Your Christmas wish list isn’t the only list you need to read and check twice. A resume checklist—a list of must-dos for your resume—can be essential for job search success.
“Most of the time, people just dive head-first into the resume, with a purpose of including everything and the kitchen sink,” according to Dawn Rasmussen, certified resume writer and founder of Pathfinder Writing and Career Services. But, “without a checklist, people often end up including non-essential information and forget critical things,” she points out.
With a resume checklist, you can avoid mistakes and “provide a potential employer with the exact information that they are seeking,” Rasmussen says. But what should go on it?
Glassdoor has created an easy-peasy guide to help you craft the perfect resume, along with a checklist you can read and tick off as you write. But below, you’ll find the TL;DR version, in which we and Rasmussen walk you through the essentials of any good resume checklist.
According to Glassdoor’s guide, you shouldn’t go overboard with intricate or decorative resume templates. Instead, stick to styles with sufficient white space and an 11-point font.
What’s more, Rasmussen recommends placing your target job title at the top of a resume. “Every resume should have a target job title headline at the top of the document,” she says. “This acts as an introduction so the reader’s expectations are shaped as to what they can anticipate reading about. This job title headline acts as a clarifying driver and a lynchpin.”
List your experience.
In your experience section, you must include—at a minimum—the following information:
- Each company you’ve worked for
- Your title
- The dates you worked there
- Several bullet points that describe your key accomplishments and responsibilities
But perhaps more importantly, you must find a way to quantify the experience you list out. Our guide encourages you to use concrete data points whenever possible, and Rasmussen agrees. “It is very tempting to do the old copy and paste of your current job description into your employment experience, but a critical element of success here is to demonstrate the ‘so what?’ by creating concise bulleted sentences that take tasks and put them into practical application with measurable results,” she says. “For example, you don’t want to say you met with clients. It’s much better to say, ‘generated $50,000 surge in new revenue after meeting with clients to better understand how company products could fit their needs.’” In other words, “complete the thought of what you want to say and provide the impact not the task.”
Include other positions.
Our guide advises you to include all your positions—even those that may not directly relate to the job for which you are applying. Why? Because those jobs can still be used to show off the skills you have and will presumably use in your new job and at your new place of work.
Plus, “career movement is critical for job seekers,” Rasmussen says. “Employers like to hire movers and shakers, so how are you demonstrating traction? Make sure that professional development is on your resume checklist so you can show employers that you have current job knowledge, minimal skill gaps, and are well-poised to contribute thought leadership that will propel companies into meeting future clients’ needs as well as industry changes.”
When you’re writing or editing your resume, make sure to check the job listing for relevant keywords you can add to your document. It’s important for those keywords to make their way onto resume because many companies use tech that scans applications for keywords. And if the tech can’t find the words it’s looking for, your resume could end up in the trash.
Make it human-friendly, too.
While you need to optimize your resume for technology, as described above, you also need to make it human-friendly by “putting the things most relevant and interesting to this job up top,” the Glassdoor guide recommends. “Remember, hiring managers spend an average of six seconds looking at your resume, so you want to [very, very] quickly catch their eye.”
Revise—and revise again.
The last thing on your checklist should be to reread your work, checking for errors in both grammar and spelling, and any missed opportunities to show off your skills. Even resume writers edit their work. “Resume writers must embrace perfection yet they are also human and therefore prone to making mistakes,” Rasmussen says. “The best words of advice I received about writing a resume then editing was to read the document from the bottom up. We are trained to skim from top down, and that’s where our eyes can completely skip over or block out glaring issues. Reading the resume from the top up is challenging though.”
You may also want to have another person—a trusted friend, colleague, career coach, or mentor—read over your work before submitting it. “When you have read something a thousand times, a fresh pair of eyes can help zero in on mistakes,” Rasmussen points out.