Resume Writing Checklist: 5 Steps to Get Your Resume Ready for Today’s Job Market

checklist for resume writing

Picture this: You’ve been working for the same company for maybe 3, 5, or 10 years, you haven’t really needed to “interview” for a job because you are extremely well-networked, and you are positive that you have the communication skills to convince someone to hire you.

In short, you know what you are doing in your profession. Here’s the problem though: In today’s job market, you MUST have an effective resume to get past the Applicant Tracking System (ATS).

You need to have the right “parts” on your document, or your resume won’t get seen. And after that you only have about 5-6 seconds to grab someone’s attention. Read on for a checklist with 5 resume tips to help you get more job interviews.

5-Step Checklist for Resume Writing:

Tip #1 – No more objectives

Frankly, employers don’t care about your objective. Instead, focus on the employer. Use a career summary at the top of your resume and ensure that you are positioning yourself as the right candidate for the job.

Within only two or three sentences, you can describe some of your soft skills and career focus, while aligning it with the employer’s needs. While you still may be discussing your skills, you are discussing them in a way that shows what you can do for their organization (instead of only talking about what you want from them).

Tip #2 – Keywords are vital

If you’ve been job-searching for a while, it’s likely that you have heard of keywords and the mysterious ATS. Knowing about it is one thing—understanding how to get through it is another thing.

You MUST read the job posting carefully and use the right words in your document to ensure it scans well by the ATS software and closely matches the job opportunity. If you don’t do this step, it’s likely your resume is never even read by a human being.

My clients typically ask how they are supposed to know what the keywords are and I give the same advice each time: Read the job posting, print it out, and start highlighting. The words that are used over and over again are keywords.

Review the qualifications or skills section in the listing, underline the words used more than once and then tailor your resume to match it as closely as possible.

Tip #3 – Be careful with dates

Nothing screams your age like including high school activities from 1990. Did you graduate from college in 1985? Don’t include it. In fact, I never include education dates for my clients—unless they are still attending school or graduated two weeks ago.

Otherwise, it’s not relevant. And, remember that you don’t have to include EVERY job you have ever had. Go back about 10-12 years with your professional history. If it’s earlier than that, it’s probably not relevant to your future career position and it starts to date you.

If you want more information about this, here is a full article on avoiding age discrimination on your resume.

Tip #4 – Think quantifiable achievements—not job duties

There are A LOT of people out there that have similar job descriptions to yours. In fact, you can find a laundry-list of job descriptions online.

Even though some of it may be interesting, it doesn’t grab the reader’s attention. You need to think in terms of achievements and accomplishments. So, you know how to “…effectively manage your schedule and lead large accounts while securing new clients.” Fantastic. In reality, you have “…led 10 accounts, encompassing $25 million in sales, while simultaneously securing 5 new accounts—adding $5 million in gross sales—within an 18-month timeframe.”

Putting facts and accomplishments on your resume shows what you achieved and how it positively impacted the company—it has a much greater impact than the first statement.

Tip #5 – Be concise

While you certainly don’t want to leave out any vital information, you do need to remember that recruiters and hiring managers are busy—get to the point.

At the most, your resume should be two pages. In general, you should include a career summary, skills section, professional history, education, certifications, and community engagement. Because it’s your own information, it is sometimes difficult to know what to cut and what to keep—get a second set of eyes for a review and learn how to take constructive feedback.

Remember – the resume is your chance at a first impression—focus on what you can do for the employer and really think about the information you are putting on the document—does it add to your value as an employee? Using the tips outlined above and staying on top of today’s job searching trends will help position you for future employment success.

The following expert contributed to this post:

resume writing help and tips

Dr. Heather Rothbauer-Wanish is a Certified Professional Resume Writer and owner of Feather Communications ( She holds an MBA and PhD in Organization and Management, and has been working with job seekers since 2008 to develop forward-thinking, eye-catching, and dynamic resumes for today’s marketplace.


About the Author Biron Clark

Biron Clark is a former Executive Recruiter who has worked with hundreds of job seekers, reviewed thousands of resumes and LinkedIn profiles, and recruited for top venture-backed startups and Fortune 500 companies. He has been advising job seekers since 2012 to think differently in their job search and land high-paying, competitive positions.

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