This may be one of the most helpful and actionable tools you will ever find in your job search.
Our team of expert resume reviewers and ex-hiring managers have spent the last few weeks identifying the elements of a winning resume. The result is this checklist — a carefully curated list of actionable steps to help you write your most successful resume.
The checklist covers everything from formatting to structure to describing your work experiences.
The checklist is best viewed through http://resumeworded.com/checklist, but we’ve also included it below on Medium.
[__] Consistency in fonts, dates, alignment and spacing
Be consistent in your use of bold, italics, underlines, date formats, font sizes and bullets.
[__] Simple template
Go simple — remember, the content is the most important part of your resume. In fact, even Harvard links to this template (Word document) on their careers page (Notice how everything is aligned & consistent!). 500+ resumes from top performers were reviewed to create Resume Worded- each one used a simple template like that one.
[__] Simple font
Use a simple machine readable font (e.g. Times New Roman, Arial). Often, companies use automated systems like an Applicant Tracking System (ATS) to parse your resume. A generic intersystem font will ensure your resume is parsed correctly. Use a font size between 10–12.
[__] One page resume
A good rule of thumb is to keep your resume to one page if you have less than 10 years of experience or at most two pages if you have more than 10 years of experience.
[__] If you’re in college or a recent graduate, structure your resume like this:
Name, Personal Information, Education, Work Experience, Leadership / Extra-curricular Activities, Additional Info (Skills, Languages, Interests)
If you’re an Experienced Hire, structure your resume like this:
Name, Personal Information, Work Experience, Projects/Activities (Optional), Education, Additional Info (Skills, Languages, Interests)
[__] Remove the Summary and Objective from your resume:
- Summary: Often times, summaries don't give a recruiter any additional information. They should only be included if you're switching careers and you need to point the recruiter into the right direction.
- Objective: The company already knows what you’re looking for because you applied for a specific position. Having an objective section may even exclude you from other similar positions that might be interesting to you.
[__] Remove these unnecessary items from your resume:
- Photo: You are not being judged on how you look. Some companies even auto reject resumes with a photo.
- References (or ‘References available upon request’): This just wastes a line. Employers will ask you directly if they ever need to contact your references.
- Personal information like religion, marital status, ethnicity, age, gender
[__] Include all colleges/institutions you’ve attended, along with your major, minor and graduation year
Here’s a typical example of an education section.
[__] Include your GPA if it’s above 3.0 out of 4
If your school uses a different scale (e.g. out of 10), convert it to the standard 4.0 scale. If you choose to list your in-major GPA instead of your cumulative GPA, specify that it’s your in-major GPA. Similarly, only include any standardised test scores (e.g. SAT, GMAT) if your score is in the top 20th percentile.
Work Experience (most important!)
[__] Use Action Words
Start each bullet point with an Action-oriented word (e.g. Developed, managed, etc). Here is a free list of powerful action words to use on your resume.
[__] Quantify each bullet point
Wherever possible, you should quantify each of your accomplishments by using numbers. Here’s an example of a good resume line:
Managed a process re-engineering project to improve and consolidate end-to-end service processes; restructured communication flow among 10 departments, and cut down paperwork by 75%
Notice how the applicant has quantified the result of his work by using ‘cut down paperwork by 75%’ and ’10 departments’. Other ways to quantify your lines include “reduced cost by 15%”, “reduced the need for 3 FTEs”, “reduced process time by 20 hours/week”, “increased revenue by $5,000”….
For inspiration, here’s a free list of powerful resume lines that worked at top companies.
[__] Use reverse chronological order for your jobs
Your current or most recent job should appear first.
[__] Ensure each line is accomplishment oriented, not responsibilities oriented
Read each line on your resume again. Make sure you are not just listing your responsibilities. Instead, ensure each bullet point focuses on your accomplishments and the impact you had; action words and quantified results help you do this. This is your resume, not a job description.
Can you tell why this is a poor example of a resume line?:
Responsible for the coordinated management of multiple related projects directed toward strategic business and other organizational objectives
It’s simply not specific and does not demonstrate enough impact or core skills. It fits more into a job description than a resume.
To learn how to write more effective lines, read this article.
[__] Within each job, organize your bullets by importance and relevance
Your first bullet point should either describe your most impactful experience at the company, or the experience that is most relevant to the job you are applying to.
[__] Include your company name, positions held, plus a short description where necessary
If your company name may be unknown to your target employer, use a short line to describe it. Here’s a typical example.
[__] Include keywords to get past resume screening software and ATS
Large companies often rely on applicant tracking systems (ATS) to help filter resumes, before they even get into a recruiter’s hands. These systems work by scanning resumes for keywords, numbers and key phrases, sending only the most qualified ones through for human review. To ensure you get past these automated systems, include verb phrases and skills written in the job description on your own resume. Don’t go overboard, though. It’s really easy for a recruiter to tell when you’ve simply filled your resume with keywords that aren’t effective in the context of your resume. Here are some examples of some industry keywords (not a complete list).
[__] Demonstrate skill sets relevant to the job you are applying to
Click here for examples of resume lines which demonstrate a range of skill sets, including leadership, teamwork, problem solving, and analysis skills.
Projects, Extra-curricular or Leadership Experiences (optional)
[__] Include projects, extra-curricular or leadership experiences that are relevant to your role
Particularly if you’re in college or a recent graduate, you can use this section to describe additional experiences, like leadership activities, volunteering work or university projects. Change the name of the section depending on what you list.
[__] Ensure each line is accomplishment oriented
The same advice that we mentioned in the Work Experience section goes for this section too. Each bullet point should focus on your accomplishments and the impact you had; action words and quantified values help you do this. Learn more.
Additional Information (optional)
[__] Include languages, technical skills, professional societies / memberships or interests
Here’s a typical example of a simple Additional Information section. Here’sanother. Note that there is no fixed format — it can vary based on what you are trying to showcase. Interviewers often use your interests as small talk to start the interview.
[__] Don’t lie about your skills (or anything else on your resume)
Don’t lie on your resume, period. Remember that you will be still asked about your resume in future interviews.
Final things before you hit send
[__] Proofread, proofread, proofread!
Obvious stuff here, but you’d be surprised at how many resumes we’ve seen that have spelling or grammar mistakes. Ask a friend to review your resume!
[__] Tailor your resume based on the industry and company
For example, don’t use the exact same resume for both marketing and finance job applications. Go to our main site for examples of resume lines that worked in different industries.
[__] Upload it in PDF format
Use FirstName-LastName-Resume.pdf (or similar) as the filename.
[__] Add your email and phone number at the top
Include it in the header, right under your name.
[__] Leave some white space and save some margins
We know you struggled to cut down your resume to a page. But if your resume is not easy on the recruiter’s eyes, he won’t spend much time reviewing it. Keep bullet points 1–2 lines long, splitting them into multiple bullet points if necessary. Also, save some margins to let recruiters and interviewers write their comments in.
And you’re done!
This advice was curated by expert resume reviewers and ex-hiring managers at companies like Google and McKinsey to help you transform your resume into one that gets interviews. Feel free to suggest any additions or edits to this list.