The 5 things I always look for in resumes

Dr. Joseph Barber

There is no perfect way to write a resume, and everyone you show your resume to will have slightly different ideas about the way it should look and what you should include. In fact, if you show me the same resume on two different occasions, I might have different (even opposite) suggestions for you. It’s a bit of a subjective art form, and the only person who really needs to like what they see is the person who is potentially considering you for a job (and you’ll never know for sure what they like!).

There are lots of resources out there on creating an effective resume, and so I am not going to rehash the majority of these tips. Instead, I am just going to list the 5 things that I immediately focus on when someone hands me a resume. They may not be the most important issues, but they are easy to address, and so it is worth keeping them in mind.

1. Hyphens

I can’t help it, but I am obsessed by hyphens in resumes. You can usually find them lurking between dates like this: 2009-2011. Why am I obsessed by them? Well, it is because they come in all shapes and sizes, and I like things to be nice and consistent. Here is a selection of them:

  • Jan 2010 – Feb 2011
  • 2009- 2011
  • 2007 -2012
  • 2008–2009
  • 2005 –2008
  • 2006– 2010
  • 2010-present

OK, there is very little difference between these examples, but there is enough of a difference for me to notice it. No employer is likely to care that much about any inconsistencies, but for any job requiring attention to detail, it doesn’t really support the argument you are trying to make that you are an ideal candidate if your punctuation is all over the place. There is no one correct way of using the hyphen, dash, or whatever you want to call it, but choose one way and stick with it. Microsoft Word has a sneaky tendency to change short lines into longer ones when you are not looking, so do a final check before to submit your application.

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