issue is honesty. Your resume is a statement of facts, so do not fudge your dates of employment, job titles, certifications, or educational achievements. It's not only wrong, but more and more employers are conducting background checks.
Use of Accomplishments. In terms of job-hunting, nothing is more important than documenting all your accomplishments. It's even better if you can quantify those accomplishments. Employers want job-seekers who are problem-solvers with a proven record of success. Do not describe your experiences in terms of duties and responsibilities. Read more about accomplishments and consider using our Accomplishments Worksheet.
Use of Keywords and Action Verbs. Action verbs are verbs that make your experience jump from the page. Keywords and keyword phrases are vital because as more and more resumes are placed into large databases, employers search for job-seekers the same way you use Google to search a topic -- with one or more keywords. Read more about the power of keywords to enhance your resume and consider using our Resume Keywords Worksheet. Review a detailed list of job-seeker action verbs.
Versions. Job-hunting today usually requires more than one version of your resume. You still need your traditional "print" resume, but you'll also want to develop one or more electronic versions of your resume. E-resumes come in a number of versions, including Text (ASCII), Portable Document Format (PDF), and Web (HTML).
You might also want to review these Resume Preparation Do's and Don'ts or try QuintCareer's Resume Builder.
Resume Critique Worksheet
Evaluate your resume using the form below. How well does your resume perform? Have you followed all the rules and guidelines of good resume writing? If not, now is the time to make corrections and improvements!
Is your resume visually appealing to prospective employers?
Is your resume complete, but not too long -- or too short?
Does your resume contain all the relevant information for the job you are seeking?
Is your resume sharply focused to your job goal?
Are you using the proper format -- and do you need more than one format -- for your situation?
Have you branded your resume so that it has what it takes to get noticed by employers?
Is your resume free of spelling errors and typos?
| Use of Accomplishments|
Have you identified (and quantified) one or more accomplishments for each experience while avoiding duties and responsibilities?
| Use of Keywords/Action Verbs|
Have you included focused keywords and strong action verbs in your resume?
Do you have both print and electronic versions of your resume?
| Resume Do's and Don'ts|
Have you reviewed our key resume writing do's and don'ts for job-seekers?
See also our article, FAKTSA: An Easy Acronym for Remembering Key Resume Enhancers.
Questions about some of the terminology used in this article? Get more information (definitions and links) on key college, career, and job-search terms by going to our Job-Seeker's Glossary of Job-Hunting Terms.