5-Minute Checklist Before You Hit Send On Your Resume

When you respond to a job posting, you can be almost certain your resume will be one of dozens received by the hiring manager. Before you hit "apply," follow this quick five-minute checklist to give your resume the best chance of success.

resume checklist

Have You Followed Application Directions?

Is your resume in the format requested? You don't want to submit a Word doc if the recruiter asks for PDFs. Do you need to submit any ancillary materials, such as writing samples, or do you need to complete an online assessment? Applicants who don't follow directions aren't likely to progress to a screening interview.

Have You Included Your Contact Info?

This might seem like a statement of the obvious, but make sure your cell phone number and email address are listed on your resume. Recruiters can't get in touch with you if they don't have this information.

Does Your Email Address Reflect Your Professional Status?

Make sure you've listed a professional, non-work email address through a modern provider. Think "JaneDoe@," rather than "PrincessJanie@." And—just in case you haven't already—it's a good idea to retire your old AOL address in favor of a Gmail or Outlook.com address, particularly if you're seeking a position at a technology company.

Is Your Resume Easy To Open And Read On-Screen?

Make sure your PDF opens and displays as you intend it to, and check that any web addresses have been converted to working links. If the hiring manager can't open your resume or has to go to any extra work to look at your work product, then he or she will probably just toss your application in the reject pile before going to any extra effort.

On a related note, it's a good idea to skip too much fancy formatting. You want your resume to reach its final destination, not get stopped in its tracks by a limit on inbound attachment size.

Have You Made Your Resume Easy To Scan?

Six seconds. On average, that's how long a recruiter spends reviewing your resume, according to the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM). Once you've accepted this depressing factoid, it's time to look at your resume with new (and quicker eyes). Have you made your resume easy to scan using bold headings and bullet points? Is it easy to see where you are currently working and how long you've been employed? Similarly, is your educational background noticeable with a quick glance? That's the information most interesting to hiring managers.

Have You Personalized Your Resume To The Position?

The days of one-size-fits-all resumes are long gone, particularly in the age of applicant tracking software (ATS) systems that scan resumes and prescreen applicants based on keywords. Take the extra time to match your skill set to each job posting using keywords from the posting.

Have You Included Metrics To Demonstrate Success?

If possible, have you included stats to catch the recruiter's eye? "Increased program utilization by 10 percent over two years" is much more memorable than "increased program utilization." Whenever possible, demonstrate your skill set using concrete facts.

Have You Proofread Your Resume-And Had A Trusted Friend Look Over It With Fresh Eyes?

No matter how detail-oriented you are, the more you look at something, the fewer details you see. It's always a good idea to have someone else proofread your resume to catch embarrassing spelling errors and formatting issues.

In addition to proofreading for grammatical errors, make sure the employment information listed on your resume matches reality (and your LinkedIn profile, which the hiring manager will likely check out before an in-person interview). This isn't the time to guess when you started or ended a past position. You don't want to be tripped up by an employment verification late in the hiring process.

Is Your Resume Accompanied By A Cover Letter Addressed To A Real Person?

It's incredible how many job applicants skip the crucial step of including a cover letter, which gives you a few more paragraphs to catch the hiring manager's eye (and showcase your writing abilities). Just be sure to address your cover letter to the actual hiring manager instead of "to whom it may concern." Taking this extra step shows you've taken time to research the company.

It's critical to ensure your resume stands out—but you want it to be memorable for all of the right reasons. Invest a few extra minutes in your resume. The benefits will be great.

Search for your next job now:


Back to listing

The Washington Post Jobs Newsletter

Subscribe to the latest news about DC's jobs market