In order to critique your resume effectively, you need to understand how a hiring manager will look at it. As a rule, resume reviewers start by making a snap judgment based on their first impression. If there are no immediate red flags, they'll spend the next 10 to 30 seconds scanning it to determine whether you seem to have the right qualifications. If your resume passes those two tests, it has a good chance of being reviewed more thoroughly, and with luck, winning you an interview.
What does all this mean to you and your resume?
It means you should worry less about listing your past job duties, and more about making an outstanding first impression!
Here are the important factors to consider as you evaluate your resume.
1) First Impression:
- Overall appearance is neat, organized, and easy to read.
- Length is no more than 2 pages (1 page is fine if everything fits neatly).
- No obvious errors in spelling, grammar, punctuation, or word usage.
- No obvious inconsistencies in use of numbers, spacing, punctuation, or capitalization.
- Contact information is complete.
- Email address is professional, not shared, not goofy, and not your current work address.
2) Quick Check of Qualifications:
- Resume starts with a summary that lists the most compelling qualifications that match the employer’s needs.
- Calls attention to relevant experience from past jobs.
- Matches keywords and expressions from the job ad.
- Uses descriptive job titles (e.g., Don't just say "Machinist," say "Robotic-Arm Machine Operator").
- Includes licenses, certifications, or coursework that support qualifications (if applicable).
3) Other Things to Look For:
- Action verbs introduce each sentence or bullet phrase.
- No unnecessary words or repetition.
- Acronyms or technical jargon are adequately explained.
4) Things You Should Leave Out:
- Older job experiences—Experience from more than 10 or 15 years ago is probably irrelevant now.
- Personal information—Avoid topics such as religion, politics, age, race, marital status, lifestyle, or disability.
- Older educational details—Always list your highest level of education, but after a few years stop mentioning GPA, as well as your roles in clubs, sports, or other school-related activities. If you're an older job seeker, leave out the year of graduation.
A self-critique should be part of the process any time you submit a resume. We haven't mentioned the cover letter—but the same critiquing principles can help you create a cover letter that makes a great impression and opens the door to your resume.
Critiquing your own resume might seem like a lot of extra work, but if the mistakes are there, wouldn't you rather find them yourself than let the hiring manager do it for you?
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