One of the challenges for many people in preparing a great resume is…knowing what exactly makes up a great resume. Here’s a handy checklist of the major components of a strong resume. How does your resume measure up?

Resume checklist

Does it look sharp?

Good looks aren’t everything, but they certainly help. Make sure your resume is easy to read—clean, not cluttered; sharp, not confusing.

  • Does it have a well-designed letterhead with your name larger than surrounding text?
  • Does it include your contact information (name, address, phone number, email)?
  • Do you use lines or some other visual cue to separate different sections of the resume?
  • Does it use bullets?
  • But not too many bullets? (Bullets are meant to increase readability and help key items stand out, but if everything is bulleted, everything blends together.)
  • Is it in a clear, readable, commonly used font? Arial and Times New Roman are classic stand-bys. Calibri is one of my new faves.
  • Does it have ample white space in the margins? (Keep one-inch margins on the sides and at least a half inch on top and bottom.)
  • Is it limited to two pages?
  • Is it free from typos and errors?

Does it have all the right pieces?

Resumes are generally organized into a handful of major sections. This shorthand helps hiring managers quickly find the info they need.

  • Does it start with a Qualifications section?
  • Is work history listed in reverse chronological (newest to oldest) order?
  • For each job, do you provide company name, location, job title, and years of employment?
  • For each job, do you provide a brief description of your duties and scope?
  • Do you provide quantified accomplishments?
  • Does it provide the most detail for your latest jobs, with less detail on older/less relevant jobs?
  • Does it omit information that is personal, outdated, or off-target?

Big Picture

A great resume is clearly focused on a specific target. A resume that knows what you want helps you get what you want.

  • Does it convey a clear, unified message about who you are and what you do (aka your personal brand)?
  • Is it focused on accomplishments and benefits more than responsibilities and duties?
  • Does it speak to the desired qualifications for the type of job you’re seeking?
  • Does it replace niche industry jargon or company-specific phrases with better-understood translations? (Imagine a recruiter or HR person who isn’t necessarily familiar with the technical details of your target job.)
  • Is it consistent in terms of formatting, verb tense, organization?
  • Does it aim toward your next job (not your current job)?