What Makes a Good Resume? 9 Ways to Know

By Biron Clark



Biron Clark

Biron Clark

Writer & Career Coach

In this article, I’m going to explain how to know if your resume is good or not in 9 steps.

After working for years as a recruiter, I’ve studied what makes a good resume and how to know if your resume is good enough to get you hired, so that’s what this article will reveal.

I’ll also share what changes/fixes I recommend if your resume is not getting you as many job interviews as you’d like.

Let’s get started…

How to Know if a Resume is Good: 9 Signs

When a recruiter or hiring manager opens up your resume, they’re looking for evidence that you can step into their job and succeed.

So the factors that make a resume good are details about past work and accomplishments, particularly past work and experience that relates to this employer’s job.

If you are an entry-level job seeker, then they’re looking at your education in the same way; they’re wondering, “Will this person’s background allow them to step into this job and succeed relatively quickly?”

That’s a high-level overview of what makes a resume good, but how can you know if yours is good enough? And what can you do if you’re looking to improve your resume?

Here are some signs that you’ve got a good resume or CV…

1. It’s getting you job interviews

The most effective way to know, “Is my resume good?” is to look at the results it’s getting (assume you’ve been applying for jobs already).

Your resume has one main goal: To get you invited to the interview. So if that’s happening, it’s a strong sign that your resume is great already. If you’re struggling to get job interviews, or not getting any at all, then your resume is the first place you should look to improve.

Fortunately, the rest of the items on this list will not only help you figure out what makes a resume good, but also give you ideas of exactly what to change/fix if you’re not getting interviews yet.

So let’s keep going…

2. Contains data and metrics instead of only text

One of the best ways to make your resume stand out is to include numbers, metrics, and data, rather than just text.

Putting numbers catches the eye and makes the resume more interesting and therefore more likely to get read closely!

(That’s one of the big challenges – you’ve probably heard the recruiters only spend a few seconds on each resume. It’s true. They’ll glance for a few seconds, and then decide if they should keep reading more based on that first glance. Numbers will get them to read more closely).

And you don’t need to be working in sales to add numbers. Practically anyone can do it.

Let’s say you work at a healthcare company, managing their blog and social media. That doesn’t relate to sales whatsoever, but you could write resume bullets like:

  • Grew social media following by 212%
  • Managed blog read by 220,000 people per month
  • Published an average of 6 articles per week

That’s a lot more impressive than just saying, “Responsible for managing company social media accounts,” or, “Responsible for managing company blog.”

In fact, you should NEVER start a resume bullet with “Responsible for”.

I’ll explain more below…

3. Focused on results, not responsibilities

As a recruiter, I hate seeing the phrase “Responsible for” on a resume. It’s not impressive. It doesn’t tell me anything about how you performed in the role, how you helped your employer, or what you did. It just tells me what your boss assigned you to do.

So try to start your bullets and descriptions of your past jobs with verbs, like “Grew,” “Led,” “Organized,” etc.

That’s how to win over a hiring manager in the first few seconds of them reading your resume!

This article contains 80+ verbs and other words for your resume.

4. Well-spaced and easy to skim

Here’s another thing recruiters and hiring managers don’t like (and a sign your resume isn’t good enough to send out yet): Huge paragraphs with no spacing.

Put more white space. Make it easy to skim and inviting to read, and you’ll get more interviews.

Consider splitting up large paragraphs, or better yet – turn them into bullets. I’d recommend one small paragraph describing each past role in your work history, but then all bullets after that.

In fact, the paragraph is optional. I’ve seen great resumes where the past employment was shown entirely in bullets (after the job title, dates, location of each position, etc.)

5. Tailored to the job

This is one of the most important factors in terms of what makes a good resume. Yet many job seekers skip this and lose out on interviews because of it.

Employers are reading your resume with their specific job requirements in mind.

So if you’re not fine-tuning and adapting your resume based on their job description, you might be losing out on interviews.

Fortunately, it does not take as long as it sounds, and I’ve written a detailed method you can follow here.

If you’re not getting job interviews and not tailoring your resume, this is something to fix immediately.

6. Keyword-optimized

You should always write your resume for a real person since that’s who will make the final decision, but you still need to make sure it’s going to get past online application systems.

So make sure you’re including keywords on your resume from the job description. You can do this in your work history, your skills section, or your intro/summary paragraph.

7. Error-free

You can also lose out on interviews if your resume has typos or obvious errors.

Make sure you’re proofreading it carefully. Or better yet – have a friend or family member help you out.

Here are two proofreading tricks if you have to do it yourself:

  1. Temporarily change the font to something unusual. This helps you spot errors.
  2. Read each line from the bottom upward, instead of starting at the top. This also helps.

Don’t just check the wording, either… make sure fonts and formatting are consistent, too. Don’t switch fonts mid-way through the document, for example. This can happen if you were copying and pasting certain sections from another document as you created your resume.

While having an error-free resume isn’t enough to get you the job on its own, it’s an important component  of any great resume.

8. Modern and professional-looking

Finally, you should make sure that your resume has a modern, professional-looking design. Don’t go overboard with colors and design elements to the point that it’s distracting, but do try to make sure it looks like it was recently created and is up-to-date.

If the layout looks dated or you’re still using an old-looking font like Times New Roman, it may be time for a refresh. (FYI, a font like Calibri is a better choice). More resume formatting and font tips can be found here.

And you can get free resume templates on our job search resources page here.

9. No unnecessary info

You should be able to explain and justify why each piece of information is on your resume.

How is each bullet helping an employer see that you’d be a good fit for their job, or that you’re a strong employee? Each sentence should be helping convince an employer that you’re the best candidate for the position.

While there’s no rule for how many pages your resume should be, it should not be any longer than needed to show the relevant information that will convince an employer to interview you.

By including too much information or failing to edit the document down to the most vital info, you risk overwhelming the reader and having them skip over your resume entirely, or rush through it without much interest.

Examples of Good Resumes

Next, let’s look at some real examples of good resumes.

Here are a couple of screenshots to help you set up your own resume… especially the Work Experience section… which is most important to most recruiters and hiring managers.

Example 1:

resume employment history example

Example 2:

resume work history sample

You can read more about these work history examples and get more help in this article.

Quick Review: How to Know if Your Resume is Good

The best way to know if you have a good resume is to look at whether you’re getting job interviews. This is your resume’s main job – to get you invited to interviews. So if that’s not happening, then something needs to change (either the resume itself, the types of jobs you’re applying for, or how you’re applying).

We also discussed some specific factors that make a resume good. These include:

  • Data and metrics
  • Writing in terms of results, rather than what you were responsible for
  • Utilizing spacing and bullets to make everything easy to read
  • Tailoring your resume for the job specifications to show employers how you’d help them in their exact role
  • Including keywords from the job description
  • Proofreading and ensuring your resume is error-free

Those are all areas that can help you get more job interviews, so make sure you’re doing everything above before applying for a role.

You now know what makes a resume good and how to fix many common problems.

For more free articles on resume writing and how to win interviews, visit this page.

Biron Clark

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