Our career coach’s resume checklist for job-seekers


Publish date

April 17, 2020


Whether you are conducting your first job search or are a seasoned professional, there are best practices that you can utilize when creating your resume. Follow this checklist from our career coach, Paula Amezola, MPH, and nail your next round of submissions.

The resume is clear, concise and convincing; it makes a positive impression in 30 seconds or less

People form an initial impression of someone within a few seconds of meeting them, and your resume is no different. If you want the hiring manager to read to the end of your resume, make sure the content is responsive to the job description – especially the “Executive Summary” section.

There are no spelling, grammar or punctuation errors

One or more of these unfortunate, avoidable errors will likely cause the hiring manager to move on to the next candidate. It demonstrates a lack of due diligence and attention to detail, both of which are highly desirable in most positions.

The font is Times New Roman, Arial, Century, Helvetica or Verdana

Hiring managers are often looking at large numbers of resumes, and it is vital that the font on your resume is easy to read. These standard fonts also come pre-installed on most computers, an important factor in how your resume looks. Use a font not installed on the recipient’s machine, and your beautifully designed resume may be re-formatted when they open it.

The font size is 10, 11 or 12-point, and is never smaller than 10-point

Font size should always be at least 10-point to be readable, however, go too big and it will be clear that you are attempting to pad a sparse resume. If you find that you are not able to fill a page using the appropriate font size, consider using a different resume format to better convey your accomplishments – format options include chronological, skill-based and more.

The resume is organized, easy to read and has a balance between content and white space

White space is another aspect of design that will ensure your resume is attractive and easy to read. By filling the page with just the right amount of content, you simultaneously convey your job experience and abilities as a concise and effective communicator.

man editing resume

Each accomplishment starts with an action verb and includes specific quantities

Action verbs accomplish two things: they indicate an action you took to effect change, and they shorten your sentence structure to make the most of limited space. By quantifying your results, you demonstrate to employers that you will be an effective team member.

The resume includes skills and accomplishments that match a specific job description

There is truly no one-size-fits-all resume. It may be more labor-intensive, but it is crucial that you tailor your resume to fit the job description. You are competing with other candidates that are putting in the time to do this, so submitting a resume that is not a good match for the position is a waste of your valuable time. This is a good reason to look inward before you start your job search – the more honed in you are on what type of work you would like to do, the easier this task will be.

The resume accurately summarizes qualifications

Hiring managers need to be able to trust that you are representing yourself accurately. Give yourself credit for all of those amazing accomplishments, and know that you do not have to be a paid employee for work to count as experience. Utilize a resume optimization service like VMock (available to our students through USC Public Health Career Services) in order to highlight what an incredible hire you would be. Find a tone that is a balance between assertive and humble, and be cognizant not to over-sell your qualifications because you want that dream job (or any job) so badly.

Accomplishments follow the SAR method (Situation + Action = Result)

Each bullet point in your resume should tell a story to the hiring manager. Starting with an action verb, explain the situation, reflect on your actions and end with the quantified result. This ensures the hiring manager has context for your work, and it makes your accomplishments stand out. Bring this method to the interview as well for your best shot at snagging the job.

— by Carolyn Barnes

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