I am so excited that Spring is finally in the air after a long and dreary winter. The changing of the seasons is a beautiful time and one that typically evokes feelings of new beginnings and fresh starts. Just as we bring out our vacuums and windex to spring clean our apartments and homes, we too should use this time of new sunlight and warmth to dust off our resumes. Admit it- it has been a while and likely way too long since you’ve re-visted your resume and given it a nice update based upon your recent experience, new responsibilities, or even new role internally or externally. Even if you are not actively seeking a new opportunity, an updated resume is smart to have in your arsenal just in case you need it. For instance, your absolute dream job at Google pops up on LinkedIn, and you think “what the heck, I have nothing to lose by sending my resume!” The job has been active for two weeks, however, and likely the company is already meeting candidates. Wouldn’t it be great to have an updated resume to forward in a moment’s notice? Odds are it will take you a day or more to update, especially given how busy you are in your current role, so take some time over the weekend or after work hours to spring clean this document! See below for some helpful tips on updating your resume:
-Keep it one page, if possible. If you are more senior or your industry calls for more detail than most, the resume can be slightly over a page. However, the most attractive resumes are usually one page long. Human resources professionals, hiring manager, and recruiters alike will be turned off by a resume that is more than one page as they want a “quick take” of your experience. Most people do not have the time or the desire to read beyond one page.
-Cut out the fat. Include more detail in your current positions and less detail in your past positions. Your first position as a junior Marketing Manager in 2000 is not nearly as important as your current Senior Marketing Director role in 2014. If your roles from way back yonder are causing your resume to spill onto a second page, cut some of that fat and focus on your current positons as they are the most relevant. **Some candidates will think they are qualified for a role if they have relevant experience from 10 years ago. This is really not true so do not waste paper by expounding upon your first jobs too much. Also while your extracurricular collegiate activities are truly impressive, cut that fat out too if you need to make more room for recent experience.
-Be succinct and compelling throughout. Anyone reading your resume will be turned off by run on thoughts and sentences so keep it to the point. Also use hard-hitting language that will make your experience sound even stronger. There is a big dfference between “oversaw the team that launched this new product” and “led the team that launched this new product.” Do not speak passively and softly on your resume. Use words to signify leadership, confidence, and growth.
-Include your year of graduation. You can certainly confer with a professional for more advice on this topic. However, the general rule of thumb is to include your year of graduation because it either looks like you 1) didn’t graduate, 2) are extremely old, or 3) are hiding something if you don’t include it on your resume.
-Include an objective only if it is relevant and helpful. Objectives included at the top of the resume can be a differentiating factor, but they can also serve as unnecessary fluff. I advise candidates to use the objective strategically. For example, in the case of a desired career transition. Let’s say you are a project manager looking to transition into account management. Your resume likely screams “I am a project manager” and you will be targeted for project management positions. This is when a clear objective comes in handy… “I am a project management candidate seeking an account management position as my passion is to act as a liasion between the client and agency in a creative enviornment.”
-Position your experience according to the job at hand. If you are pursuing a role in strategy, highlight all of your strategy experience in each of your positions. If you are pursuing a role in graphic design, do the same. You may have diverse and vast experience, but do your best to position your skills and background to match the job to which you are applying.
-Keep the format clean and simple. Candidates can often get too creative when formatting their resumes. Unless you are a creative candidate who naturally adds some design flavor to the resume, you really should keep the layout clean, simple, and easy to read and navigate. It should not take the reader ten minutes to locate your work experience.
-Note your promotions to show growth. You should use your resume as a bragging ground for your success. For example, if you have worked at Ralph Lauren for 5 years, note the progression of your roles on your resume (you can even include corresponding dates). For example, note that you were an Account Coordinator from 2011-2012, Account Manager from 2012-2013, and an Account Supervisor from 2013-present. Prospective employers love seeing growth and development, so pat yourself on the back and include this. You run the risk of looking stagnant if you don’t show growth.
-Don’t lie. Be honest on your resume! Your statements and claims can easily be checked out so be sure to not take credit where credit isnt due and don’t embellish your experience in order to appear as something you are not. It is very easy to verify this information, so be truthful.
-Use correct grammar. This might seem like a given, but so many candidates use improper grammar on their resumes. This is a complete turn off and will jeopardize your chances of getting an initial interview. Not all of us are amazing writers or great with English grammar, so when in doubt have a second or third set of eyes review your resume and catch any glaring mistakes. It is better to be safe than sorry.
-Have fun with it! Updating the resume can be a dreaded activity. You would be surprised at how many candidates miss out on applying for great positions because they do not want to take the time to make resume updates. I understand this is not the ideal activity on a gorgeous Saturday afternoon. However, just as you do when you dust off those shelves at the first sign of spring, crank up the music (maybe even pour a glass of wine) and update away! It might even turn into a bit of a walk down memory lane for you.