the great resume checklist

Now that you’ve seen, studied and reflected upon your existing resume in reference to the sample from the last article, this step asks you to create a checklist so that you know when your very own resume is complete. Otherwise how will you know when it’s time to stop tinkering and put it to use?

You could consider fine tuning your resume endlessly (you could think about how you want to live endlessly rather than living too), but it’s useful to know where feeling satisfied really lies because the resume wants to be put to work. Pun intended.

Here’s how knowing when you’re done happens:

By this stage in the process you will have noticed your own distinct preferences surface about what you want to see and what you don’t want to see any longer on your own resume. Also I hope that you took the moment I offered to jot down notes on what you’d like to see and what you’d like to resolve about your own resume from the last article. Those notes are needed for this.

This master checklist you’re creating is simply the collection of all of the things that you want to see combined with the things that I’d be looking at and for if we were sitting down together and you showed me your resume over a cup of almond milk hot chocolate.

What I’ve done below is list out the checklist items + offered detailed explanations and notes to create some clarity and understanding around points I think are useful to help you make decisions about your own resume. I’ve done my best to explain why these are the checklist items that have proved useful, but if you need or want additional clarity based on a specific question, contact me and I’ll see what I can come up to help.

Also at the end of this article is a downloadable document without all of the extra explanations and notes for you to customize the list to your liking. (You. Are. Welcome.)

Ladies and gentlemen, may I present to you …

The Great Resume Checklist

:: My resume feels ___________, ____________, and __________ when I look at it.

Note: Select the three feelings that you want your resume to provoke in you (that it doesn’t right now).

:: Includes no more than two font styles.

Note: Keep your font selections simple and take note of which fonts work well together. Take this time to play with fonts in a word processor program to get to know what you fancy. I think it’s helpful for you to know this about fonts: “Serif” fonts are fonts that are considered more “adult” – because they are the font style used in adult books. They are distinguished by the little ‘tails’ on the letters as in font choices like Times New Roman, Cambria, or Garamond. Serif fonts are considered to be less inviting to read than fonts known as “sans-serif” in the case of Arial, Century Gothic or Calibri.

Sans-serif fonts are most often featured in children’s books. They invite reading because they look more approachable. My personal suggestion is to either select one sans-serif font for your entire resume or a serif font for all of your headers and a sans-serif font for all of your bullets. Note though that the font used for your name (in the letterhead) can be a third font selection chosen for helping you to achieve the overall look you’re going for.

I don’t suggest creating an all serif font resume unless it is spacious and you don’t desire or need a lot of copy on your resume (or it ends up turning out that way). Serif fonts can look cluttered and uninviting to read when there is a lot of copy.

If you are a serif font fan however, it is helpful if you can find a font that has rounder letters and takes up more horizontal space per letter rather than taller and thinner letters. You’ll really want to consider the font once you’ve finalized the exact content going onto the resume real estate. Ask yourself or someone else if the end result looks inviting to read.

Keep in mind too that not all computers have all fonts, so when you email your resume you will need to save it as a pdf to maintain your font and formatting selections for viewing and printing integrity. And if it is necessary that it be sent in non-pdf form, make font selections that are more common (one that came with your computer or one that you know is common to most if not all computers). You can still entice with font spacing, design features and formatting if this disappoints you. Whatever you decide keep it “zen.”

:: Name and contact details are found on each page of the resume and are aesthetically placed.

:: Everything communicated about me on my resume feels like who I want to be at work approaching my work as (the real) me.

:: The vertical indentations on the copy are consistent and lined up in a way that facilitates that “zen” quality.

:: The horizontal line spacing is consistent (and helps to invisibly section what’s within each section) with there being some aesthetic consistency of look and feel in each section of the resume.

:: The resume file name is appropriate.

Note: That is “your name-position title.pdf.” Not “company name resume.pdf” – think about the person on the receiving end. Imagine them receiving lots of applications and needing to sort through them in their inbox. Name your resume document for their records – not yours. These little things truly make your resume more hospitable to receive.

:: My resume accurately represents me in my physical absence. If I showed up to a meeting where my resume preceded me, my in-person self would not be a surprise.

Note: This refers to everything about your resume’s look and feel including formatting, use of space and color, adjectives, length etc. For example, a bright, colorful, bold resume would not be suitable if you are a quiet and conservative sort of person. You would want to consider something clean, tasteful and smart instead perhaps.

:: Each bullet reads with a consistent energy and tone.

Note: So often when I have sat down with someone to review their resume, from the way they’ve written their bullets – the number of words (the lack of wording in some and the over indulgence of words in others) indicate which jobs the person enjoyed and which jobs the person … well, let’s be honest: Hated. It’s pretty obvious when you look at a resume. And that indicates unresolved feelings about a job and also an inability to articulate what from that job is useful for what you as the applicant are trying to create for yourself moving forward.

At this stage, you’ll want to be mindful of the fact that how you feel about each job shows up on your resume. The resume bullet writing process in this method is about learning to see yourself with perspective in each of your jobs. This way the quality with which you write about each job is consistent and useful for pointing in the direction of your desirable career destiny.

The ‘heavy lifting,’ so to speak, that you are doing is to gain closure by actually grieving your perceived past work failures so that you can speak about any and every job you’ve had with compassion, kindness and peace. Otherwise, you’re leaving it up to the reader of your resume or an interviewer(!) to uncover where you are at emotionally and that’s a lot to ask. By not taking up the task to recognize what isn’t resolved yourself with gusto, you reveal what you’re not really okay with in how you talk about some pretty rudimentary stuff in an interview situation. And that my friend is covert self-sabotage at work.

If you need to work with a professional service provider to help you gain perspective and emotional closure to help your confidence to either go for or discern the jobs that you actually want, then that’s what you need to do.

So when it comes time for resume bullet writing exercises really pay attention to your experience during the exercise to tell you whether or not you need additional support.

:: The bullets on my resume show a progression in my work history rather than repetition.

Note: Resume language isn’t meant to be boring and repetitive. That’s a choice that you make when you regard your resume as an obligatory step that you wish or hope is optional.

This will be explored as part of the bullet creation process, but suffice to say at this juncture that each resume bullet ought to sound unique and aim to show a different facet of you. So often we blame the resume for being rigid about how we talk about ourselves or what we choose to present, when it is actually us who struggle to see ourselves and our uniqueness in order to share it with others. You can talk about the same skill set in different ways. You can name a skill in terms of who it serves or how it serves or what tangible results it produced specifically, or even simply reveal through progression how your expertise in that skill has developed. One bullet cannot possibly contain all of those facets – maybe just one or two. So really there are a multitude of ways to approach a single skill (meaning that there are also a multitude of different bullets that can really demonstrate a high level of expertise where before you would otherwise have kept repeating the same bullet on your resume).

:: Job titles are appropriately accurate.

Note: I have learned many times over when interviewing people about the specifics of their previous jobs that the job titles on their resume aren’t necessarily accurate. Nor do they reflect what they currently do in their job. More than you know, your current job title is un-relatable to those outside of your current employer because the job title is more like a job category or coding name to assign a pay scale for HR purposes that doesn’t evolve as quickly as organizations and people organically do.

So like all the other writing on your resume, your job titles need to be easy for your prospective reader to relate to in addition to being accurate.

Your previous job titles might be really misleading because the job changed a lot after you got into it but the title didn’t change with it. After you work on the bullet creation component of your resume, check to make sure that your job titles reflect you accurately. Your future resume reader needs to quickly and unequivocally understand what you did and what you are capable of especially since they’re hoping for the right candidate to show up.

:: Bullets feel and look like the right length and fit in with the look and feel of all of the other bullets.

:: The last line of each bullet needs to take up at least 50% of the line otherwise the bullet needs to be re-worded (either shorted to not have this line or lengthened to fill the line out aesthetically).

:: The amount and location of white space on the resume invites reading.

:: The aesthetic layout allows the eyes to travel around the document with a feeling of space and flow.

:: Each word on my resume contributes to the overall goal of how I want my resume to feel. One word or bullet isn’t jarring in contrast to the others for example in a bullet, in a section on the resume.

:: Each section of the available real estate on my resume acts as a supportive argument or structure for the “professional introduction” or “profile” section.

Note: An explanation of what this means is forthcoming in an upcoming section of the Resume Project.

:: My mailing address is somewhere on the first page.

:: Fonts are a consistent size for their purpose (purposes include: resume bullet fonts are the same, company name fonts are the same, section heading fonts are the same, etc.).

:: The real estate on my resume reflects my priorities.

Note: This means that jobs or education of minimal importance to what you want to do take up the least amount of room and/or are less prominent so that the “prime” resume real estate is devoted to what is ideal content on the first page (if the resume is two pages or more more).

:: Stylistic grammar and formatting preferences are consistent.

Note: Check your use of any unusual characters and punctuation. A resume doesn’t fall in the category of “normal sentence structure for English language writing.” So you’ll need to check for things like all OR none of the company descriptions or bullets should have periods, capitalization should be consistent, the use of ‘&’ ‘+’ or ‘and’ should also be consistent.

:: If there are multiple pages to my resume, they are numbered.

Note: Tech applicants seem to prefer one page (no page number necessary), academics upwards of 20 pages (so definitely number the pages) and most everyone else has a 2 page resume (so number the second page).

:: A very detail oriented person or someone with a keen eye for detail has read over my resume for “mood ruining” grammar and spelling glitches as well any “aesthetic distractions.”

:: My section headings are unique, accurate, and supportive of the content that follows them.

:: Job titles + company names are on the left and dates on the right or my resume is formatted so that dates are not the first thing read.

Note: This is important because in English we read left to right and what we read first is what we remember. On your resume you’ll want your reader to retain the roles you occupied as their logic naturally tries to make a match between you and the role you’re applying for rather than the dates and timeframes of your previous positions (had they appeared on the left first).

:: I’ve shown my resume to 2-3 different trusted but not overly invested people (one person from my industry and others ideally from unrelated fields) to witness their response. Showing them in-person is most ideal.

Note: The only question you’re asking them is: “Would you expect me to show up after seeing this resume or would you be expecting someone different? Wait for their response. Hear their response. Don’t explain anything. When they are finished speaking, ask them if they have anything more to share with you about what you asked and thank them for their feedback. Pay for the cup of almond milk hot chocolate they just had as a thank you.

Alternatively you could ask your feedback panel this instead: “Pretend this resume doesn’t belong to me. Would you please do me the honor of describing the person you would expect to show up based on this resume? Say whatever comes to mind. I’m open.”

As a contrast, show them your old resume and then the new one and watch their reaction if you want or are comfortable doing so.

The purpose of this step is to know that who you are comes through on your new resume and to compare that to your original resume. Look at how much more real you are on paper. Witness the response and feel confident about the accuracy with which you are representing yourself.

So go ahead, download the great resume checklist document to add to it and make your own customized list. When you’ve finished the steps of creating your resume I’ll remind you to pull it out and review each item. And if something I’ve offered doesn’t feel or seem applicable to your very unique situation, then use your free will to do what is best for you.

The Great Resume Checklist

If you like this, buy me a hot chocolate and I’ll write more.

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