How to Update Your Resume and Stand Out
Updating your resume probably isn’t on your to-do list unless you’re looking for a new job. But it’s important to do some regular resume maintenance. Much like old storage, your resume will get out of control and hard to deal with if you don’t give it some regular attention.
Why You Should Update Your Resume Regularly
Most people only update their resume when they’re ramping up their job search. There’s nothing wrong with that. The odds are pretty good you’ll only need a current resume when you’re job hunting.
But, just because you aren’t actively job hunting doesn’t mean an amazing opportunity won’t land in your lap. Thanks to modern technology, networking takes place all day every day. You never know when a recruiter might pop into your inbox.
If you’re a little behind, you’ve not got to update your resume. And, depending on when that last happened, you might have trouble remembering all the things you want to include. Or, you rush the job, and it ends up being, well, rushed. And, while you could send out your “current” resume, sending out something that hasn’t been updated in a long time won’t impress the recruiter.
But, serendipitous jobs coming your way isn’t the only reason to update your resume regularly. Regular updates help you stay “on top” of things.
Remembering the “big wins” at work is usually pretty easy. But the smaller things? The minor but no less important achievements that help you shine as a candidate? Well, those can be harder to remember.
Regular resume updates help you keep up and keep track of those smaller wins. If nothing else, a regular resume review session helps you remember all the details surrounding those wins so you can more effectively describe them on your resume and help recruiters understand how those wins can benefit your next employer.
How Often Should You Update Your Resume?
Most experts recommend that you update your resume once every 6 to 12 months. That may sound like overkill to you, especially if you don’t think anything major happened. But, taking the time to sit down and give your resume a once over every six or so months gives you a chance to think about all of your accomplishments, large and small.
No matter what updates you come up with, you don’t have to do a total rewrite of your resume every time you update it. In general, all you need to do is add new skills or achievements, and delete a few that might be outdated or irrelevant. The exception is if you had a major professional change like you got a new degree or promotion. Then you’ll need to do a slightly “heavier” update.
How to Update Your Resume
It may feel like an overwhelming task to update your resume, especially if you haven’t done it in a while. But, if you start small, and work in sections, you’ll be able to tackle the task in no time. Then, make sure you’re keeping up regularly, and the next time, you’ll breeze through your resume updates.
Start with the New
What are the “big” things that aren’t currently on your resume? Did you get a promotion or a new job? Did you take some classes and get a new certification or even a degree? Make sure you’ve got a place to highlight those achievements.
Then, drop down to the “smaller” things that are equally as important. Are you volunteering? Maybe that gets a section. Have you mastered new software or programs? Definitely make room for those. Are you giving a lot of presentations or speaking at industry events? Did you create a new process that streamlined things at your job? It might be time to add those accomplishments, as well.
Lose the Old Information
Once you’ve added your new experiences, you may find you don’t have room for everything. So, it’s probably time to do some cutting and trimming of the old information.
Of course, if you have a new email address, social media handles, or even a new phone number, you’ll want to update those. As for other contact information, keep your city and state (or country), but consider dropping the street address if you need room. And, you don’t need to list your landline and your cell phone. One will do.
Once you have between 10 and 15 years of work experience, it’s not necessary to list every job you’ve ever had. While you probably gained some great customer experience scooping ice cream that one summer in high school, it’s probably not doing you any favors on your resume anymore, even if you are head of customer services.
Shake It Up
You’ve probably been using a chronological resume for years. And, if that still works for you, great. Keep at it. But, in some cases, a chronological resume isn’t the best choice. If you’ve changed careers (or want to change careers) or have career gaps, you may want to try something other than a chronological resume.
Check out a hybrid resume and consider using that format instead. They’re great for all kinds of job seekers and help highlight your skills without diminishing your work history. If you’re up for it, consider having one updated chronological resume and one updated hybrid resume ready to go.
At one point, objectives were all the rage on resumes. The problem is that, over time, the objective became moot because the objective is obvious: to get a job. In fact, that’s how a lot of objective statements were written: To obtain a job in this field that gives me the opportunity to grow and advance.
Instead of an objective, add a professional summary statement instead. This is a brief paragraph (three to four sentences) that sums up who you are as a professional without duplicating what’s on your resume. Here are a couple examples:
Resume summary example one:
An accomplished communications leader with a passion for strategic thinking and a commitment to collaboration who excels at creating in uncharted waters. Proven track record of building tactical plans resulting in brand awareness and growth by influencing key stakeholders to reach target goals. A visionary and implementation expert consistently creating and executing events, public relations, and multi-channel marketing plans to ensure that communications strategies are effectively delivered.
Resume summary example one:
Results-driven operations and sales leader with a consistent history of growing revenue. Expertise in establishing and executing processes, procedures, and polices to increase compliance, productivity, and profitability. Skilled in team building, strategic planning, training, and analytics. Successful 10-plus year working history with remote and distributed teams.
Keywords Are Key
Updating your resume isn’t just about updating your job history or skills. It’s also about updating your keywords (or buzzwords). While you should tailor your resume with keywords from the job description when you apply to openings, also consider a general keyword update for your resume.
Every industry has its own keywords, but those keywords can change over time. Think of it as an evolving language. For example, no one is a “secretary” anymore. It’s “administrative assistant.” If you’re talking about your “secretarial skills,” there’s a good chance that your resume will get passed over because you and the company speak two different languages.
These keyword updates are essential for your resume for two reasons. First, for companies that use machines to read resumes, those machines (called an ATS) are programmed to look for certain keywords. Use the “wrong” word, and the program will never know that you’ve got the right skills.
The second reason is that using old or outdated keywords tells a human recruiter that you aren’t up to date with industry trends. If you can’t stay in touch with the big changes in your industry, what else can’t you keep up with?
While you’re at it, make sure you get rid of the “old-timey” phrases, too. No one says “references available upon request” anymore. Everyone assumes you have references and can hand them over when asked!
Names Are Everything
It sounds silly, but make sure you’re giving your resume a “proper” file name when you save your resume. You don’t want the file name to say “Resume1,” if, for no other reason, the recruiter will have no way to search for your resume when they lose it in their electronic stack.
A better way is to make the file name your name plus the word “resume.” “First Name Last Name – Resume,” or “Last Name, First Name – Resume” are both good choices.
Lots of job seekers (and non-job seekers) have a LinkedIn profile. And that likely means you’ve got your work history, your skills, your accomplishments, and lots of your other professional data on that profile.
Just like your resume.
Nothing drives a recruiter crazier than getting a resume with a LinkedIn profile address, clicking on the profile, and seeing it’s the exact same thing as the resume!
Make sure you’re mixing things up between your resume and LinkedIn profile. Of course, there will be some overlap. But, with LinkedIn, you can add media files, links to projects, or even testimonials that you can’t put on your resume. Create a unique LinkedIn profile that really wows the recruiter and gives them a fuller picture of you as a candidate that compliments and builds on your resume.
Yes. This needs to be said. Because sometimes people skip this part, and there’s nothing worse than sending in a resume that talks about your “attention to detali.”
This is where regular updating helps you out. When you schedule regular resume updating sessions for yourself, you’re likely not rushing the process, giving you the opportunity to find all those silly typos everyone misses. And, because you aren’t rushing, you’ve got the time to ask others to look it over for you and catch the errors you might miss.
Make the Time for Your Resume Updates
Making the time to update your resume a part of a routine seems a little extreme. But, as you can see, when you set aside time for this task, you’re better able to think about what you’ve accomplished and how to present that to the employer in the best manner possible.
And, scheduling resume updates puts you in the driver’s seat should an amazing opportunity come up, even when you aren’t actively seeking work. If nothing else, updating your resume outside of your job search gives you ample time to proofread your resume and work at a pace you’re comfortable with.
We’ve got tons of tips on how to proofread your resume, guides on chronological resumes and hybrid resumes, and even tips on how to write a better resume. But, if you want even more advice, consider scheduling a session with one of our career coaches.
Photo Credit: bigstockphoto.com
This is a version of an article that was originally published on January 22, 2017.
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Beth Braccio Hering, Writer, Freelance Jobs
Beth Braccio Hering has been a freelance writer for 20 years. In addition to extensive contributions to various Encyclopaedia Britannica products, her work has been published by outlets such as CareerBuilder, Johnson & Johnson’s BabyCenter, Walt Disney Internet Group, and…Read More >
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