If you’ve recently decided to launch a job search, you know that the first order of business is to write a resume that showcases your skills, experience, and education. You also know that the faster you are able to create a powerful resume, the faster you’ll get the job you want.
To that end, we’ve created the Ultimate Resume Checklist. Run down the list to ensure that your resume contains all of the critical elements. Once you’ve placed a check next to each item on the list, you’re resume will be ready to send out.
Not confident of your writing abilities, or short on time? If you are having trouble writing a resume on your own, consider putting a free resume builder to work. Using one can help you get a strong resume organized and written in a matter of minutes.
✔ Resume checklist: How to begin a resume
The first thing you need to do in order to write a standout resume is to gather all of the information you’ll need. Here is what you should compile before you start writing:
- Names and address of current and past employers
- Dates of employment
- Names and addresses of the educational institutions you’ve attended
- The names and types of your degrees (for example, “Bachelor of Science in Physics”)
- A list of your most impressive skills
- Metrics that relate you your skill set. This piece will likely take the most research. Try to find numbers and data that relate to your professional experience and that highlight what you’ll bring to the table.
To determine which metrics to add to a resume, think in the following areas:
- Growth: For example, if you had impressive sales numbers that resulted in increased revenue for the company
- Reduction: Initiatives you launched that saved the company money, time, or resources, for example
- Impact: One example would be projects you’ve worked on that helped your company reach additional customers or users
- Frequency: If you’ve been your department’s highest performer for the last six months, this would be an example of adding a frequency metric to your resume
✔ Resume checklist: Formatting and design
Choose a resume format
There are three main resume formats to choose from when writing a new resume. These are:
- Chronological resume format: This format, which lists your work history in reverse chronological order, is the most commonly used format. This format is appropriate across industries and job titles but works best for jobseekers with a strong work history.
- Functional resume format: This format, which emphasizes a jobseeker’s skills and strengths over work history, is perfect for people who are new to the workforce or who are re-entering after a period of unemployment.
- Combination resume format: The combination, or hybrid, resume format combines elements of the chronological and functional resume formats. This format is great for jobseekers who are looking to change careers and want to emphasize both their transferable skills and a progressive work history
Choose a resume template
While the content of your resume is king, it’s also critical to find a resume template that is both attractive and appropriate for the industry. If you choose to work from a template, choose one with a clean design that clearly highlights your achievements. If you are applying to a role in a creative industry, such as advertising, it’s okay to add some personality to your resume design, say though pops of color or an interesting header. However, busy borders and images are always a no-no, as these can confuse an applicant tracking system (ATS) and get your resume tossed into the slush pile.
✔ Resume checklist: Include the 5 critical sections of a resume
Now that you have compiled your information, have chosen a resume format, and (quite possibly) a resume template too, it’s time to put it all together.
There are five critical sections of a resume. Begin your document with these and fill in information as you go along.
The header is one of the most important sections of a resume because it contains your contact information. Nothing else in the resume matters if the recruiter can’t get in touch with you after reading your resume.
Your header should contain your name, phone number, and email address. Modern resumes don’t include a mailing address so unless you are planning to relocate from out of state, there is no need to include one.
In addition to contact information, many jobseekers include links to their LinkedIn profiles and their online portfolios, if applicable.
- Professional Summary
The professional summary should always live at the top of your document underneath the header. This section is a short – three to five sentences, maximum – compelling description of your most relevant skills and professional accomplishments.
For the most impact, tie the skills you list here to skills mentioned in the job ad. Choose achievements that also tie into the responsibilities outlined in the job post.
For example, for an executive assistant role, you might mention your stellar typing skills, excellent communication skills, and highlight the positive impact the company experienced thanks to your ability to streamline processes. If possible, adding a metric in this section can be eye-catching.
Here, list your skills and core competencies. These include both hard and soft skills. You might mention specific computer skills and language skills, plus soft skills such as strong written and verbal communication and conflict management.
Again, do your best to tie these directly to the job post. Study the job ad and pull out the most critical skills, then position these near the beginning of your skills section to make them prominent. This customizing of your resume should be done for each job you apply to for your best chance of getting your resume through an applicant tracking system.
- Work Experience
Starting with your current (or most recent) position first, use 5-7 bullet points to list your job responsibilities. (If you are new to the workforce, listing volunteer positions or internships in this section works, too.)
Quantify your responsibilities wherever possible by using metrics. It’s much more powerful to say that you “manage a team of six full-time accountants” than it is to say that you “manage the accounting team.” Paint a picture of what you do rather than simply writing a boring list of job responsibilities.
While not every role will have formal educational requirements, if you have a college degree or higher, be sure to list it. Leave off dates of graduation as these can be a clue to your age.
Never list your high school, unless you didn’t attend college. In that case, simply list the name of the high school you attended, again leaving off your graduation date.
✔ Resume checklist: Proofread your document
This might be the most important item on the resume checklist. Proofreading your document ensures that it is clean and free of spelling errors and grammar mistakes.
Proof your resume yourself, then send it to a trusted friend for a second look. It’s often hard to spot our own mistakes, especially if we have been sitting with a document for a long period of time.