Although updating your resume feels like a big chore, it doesn't have to be with this simple four-step process.
Whether you're applying for jobs or not, it's always smart to keep your resume updated; you never know when you'll find an enticing job posting or when a recruiter is going to reach out to you on LinkedIn.
Instead of staying up into the wee hours of the night to completely overhaul your dusty resume, you'll make life so much easier when you commit to updating it every six months or so.
How to update your resume: A simple 4-step guide
Although updating your resume sounds like a dread, if you follow these steps, it shouldn't take more than an hour or two.
Before you incorporate additional information into your resume, take some time to review your previous positions for outdated work experiences and accomplishments. You want to make room new details, keeping your resume an appropriate length. As a general rule of thumb, stick to two full pages or less.
Although you might not want to delete some of your early achievements, hiring managers generally recommend maintaining only the previous 10 to 15 years of work experience on your resume. Older work history is often not relevant — unless you want to return to a previous career.
In fact, keeping older work history can even work against you by subjecting you to ageism or robbing you of precious resume space.
“The reality is most recruiters spend less than 10 seconds reviewing a resume before deciding if a candidate should receive further consideration,” explains Amanda Augustine, the resident career expert for TopResume, certified professional career coach, and resume writer. “With so little time to make the right impression, it's important to present a succinct document that highlights the relevant parts of your skills, experience, and education.”
In addition to limiting your experiences to the past 15 years, you'll also want to trim or replace details that don't align with your current professional goals. For example, if you began your career as a sales associate but are now a manager, consider cutting older individual quota attainment figures and replacing it with your team's most recent accomplishments.
Once you've removed irrelevant details from past jobs, update your resume with new information that parallels your current career goals. Consider adding certifications, awards, and accomplishments you've received within the past year.
Don't forget to add new skills, too. You'll want to ensure these reflect the top skills in your field so you stand out when pre-screened by applicant tracking systems (ATS).
Also, make sure to list any additional responsibilities you've taken on in your current role. As you add these new details, continue to remove less relevant information from your current position — stick to three to four bullet points per experience.
It's also important to remember that your most recent position deserves the most attention; older positions shouldn't have as many bullet points. Additionally, where you can, highlight your accomplishments with numbers.
“Quantify your accomplishments whenever possible; for instance, how did you help save the company money, generate revenue, improve customer satisfaction, increase productivity, and so forth?” Augustine says.
When updating your resume, keep in mind resume styles change often. If it's been more than a year since you've updated the format of your resume, it's probably time for a bit of a makeover.
For example, if you're still using a resume objective statement, consider modifying your resume to incorporate a professional summary instead.
“Unfortunately, the resume objective statement is an outdated custom that's best forgotten,” Augustine says. “In fact, I'd go out on a limb and say that 'objective' has become a dirty word among the resume-writing community.”
Instead of taking up space with an objective statement outlining vague career goals, a strong professional summary allows you to explain who you are and what you bring to the table — like an elevator pitch. Check out some examples of professional summaries before you write one.
You also want to incorporate an “Areas of Expertise” or “Core Competencies” section that sums up your most important skills. This section helps boost your keyword count, which can often mean the difference between your resume landing on a hiring manager's desk or getting sucked into the resume abyss.
As for your work experience, unless you're drafting a CV — as required in certain fields and for jobs abroad — avoid using paragraphs. Any and all accomplishments should be bulleted to ensure a hiring manager can quickly scan your resume for the most important points.
For the “Education” section, it's no longer required to include your graduation date, GPA, honors, or activities unless it's recent. It's also outdated to include a line that reads “References Available Upon Request.” Hiring managers already know you'll provide references when asked.
As you take these resume-writing steps, leave a good amount of white space between each section to avoid overwhelming your reader. Also, use simple and consistent fonts and sizes throughout the document to give it a cleaner look. This is not only ideal because it's easier on the eye, but it's also critical to passing the ATS.
As always, when you're updating your resume, you run the risk of inserting errors. Before you submit your resume, take some time to proofread. For a second opinion, have a family member or friend (or expert!) give it a look.
Keep an eye out for formatting inconsistencies, such as different bullet points, fonts, and sizes, and other inconsistencies, such as incorrect dates, titles, or details. It's the little things that can cost you the job!
Now that you have your resume updated, all you have to do is make some simple tweaks to tailor your resume when you find your next great opportunity.
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This article was updated in September 2020. It was originally written by Yudy Pineiro.