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


Tom Egan is vice president of talent acquisition for Veritude, a staffing service specializing in IT and professional staffing. He has had 16 years of experience in the technical staffing industry. Since joining Veritude seven years ago, Tom has helped in developing the strategy for — and recruiting methodologies of — the company’s Talent Acquisition Group.


Randy Stevens is the president and CEO of R L. Stevens and Associates Inc., based out of Waltham. R.L. Stevens is a national firm specializing in career management by helping professionals and executives pinpoint the right career opportunities and increase their market exposure to employers.

Radhika Rana, CSP, is a recruiting supervisor at Professional Staffing Group (PSG), one of the largest staffing firms in Massachusetts. In addition to managing PSG’s recruiting division, Radhika assists non-profits, such as The Asian American Civic Association, with resume critiquing and mock interviews.
College graduate
Financial services
Technology Professional

Technology professional

  • Age: Mid-50s
  • Wants: To find a way to compete with younger job searchers. She lost her job due to downsizing by her former employer, and is concerned her age will affect her job prospects in the current market.
See her résumé

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

Tom Egan of Veritude: At first glance, the candidate's résumé is a very busy résumé. I would continue reading because there was enough in the "summary" and "knowledge base" sections to pique my interest.

Randy Stevens of RL Stevens and Associates, Inc.: First page: clean look; second and third pages are difficult to read due to thick paragraphs that are not bulleted. There are also too many short-term employments. Résumé showcases job-hopping and not staying in any one job for more than two years.

I would not continue to read it primarily because of the job-hopping. The knowledge base area may date her by including some items that would be a given for those at her level of experience (such as Palm, PDA, IE, Wi-Fi technology, etc.)

Radhika Rana of the Professional Staffing Group (PSG): The candidate's résumé is impressive and appealing to the eye. The first impression does make me want to continue looking at the résumé because the layout is clean and set up well.

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

Egan: First impressions are VERY important. The number of résumés that a recruiter may receive for a specific job (especially in the networking space) can be quite large, so first impressions are very important in order to keep them reading the balance of the résumé and to consider contacting the applicant for further follow-up.

Stevens: A candidate's core value and benefit to an employer must be communicated within 5 to 10 seconds. Assets must be quickly recognized; liabilities neutralized or minimized.

Rana: The first impression of any résumé is very important because it represents the individual and many times the way they represent themselves. As a recruiter, the résumé is what makes our decision to want to bring the person in for an interview. It is very important to have a clean résumé.

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

Egan: I would definitely change the order of the candidate's credentials presenting her summary of qualifications first followed by her knowledge base. I would then immediately follow that with her professional experience and move her education, specialized certifications, and specialized training to the end of the résumé.

In addition, the candidate should definitely use more bullets and fewer long paragraphs particularly in the "professional experience" section to make her résumé easier to read and understand.

For professional experience, I liked the format of the "company name, town, and state" followed on the next line by the "position title and years worked at the specific company."

What I would like to see next is bullet points that state:

  • What the project was
  • What was the candidate's role on the project
  • What technologies the candidate used on this project

For the number of pages, three pages is a perfect size because I want to see what an applicant has done. If an applicant, like this candidate, has a lot of experience then I would like to see the details.

Overall, the résumé is a "safe" résumé, but does not stand out in a crowd.

Stevens: The thick, long paragraphs and lack of paragraphical separation lessens quick digestibility of information. The résumé is three pages and it could be reduced to official two-pager by adding the "knowledge base" and "specialized training" sections as a third page addendum. There's a good, quick overview in the summary of qualifications.

The use of two different font sizes on page 2 is distracting (Times New Roman 9 and 10) and communicates to employers a lack of attention to detail.

Rana: The design of the candidate's résumé is very clean and appealing. The bold titles and straight lines compliment the layout of the résumé.

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

Egan: Design is very important. First impressions can be the ticket to getting you in front of a hiring manager. You must have a sharp résumé to move to the next steps of the interviewing process. The résumé will only work to get you in the door and then you must work to market yourself in an actual interview.

Stevens: Employers receive stacks of résumés; most of which are irrelevant to employer need. Résumés that appear easy to read and enable an employer (or screener) to quickly determine viability, authenticity, and linkage to employer need, gain interest within 5 to 10 seconds.

Rana: In general, the design of a résumé is helpful. The more organized the résumé is the easier it is to read.

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

Egan: I felt the candidate had solid experience as a network manager. I would want to talk to the candidate in person because of her experience and her longevity at certain jobs (good tenure).

Stevens: The résumé showcases responsibilities and lacks the "here's the impact of what I did" factor.

While the candidate's résumé shows competency, it would be more powerful if quantifications were included on how her contributions affected organizational profitability, customer experience, employee performance, and operational efficiency.

Rana: After reading the résumé my first impression of the candidate is that she has a tremendous amount of experience in network management and technology, which is quite impressive.

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.