Your 10-Point Resume Checklist - dummies

By Laura DeCarlo

Before going public with your resume, give it a final walk-through. Give yourself a checkmark for each item only when your resume meets that OnTarget standard. Each checkmark is worth 10 points. If you don’t get a score of 100, go back to your keyboard and try again.

Making a match

You’ve customized your resume by matching your qualifications (skills, education, accomplishments, and so on) with the specific requirements of a job, or by matching your qualifications with the expected qualifications in a career field.

Image and focus

You don’t say the equivalent of, “I thought you might have an opening I could fill,” but state what you want to do for an employer and why you’re the most qualified to do it. You consider your resume’s overall impression — its look and feel. Your resume has a unifying theme: You present yourself as focused, not merely desperate to accept any job.

Format and style

You select the best format for your situation. For example, reverse chronological when staying in the same field, or chrono-functional or hybrid when changing fields.

Accomplishments and skills

You directly relate your skills to the skills/competencies needed for the job. You cite at least one accomplishment for each skill or competency. You measure any claim you can by using numbers, percentages, or dollar amounts. You highlight results, not just a list of duties and responsibilities. Always use the CAR formula: state the challenge you faced, relay the action you took, and show your results.

Language and expressions

You make the most of your word choices. You use adequate keywords (nouns) to make your resume searchable by software. You use action verbs to put vitality in your resume for human eyes. You eliminate words that don’t directly support your bid for the job you want, as well as such meaningless words and phrases as “References available.” You use industry jargon where appropriate, but you translate acronyms, technical jargon, or military lingo into easy-to-understand English.

Content and omissions

Your content supports your goal. You create a funnel effect in your resume by starting with the objective header statement, moving into the summary, supporting this with keywords, and proving it all with experience. That is, you draw the prospective employers down into your resume by grabbing and keeping their interest.

You list education before experience only if you’re a new graduate with virtually no experience, or if your target job is related more to education and training than experience. You don’t list personal information that isn’t related to the job you seek, such as marital status, number of children, or height.

Length and common sense

You use a length that makes sense for the amount of information you’re presenting. Even though today’s resumes are shorter and crisper (because most are crafted for digital distribution), certain guidelines remain. You limit your resume to one page if you are lightly experienced, two pages if you are extremely experienced, and three pages only if you are an executive or consultant. Additionally, your resume can stretch even longer when it’s a professional resume or a curriculum vitae.

When you find you have an unusually long list of supporting information, such as articles you have published, presentations you have given, or relevant training you have completed, it’s acceptable to have a third-page addendum. Set it up with your contact information at the top just like your resume and title it Addendum in the same font size as the headers on your resume. Now you have an interchangeable third page that you can provide as it’s relevant.

Don’t jam-pack a jumble of text on one page, making your resume way too difficult to read and way too easy to ignore. Instead, spend some extra time to reword what you have to say and pare down to what matters most to get you the job interview.

Social media and other new things

You tailored a message showing your value to an employer. Consider this criterion when you offer your resume on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, other social media sites, or on teeny-weeny mobile screens. Although seasoned workplace veterans come across as “with it” and youthful by using the new tools, the fact that you’re up-to-date alone isn’t enough to get you hired.

Sticky points and sugarcoating

You thoughtfully handle all problem areas, such as grouping irrelevant, long-ago, part-time, and temporary jobs. You account for all the gaps in the time frame of your resume. You scour your resume for possible hidden negatives and eliminate them.

Proofreading and more proofreading

Your resume contains no typos, no grammar disasters — no errors of any kind. You not only use your computer’s spell checker, but you double- and triple-check your resume. You ask others to carefully read it. Typos are hot buttons to many employers — two goofs and you’re gone.

Resume power in the brave new world of job chasing

In this age of constant change and information, resumes endure.

Despite this constant change, resumes remain the most important personal power tool in job-finding because the medium can be converted to meet the needs of any platform, whether e-reader, social media profile, web portfolio, or good old stamp-and-envelope printed resume in the mail.

The resume — regardless of its final form — conveys what is needed to sell you and shows employers that your qualifications meet their requirements.

Employers want your message to put them in a comfort zone where they’re assured that you’ll make more money for them, deliver greater benefits to them, or save them more time and treasure than it costs to hire you.

That’s the strategic message you must deliver in each resume. Anything less is a roll of the dice.