Does Your Resume Stink? Here’s a Checklist

It always amazes me how many people don’t know how to write a good resume. In TV it’s kind of easy because our video reel speaks for us. Sometimes what you write on a resume doesn’t even matter. But I digress — a strong resume is your first impression to get your foot in the door. If it falls flat so will your career. Know when to be creative and clever and when that will get your resume thrown out. Writing a good resume will lead you to potentially reaching the net stage of the job application process. Being invited to an interview. You need to get your resume sorted first, but it doesn’t harm you to look into a site like if you are thinking of working on your interview skills too. At least this way, you know you’ll be fully prepared.

I’m lucky to have a great friend who is a human resources recruiter and a plethora of information. Brian Boden recently launched a business dedicated to telling you that “Your Resume Stinks.” He’ll fix it up for you and get you that job you’ve always wanted.

In the past, I’ve used free resumes from websites such as Copy My Resume (, and these do work extremely well – but you’ll still need to put a unique touch to them.

Here’s his checklist for dos and don’ts of resume writing:

1. Answer the questions before they’re asked

Make sure your resume tells a story. A story about YOU! If the person reading the resume has to wonder if you obtained a degree, they are going to move on to the next candidate. Under Education make sure you list the college/university, major/minor, degree type, and year awarded. Major academic accomplishments, grade point averages, and other education-related information can be included in your cover letter if pertinent to the specific job.

2. Dates

Make sure for each experience you list the month and year you started and the month and year you ended (eg. January 2007-November 2008). Only listing years (eg. 2007-2008) looks like you’re trying to hide something. All professional experiences should be listed chronologically. A resume that jumps around makes you seem unfocused.

3. Objectives

Only list an objective on your resume if it pertains to the specific job for which you are applying. A generic objective (“To obtain a position where my skills and talents can be best utilized to benefit the organization as a whole”) makes you look like a generic candidate. NEXT!

4. Skills, Languages, Etc.

Only list skills that you actually possess. A resume that states your superior Excel skills will fall short should you get the job and not know how to copy and paste cells.

List only languages in which you are FLUENT. Being conversational or familiar with a language won’t be an asset to an employer. You can state this in your cover letter should one of the requirements of the job be “Conversational Portuguese Required.”

Reference names and numbers aren’t needed on a resume. It’s also not necessary to put “References furnished upon request.” That’s kind of a given.

5. Spelling

Simple typographical errors (notice how I didn’t say “typo”? Don’t abbreviate or use slang in your resume!) and spelling mistakes speak volumes about your attention to detail, or lack thereof. Always run your resume through spell check. Take further steps and print out a copy and read it on paper; you’d be amazed by how many errors are overlooked on computer screens. And always give your resume to a fresh set of eyes for a final review.

6. Less is more

Keep it simple. A one page resume is sufficient in most cases. If you have three or four pages, you might have a Curriculum Vitae (CV) which differs from a resume because it lists publications, presentations, workshops, etc. Of course, if this is the sort of thing that you’re going for, you might want to learn how you can make your cv stand out with good profile text and personalisation features that are sure to attract employers to your CV or resume.

Ensure that your resume is in a professionally appropriate font. Times New Roman or Arial in size 11 or 12 should get the job done.

7. Follow Directions

If a job advertisement asks for you to email your resume, do so. Do not fax it, don’t send it in the mail, follow the directions. If they ask for a cover letter, give them a cover letter with all of the information they’re requesting.

8. Personalization

As a rule of thumb, I would say do not put a photo, list your personal interest that do not pertain to the job, marital/family status, Emily Dickinson and/or biblical quotes, etc. Keep in mind this is a resume, not your Facebook profile.

But most importantly, know your audience. If you’re applying to an earthy/hippy-dippy kind of place, then you ought to have that resume printed on obviously recycled material. Should you be applying for a creative-type job, you might want to ensure that the style of your resume reflects your professional abilities.

Brian Boden has eight years experience working in human resources in both for-profit and non-profit environments; specializing in recruiting and hiring. He obtained his Professional Human Resources (PHR) certification from the Human Resources Certification Institute, a division of the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), in 2009. Check out his Facebook page where he will tell you if your resume stinks.

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2 replies
  1. Laura DeAngelis
    Laura DeAngelis says:

    These are fantastic tips! I think it is important to realize you can’t rely on the same resume that landed you that first job out of college to do the same magic when hoping to nail the dream job. Thanks for another great list!

    • List Producer
      List Producer says:

      Thanks for reading Laura! I think people should even tweak their resumes every few months as you complete new projects or assume new responsibilities. It makes starting from scratch and revamping the whole resume less daunting when the time comes.


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