Rate my résumé

We had hiring managers and HR professionals look at six résumés. Here are their critiques.
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The applicants

college graduate

College graduate

  • Age: Early 20s
  • Wants: Her first job.
Technology professional

Technology professional

  • Age: Mid-50s
  • Wants: To find a way to compete with younger job searchers.
Financial services

Financial services

  • Age: Early 30s
  • Wants: To make his resume better show his knowledge and experience.
Biotech professional

Biotech professional

  • Age: Early 50s
  • Wants: To change companies after 18 years at present one.
legal secretary

Legal secretary

  • Age: Mid-40s
  • Wants: To change industries, from legal to biotech. Looking for a career rather than a job.
social sector

Social sector

  • Age: Early 50s
  • Wants: A job in public or nonprofit industry.

The experts


Maureen Crawford Hentz is a manager of talent acquisition, development and compliance for Osram Sylvania Inc., a lighting manufacturer. She is a nationally recognized expert on social networking and new media recruiting. With more than 15 years of experience, her interests include diversity recruiting, college student recruiting, disabilities in the workplace, business etiquette, and GLBT issues.


Jayne Mattson is senior vice president of client services for Keystone Associates, a career management company. She has extensive experience working in the corporate and private sectors of business; partnering with mid- to senior-level clients to support them in career transitions.


Bob Eubank is the executive director of the Northeast Human Resources Association (NEHRA). He joined NEHRA in 2007 and his background blends human resources with general business management, legal, information systems, operations and strategic planning.
Social sector
Technology professional
Recent college graduate

College graduate

  • Age: Early 20s
  • Wants: An entry-level job. This recent grad has been searching for her first job for around six months, and needs a job to help pay the bills. She was offered a job at a small consulting firm, but the company rescinded the offer to find someone with more experience.
See her résumé

1. What is your impression of the résumé? Do you want to continue reading it?

Maureen Crawford Hentz of Osram Sylvania, Inc.: At first glance, this résumé looks like a first résumé — the margins are large with hanging indents in a font too large for the headings, and it seems that the candidate is really stretching to fill the page.

I would continue reading it but because I love résumés.

Jayne Mattson of Keystone Associates: My first impression of the candidates’s résumé is that it is well organized. The candidate makes a good first impression by including her education from a reputable college upfront.

Bob Eubank of the Northeast Human Resource Association (NEHRA): My first impression was that the placing of the educational experience with such prominence was unusual. When I read and realized that we are talking about a new grad — class of 2008 — it made more sense.

Because it became so clear so early that this was a new grad, it tended to diminish my interest in all that followed. I think it would have been very useful to have included a summary or objectives at the outset, i.e. what does this person want to do and what does this person feel qualified to do? With a summary or objectives I might have had more reason to dig in and see whether the job I’m trying to fill would be right for this candidate.

2. In general, how important is the first impression?

Crawford Hentz: A first impression on a résumé says everything. Looking at literally hundreds of résumés in a week, recruiters start to get an impression of what’s to come. It’s similar to what a candidate wears to an interview — a résumé’s format gives a heads-up to what you may find in the contents.

Mattson: For recent college graduates — as well as seasoned professionals — it is extremely important to make a great first impression. A professional, well-written, organized résumé will help you stand out from the hundreds or thousands of other applicants.

Eubank: The first impression is critical. Generally people are looking at a number of résumés and the résumé has about 30 seconds of face time to make an impression.

3. What do you think about the design of the résumé?

Crawford Hentz: The section headings are too large and I would recommend the candidate change them.

Her major experience section is called "related experience." This is a typical first résumé mistake as it begs the question, "related to what?" It would be much better to break this résumé up into "communications experience" and "related experience," placing the internship and the newspaper in the first section, and the hostessing and Ultimate Frisbee experience in the latter section. This style would help anchor the résumé.

On the other hand, after reading the candidate's background information, it's not clear if she is looking to pursue a career in communications, so this may not be helpful advice for her. She wrote that she is looking for "anything business related." This is too wide a target. If communications is something she enjoys, this may be the avenue to pursue to get into "anything business related" as it would provide more focus in her job search.

Mattson: The design of a résumé includes a number of essential elements such as font size, use of bold, and layout, which work together to make a résumé flow.

In the candidate's résumé, her font style reads well, but the size of the main headings could be a bit smaller. Her margins are good, and the use of bullet points instead of long paragraphs makes it easier to read. However, I do recommend that she reduce the amount of words bolded.

Overall, the presentation of the résumé is very good and page length is appropriate for her experience.

Eubank: I think that the design of the résumé is fine. It seems clean, clear, and succinct.

4. In general, how important is a résumé's design?

Crawford Hentz: See question 2.

Mattson: The résumé's design needs to look professional, be easy to read, and be geared to the targeted job.

Eubank: I have always believed that résumé design is a very subjective subject. You can ask several people and get totally different responses. The important thing is not to do something that is likely to turn off the majority of people who see it, although some folks who have taken big risks with résumés have managed to capture the attention of those receiving them. The bottom line is that the writer of the résumé must be satisfied with the presentation.

5. After reading the résumé, what is your impression of the candidate?

Crawford Hentz: After reading the résumé, my feeling is that the candidate needs to showcase her communication skills — not just in reformatting, but in using her wordsmithing skills.

Mattson: Jane's résumé gives me the impression that she is hardworking, dedicated, and proficient with computers, which makes her a marketable candidate.

Eubank: On the plus side, this résumé is well-written, clean, and clear. My impression is that this is a new grad with limited experience who is probably looking for that first full-time job and might be willing to take anything. This impression is because no clear objectives are stated and because I see a major in international relations but no experience or objectives related to the major.

Also, I felt that there should have been more activities listed for college as well as more academic information — minors? GPA? — something that tells me what a wonderful person this is. The Ultimate Frisbee experience is cool, shows leadership, and would possibly be a good ice-breaker discussion during an interview.

The applicants

We took résumés from six different people looking for jobs and asked professionals to give us their opinion. See what they had to say.

College graduate

College graduate

  • Age: Early 20s
  • Wants: Her first job.
  • Biotech professional

    Biotech professional

  • Age: Early 50s
  • Wants: To change companies after 18 years at present one.
  • Technology professional

    Technology professional

  • Age: Mid-50s
  • Wants: To find a way to compete with younger job searchers.
  • Legal secretary

    Legal secretary

  • Age: Mid-40s
  • Wants: To change industries, from legal to biotech. Looking for a career rather than a job.
  • Financial services

    Financial services

  • Age: Early 30s
  • Wants: To make his resume better show his knowledge and experience.
  • Social sector

    Social sector

  • Age: Early 50s
  • Wants: A job in public or nonprofit industry.