Master Your Resume with this Checklist

When I was a child and actually read real paper books, I remember what it was like to make a selection at the library. If the cover of a book caught my eye, I would flip it over and give it a chance to sell itself to me. And if it did not catch my eye, the book would remain untouched on the shelf.

In the world of resumes, the process is actually quite similar. There’s a lot to be said for the concept of marketing, despite the fact that we aren’t supposed to judge a book by its cover. Now, this doesn’t mean you should take your administrative resume and create a work of art (though, those folks in the creative field can and should take a more creative approach). Instead, what I’m referring to is a focused effort to ensure the overall look is visually appealing and easy for the reader to follow, resulting in a resume that actually gets read. Essentially, it comes down to consistency and organization.

  • Font–Keep it simple with the classics like Arial or Times New Roman. They’re easy to read and will not get in the way of anyone’s ability to decipher your resume. And once you’ve selected a font, keep it consistent throughout.
  • Font size and other formatting options–With regards to font size and formatting, consistency is key. If you bold and/or enlarge the font for headings of each section of the resume, ensure each heading has that same formatting. In the end, there are not specific rules on when and where to bold, italicize, or underline; the only rule is that of consistency. Are you sensing a theme, here?
  • Bullets–In all honesty, no resume is really complete without bullets. Definitely use the bullet function that exists within every word processing program. Using dashes or asterisks as bullets just doesn’t deliver the same look as the bullet function. And within that function, you can select which symbol to use as a bullet. As with other methods of formatting, what matters here is uniformity. And when arranging your bullets, create what’s referred to as a hanging indent. That simply means that the second line of your bullet is in line with and begins right under the first letter of the top line in the bullet (just like I have done my bullets here in this blog).
  • Page Breaks—At the end of the page, it’s best to complete one particular job and its bulleted list of responsibilities before the page ends so nothing carries onto the next page. In order to accomplish this, you may need to adjust margins or manually create page breaks.
  • Spacing–Keep an eye on how many spaces or lines you leave between each section of the resume. If you leave two blank spaces between the end of one job and the beginning of the next, ensure you have the same spacing throughout the employment section of the resume.
  • Dates–When it comes to dates, there are many different methods of formatting and placement. There is no wrong way; again, it’s a matter of consistency. If you choose to use the xx/xx/xxxx format, it would be incorrect to use xx/xx/xx at some point later in the resume. Some resumes have the date at the left side of the document while others have it at the right margin. Both are correct. However, if aligning the date to the right margin, it’s best to use the tab key or set the align right tab stop in your document. Simply using the spacebar to place that component does not work and can create a bit of a mess.

It’s entirely possible you may create this flawless resume in your word processing program only to have the formatting get destroyed when the reader opens it in a program that is not compatible with yours. The good news is that there is an easy, painless way to fix this! Simply save your resume as a PDF file. This will ensure that the reader sees the document in exactly the way you intended them to.

And last, always double-check your entire resume when you make any edits or updates. Since the formatting can be rather sensitive, it’s easy for an edit in one part of your resume to throw off the formatting somewhere else. For example, adding some extra lines near the top of the resume will bump things down and could potentially throw off the page break you manually created at the bottom of the page. Taking a couple moments to double-check will help make sure your resume remains a professional, consistent document.

Written by:
Tiffany Appleton, Director, Accounting & Finance Division
Adam Lafield, Recruiter & Marketing Specialist