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.
Legal secretary
College graduate
social sector

Social sector

  • Age: Early 50s
  • Wants: An administrator/director position in a public or nonprofit industry. His current résumé has only gotten a few responses in over three months. Wants to know if he's overqualified, or if his résumé is dated.
See the resume

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

Maureen Crawford Hentz of Osram Sylvania: It's very text dense; key competencies aren’t working — too general; sense of humor is not a competency — it’s a quality; stars don’t look professional; headings font is too big; general résumé body is in 12 point, which I think is too big; No e-mail listed! I’m not sure if this was an oversight, but the implication is that the candidate is not comfortable with everyday technology.

I would continue to read on, but only because I love reading résumés. There’s nothing in the format that particularly compels me and the soft-skill competencies are a real turn-off.

Jayne Mattson of Keystone Associates: At first glance this résumé is difficult to read and his accomplishments are buried in paragraphs.

If I were a hiring manager I would not really be inclined to continue reading because of the lack of easily identifiable accomplishments.

Bob Eubank of NEHRA: The first quick scan made three impressions:

  • The "competencies" presentation was not useful and told me much less than a summary and objectives statement would have. It made me question the use of the word competencies and that is not what you are looking for.
  • The background really makes me wonder what the candidate's objectives are at this point. Education? Finance? Real estate? Municipal government?
  • I'm always impressed with an educational background like this one. The high-quality schools really send a clear message that we are dealing with a smart individual.

Did I want to continue reading? Generally yes. However I did not like the competency section and felt that the density of the paragraphs beneath each position was somewhat off-putting. If this were in a stack of résumés, I'd probably read only the first two lines of each and see if I was close to a fit.

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

Crawford Hentz: First impression is always important, especially when seeking a leadership role in any organization. I’d like to see better formatting, perhaps the use of borders.

Mattson: A first impression is extremely important because it will entice the reader to continue, and this did not offer me that encouragement.

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: Margins are too big — the résumé doesn’t need one inch all the way around. Also, why are there no months for the employment dates? It doesn’t concern me so much except for the "Facility Manager" position. Was it from June 2005 to December 2006, or was it a shorter span, like December 2005 to January 2006. I generally like to see months in the dates for clarity. Keep past jobs in past tense and present jobs in present tense verbs — there is a lot of gerund usage here.

Mattson: I think the design of the résumé, in terms of font style and size, is good. While the margins are appropriate, the long paragraphs make it difficult to read. I suggest the candidate uses bullets to highlight his accomplishment and start each bullet point with a strong action verb. For someone with his number of years experience, a two-page résumé is appropriate, but he needs a better format that looks more professional. I suggest he craft a strong summary statement versus starting off with key competencies, which should not be a mix of responsibilities and personal attributes. Next he should create a bulleted format and eliminate the italics. He should also remove the dates on education and add any professional affiliations or professional development courses taken during his career.

Eubank: The design is simple and straightforward and I think it works. There is a margin/right adjust/spacing issue in the first description (probably because of the deletion of actual information). I would leave a space between the job title, location, and the description below. This would make it seem less dense. Otherwise it is neat and consistent.

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

Crawford Hentz: See questions 2.

Mattson: The résumé's design needs to make the reader eager to read on and want to meet the candidate.

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: The candidate is well-qualified for a director of operations position at a nonprofit, but the main question that is going to arise is, "can we (the nonprofit) afford him?" I would highly recommend addressing this issue head-on in the cover letter. MBA and all this experience screams $100K+ to me. In fact, I wouldn’t have known that he would consider less unless I had read the background information.

Mattson: After reading the candidate's résumé I felt he is talented with longevity in some of his roles. He seems dedicated, but might not be up to date with some skills. The résumé shows a solid person who has worked in the public sector, but he has had two short recent roles which may raise some questions.

Eubank: A very bright person who has bounced around a bit. Took a flier in real estate and probably ran into terrible market conditions. He has not had a straight-line career path and I am left wondering what the candidate wants to do.

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.