If you’ve been applying to jobs and not getting much response, your resume might be to blame. It’s easy to fall into the habit of adding on, but not subtracting outdated material. That failure to prune might be obscuring some of your most valuable skills and achievements.
Remember: recruiters spend an average of six seconds looking at your resume before sorting it into the “yes” or “no” pile. To get to “yes,” and a first interview, you need to grab their attention and not let go. That means having a resume that’s lean, mean and targeted to the role. Start by getting rid of anything that’s not helping your candidacy.
1. Remove anything dated.
This includes everything from an old-fashioned objective statement — a personalized tagline is more effective — to old job titles that make you look more, um, mature than you might want to look. (You were never a webmaster, for example. Delete that from your mental files — and the gig from your resume.)
You can also get rid of old jobs that aren’t relevant to your desired role. Remember, your resume isn’t your complete biography. It’s a sales pitch. Streamline it.
2. Swap out tired words.
Every year, LinkedIn compiles a list of the most overused buzzwords on user profiles. This year’s included favorites like “passionate,” “strategic,” and “expert,” among others. If you just winced in recognition, don’t feel bad. There’s a reason we fall into these clichés — but if you want to make your profiles, resumes, and job application stand out, you need to keep things fresh.
That means focusing on your achievements, and providing metrics that show what you can do. (Dollar signs and percentages mean you’re on the right track.)
3. Highlight the right skills.
Hiring managers are looking for certain skills when they fill a position. Fail to emphasize the right ones, and you could fall through the cracks, especially if you’re applying online and need to get through the Applicant Tracking System.
Update your resume with skills as you acquire them, but don’t forget to scan each job listing for keywords before submitting your resume. It’s not always about wowing them with high-tech skills; depending on the position, you might need to assure them that you know Microsoft Word. If the ad mentions it, you should, too.
4. Try a new format.
If you’ve been using the same old chronological resume format that you used for your college internships, maybe it’s time for a change. Depending on your career path and the job you’re targeting, a functional or hybrid format might be a better choice. (See more about resume formats, here.)
5. Start from scratch.
You probably don’t want to hear this, but sometimes the best way to fix your resume is to start from a blank page. At the very least, this is a good exercise to inform your revisions of the existing version. Why? Because it forces you to think about what’s valuable and, as a result, recognize what isn’t. It’s a good way to cut through the filler and get back to the heart of your resume, which is what you can do for the employer who’s smart enough to hire you.
Tell Us What You Think
What’s the best change you’ve made to your resume? We want to hear from you. Tell us your thoughts in the comments or join the conversation on Twitter.