How To Professionally Critique Your Resume

By Chris Kolmar - Jan. 27, 2021

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You never get a second chance to make a first impression, and that’s especially true when it comes to hiring managers. Particularly during the hiring process, employers don’t have a whole lot of time on their hands. For them, first impressions aren’t only important but can essentially be the only opportunity you’ll get to convince them that you’re the right person for the job.

Often, your resume serves as your first impression to a potential employer. That’s a lot of pressure, especially when you consider the fact that they’ll spend the first ten seconds trying to spot red flags on your resume and the next 20 seconds checking to see if you have the right qualifications. That doesn’t leave much room for error.

With that in mind, knowing how to review your resume and edit it in a professional way can give you the best chance of standing out to a hiring manager. Fortunately, this article will give you tips and tricks on how to critique your resume and maximize its potential.

Why Is Critiquing Your Resume Important?

As mentioned earlier, employers rarely spend more than half a minute skimming and analyzing your resume. This means that your first impression, qualifications, accomplishments, etc., will have to be clear, concise, and valid for the position in question.

While you might think there’s nothing wrong with the resume you recently updated, you should keep in mind that there’s always human error.

Have you ever read or written something that had two “the” words? Especially if this error was present in something you wrote, you might have been surprised about how many times you read that sentence before you noticed. With that in mind, editing and critiquing your resume with a critical eye is crucial in maintaining professionalism.

Additionally, when you understand what many hiring managers are looking for, you can critique your resume with their interests in mind. View your resume as if you were the hiring manager reading it. This will allow you to pinpoint green flags and red flags and then change things as needed, so a real hiring manager is more likely to consider you.

Resume Critique Checklist

When you’re critiquing your resume, there are a few key concepts you should keep in mind. You should focus on bringing these to the forefront when you’re editing. Remember, what does the hiring manager want to see?

  1. First Impression

    • Formatting. Your resume is not a simple copy-and-paste template and appears original. There are no unprofessional fonts, font sizes, images, or margins.

    • Appearance. Your resume is organized, categorized, and easy to skim for details.

    • Length. Your resume is no longer than two pages, and ideally one page if every piece of important information fits. Descriptions are no longer than a few sentences.

    • Consistency. Every part of your resume fits together. There isn’t one section with descriptions in Times New Roman and another with bullet points in Arial.

    • Contact information. All contact information is included and up to date. There are no silly emails or nicknames listed.

  2. Writing Style

    • No errors. Your resume maintains proper spelling, grammar, and punctuation throughout.

    • Professional. You should avoid speaking in the first person (I, me, and my) or using slang words such as wanna, lowkey, lit, etc.

    • Flow. Your resume is easy to read and has a logical flow. Sentences aren’t awkward and overly long.

  3. Resume Sections

    • Labeled. Your resume sections are easy to find and understand. There is no question as to what each section is about.

    • Relevant. Your resume sections represent what hiring managers are normally looking for and relate to the job you’re applying to. For example, you should have a “Work History” section and an “Education” section.

    • Formatted. Your resume sections are all formatted in similar and straightforward ways. There are no spelling, grammar, or punctuation errors.

    • Chronological. Your work history, education, and extracurricular activities are all listed in order from most recent listed first to least recent listed last.

  4. Qualifications

    • Initial summary. Your resume should start with your most significant qualifications. When you write about your qualifications, you should do your best to summarize and keep things brief.

    • Relevant. When you write your list of qualifications, you should consider which details will be most relevant to the position you’re applying for.

      For instance, if you’re applying for a gardening job, you should prioritize listing your years of experience as a landscaper rather than those six months you did some babysitting.

    • Keywords. Because employers rely so heavily on skimming, you should include keywords they will be looking for and locate quickly. Research your field and determine which words will get a hiring manager’s attention.

    • Descriptions. When you write a description for a job in your work history, be sure to highlight some of your most important qualifications resulting from that job. Keep these descriptions short and to-the-point.

    • Certifications. If necessary and when possible, you should include any information about professional licenses and certifications you’ve received.

  5. Accomplishments

    • Specific. Your accomplishments should include detailed titles and descriptions that show their relevance. When possible, you should make job titles more descriptive than they might normally be.

    • Measurable. Ideally, your accomplishments should be shown with specific measurements, statistics, and quantities. This will add to your credibility and make your accomplishments more impressive.

    • Recent. If you’re going on 30, your high school accomplishments will seem a whole lot less important than something you accomplished last year. Keep that in mind and try to stick to your most important recent accomplishments.

  6. Goals

    • Targeted. Your resume should have a targeted focus on the job you’re applying for. A targeted approach will help you discover and achieve goals.

    • Experience. When you’re looking for a new job, your past experience will enable you to show a hiring manager why you’re the right pick for the job. Your past experience will create a pathway toward your goals.

    • Progression. Your resume should outline clear forward progression. This is shown through your qualifications, accomplishments, and history.

    • Interest. If advancing in your current field is an important goal, don’t be shy in expressing your passion for the field.

Free Online Resume Critiques

There’s no doubt that it can be difficult to single-handedly edit and critique our own work without error. We can miss grammar and punctuation issues or think that an awkward sentence sounds just fine. Not to mention the overwhelming amount of details to address. With that in mind, it can be beneficial to utilize free online resume critiques.

There are many websites and services that offer free resume critiques. While their services may vary, most will include detailed feedback in only a few business days. This feedback includes a review of the resume’s formatting and content, as well as reliable speculation on what a hiring manager’s impression of you would be.

Here are some specific benefits to using an online resume critique service:

  • Unbiased perspective. Your opinion of your resume isn’t necessarily accurate or informed enough to give you the best chances of being hired. With that in mind, having an unbiased party review your resume can help find details you may have missed and get reliable feedback.

  • Strategy. Your resume should be strategically crafted to show how and why you’re the strongest candidate for the position. When an outside party views your resume, they’ll be able to analyze the way it’s written. They can give you tips on using action verbs, increasing previous roles’ impact, and creating a visually appealing format.

    All of these details serve to make your resume more strategic.

  • Constructive criticism. A good resume critique service will show your resume’s weak spot and explain how they can be strengthened. Receiving this kind of feedback will help you improve your weak areas and give you valuable information when you update your resume in the future.

  • De-stress. Trying to edit your own resume can be extremely overwhelming. Luckily, using these free resume critique services will help take some of the pressure and responsibility off your back.

  • It’s free. You can’t go wrong with a free service. In the worst case, at least you didn’t waste your money.

Final Thoughts

Whether you’re using a free service, only going over a few details, or analyzing the whole resume yourself, you shouldn’t be afraid to critique. Even if it can be hard to replace an awkward sentence you really liked, or notice small errors, know that every edit you make will only improve your resume.

After all, if it only takes a few edits to significantly increase your chances of getting an interview and moving forward in the hiring process, then it’s all worth it.

Never miss an opportunity that’s right for you.
Chris Kolmar

Author

Chris Kolmar

Chris Kolmar is a co-founder of Zippia and the editor-in-chief of the Zippia career advice blog. He has hired over 50 people in his career, been hired five times, and wants to help you land your next job. His research has been featured on the New York Times, Thrillist, VOX, The Atlantic, and a host of local news. More recently, he's been quoted on USA Today, BusinessInsider, and CNBC.

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