Checklist for a great résumé

I have just been reading a blog post entitled “The Great Résumé Checklist” and found it very disappointing in that, in my opinion, it totally misses the essential elements necessary for an effective application.

At the end of chapter 4 in my book How to Get a Good Job After 50, I suggest that there are four essential elements to an effective résumé. They are:

  1. It ‘sells’ you for the specific position being applied for
  2. It will grab the employer’s interest within the first few lines and hold that interest through to the end
  3. It expresses your motivation for the specific position
  4. The employer will be able to envisage you working in the job from reading your résumé

The résumé needs to be tailored to each position being applied for. Anything that does not help convince the employer that you would be right for the job should be left out because if the employer comes across information that he or she considers as irrelevant, they may stop reading at that point.

A number of surveys over a period of several decades seem to suggest that employers spend on average somewhere between 5-15 seconds to decide whether or not an application is worth further consideration. In my book, I work on eight seconds and, in this time, an employer can read about halfway down the first page.

Employers value motivation more highly than almost anything else. This means motivation for the specific position. A successful résumé needs to express the applicant’s motivation for the particular position being applied for. If you have not expressed your motivation for the specific position in the top half of page 1, the rest of your résumé may never be read.

A résumé is a marketing document. It needs to show how you meet the employer’s needs. It does not need to show all the jobs and courses that you have done, all the tasks and responsibilities of previous roles and irrelevant achievements. Restrict the application to expressing everything that makes you the right person for the job and leave out the rest.

You can find “The Great Résumé Checklist” blog post at It does discuss style, layout and fonts and these are important, and it’s important that something of your personality shines through the document. The essential elements are, however, that it grabs the employer’s interest with those first few lines, it expresses your motivation for that specific position and it holds the employer’s interest through to the end by demonstrating how you would perform in the position. That is what is going to make it ‘sell’ you effectively to the employer.

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