Quality Checking Your Résumé
Once your résumé is composed, it must be quality checked. Three prominent issues that arise in a quality check are content, format, and computer-related problems.
- Look over the résumé and be certain you have considered effective wording and strong candidate material within each category, as detailed in the previous page of this manual.
- Consider accuracy and professionalism. If you simply volunteered at a position two hours per week, make sure your wording reflects this. Do your examples and wording reflect someone with a professional attitude or are they too informal or potentially vague?
- Look over your job descriptions carefully. You should be reporting exactly what you did and how it was valuable. Make sure we can see that your work was of use to someone and that performance was a concern.
- Browse for any major time gaps between jobs or other activities. If there are any, fill them in or otherwise eliminate them if possible.
- Review your Activities section with the idea of choosing an overall picture that reflects you and you alone. It should essentially contain an objective listing of information—data, and perhaps some description—unique to you. Your goal in this section is to make the reader want to meet you—to see you as an interesting and worthwhile person.
- Ask yourself: Have I only included content that I would feel comfortable discussing in an interview? At an on-site interview, your résumé might be right on the interviewer’s desk. Expect that you could be quizzed specifically about any résumé content, and if you aren’t sure you could pass such a quiz, eliminate the content.
Reviewing Overall Format
- With few exceptions, an undergraduate résumé should be limited to one page. Those that go beyond one page should seek to fill two pages neatly so that we don’t end up looking at a large block of white space.
- Maintain at least one-inch margins on all four sides of the page, and spread your information out so that it is visually balanced. Do not be afraid of white space as a formatting tool.
- Be sure you have used identical margins and format for related information. Keep parallel information parallel in form. For instance, treat all major headings in the same way.
- Exploit punctuation marks—especially dashes, semicolons, and colons—to present your material efficiently.
- Be line-conscious, especially horizontally, considering how much material can fit on a single line. If you are fighting for space and you see that just one or two words are gobbling up an entire line unnecessarily, revise accordingly.
- Remember that readers look at your résumé left-to-right. Where logical, go to a new line for prominent new information. For instance, most writers put their degree name on a different line than their school name. Avoid line breaks that allow a single description of important information (say, your degree name or a course name) to spill onto more than one line.
- Present the final version of your résumé on durable white or off-white paper. Absolutely avoid odd colors such as purple, green, or pink.
Making the Computer your Ally
- Change fonts types or sizes if needed to fit the résumé to one page, but use just one or two fonts throughout the résumé—Times, Chicago, and Helvetica are popular résumé fonts—and go no lower than 10-point and no higher than 12-point for the bulk of the résumé text. Many writers do choose a larger or fancier font for their name at the top of the résumé, but be sure it’s readable and attractive.
- When lining up material, use tabs rather than space bars or even line up like columns by creating a table; otherwise, your output may appear differently than it does on the screen, or print differently from one printer to the next.
- If you need a bit more space horizontally for just a line or two, see if you can “stretch” the relevant lines by resetting the margin on the ruler at the top of the page just for the lines in question.
- Absolutely work with a hard copy of your résumé. Do not trust that the way it looks to you on the computer screen will exactly match the output.
- Proofread with perfection in mind, even having someone else proofread the résumé too. Do not rely just on the spell checker, and certainly not on the grammar checker—neither will ever be capable of proofing a résumé effectively.
- If you need to submit the résumé by e-mail to an employer, do not count on a Word version of the résumé looking the same on someone else’s computer as it does on yours—fonts may not translate perfectly, tabbed material may be misaligned, and line length may be compromised. The safest bet is to convert the résumé to a pdf, check the resulting pdf to be sure it’s exactly how you want it to look, and then e-mail the pdf file.
As a final quality check, seek collective agreement that your résumé is perfect. Other readers—your peers, professors, parents (gasp!), and the staff at your school’s Career Center—can add fresh perspectives (and even corrections) to your résumé. You get the last word, of course, but be sure that more than one other person agrees that you have presented yourself in the best possible way on paper. It pays off.
“Quality Checking Your Résumé” was written by Joe Schall, The Pennsylvania State University, as a part of Penn State’s College of Earth and Mineral Sciences’ OER initiative and is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.