Have you been meaning to refresh your resume for a while now? It might help to hear that you don’t have to do a complete overhaul all at once.
The tiniest of changes can add up to create a shiny new resume. If you have five minutes to spare, you have plenty of time to start updating your CV, one tweak at a time. You’ll be surprised at how much these efforts make a difference, especially if you commit to making these small resume updates on a regular basis.
5-minute resume updates you can apply right now:
1. Identify the right keywords
These days, including the right keywords in your resume is one of the most important things you can do to help you land an interview. In the past, resumes were generally read by humans. But, these days, a robot often takes a first look at the pile of applications before a hiring manager gets involved.
Today’s employer often uses automated applicant tracking systems, also known as talent management systems, to sort through candidates’ resumes. One way they do this is to set the system up to eliminate resumes that don’t include certain deemed-critical keywords. So, even if you meet all of the requirements for a position, you might not be considered if you leave those off.
Be sure to include keywords that demonstrate that you are a good fit for the job. Review the job posting and job requirements to help you identify words that you should incorporate. You also might want to review the company’s website to better understand their values and what they’re looking for in a candidate. This should help you to find the words that are most likely to resonate.
2. Replace the objective section with a professional summary
If you’re sending your resume out to prospective employers, your objective is clear. You’re hoping to get an interview. So, it’s safe to say that you can lose the objective section of your resume. Instead, replace it with a professional summary.
Instead of announcing where you want to go next professionally and why (save it for your cover letter) include a brief summary/overview of your career thus far. What is it about your employment history or educational background that makes you different from other applicants? You can utilize the professional summary section to highlight your more desirable qualifications and skills.
Don’t worry — it won’t take long to write this up. Your professional summary should be short and sweet — just three to five sentences at the most. Consider including key achievements and your current or most recent job title as well as other relevant experiences. Explain how you want to help the employer in question to achieve their goals. And, be sure to pinpoint any specific achievements that demonstrate you know how to get the job done.
3. consider removing old positions
You don’t have to give your entire life story to every prospective employer. And, you probably shouldn’t list every single job you’ve ever had on your resume.
One quick and easy way to update this document is to spend a couple of minutes removing old positions from the experience section if appropriate. For example, if you’ve been in your industry for years, you can probably remove entry-level positions. And, even if you’ve only had a couple of jobs since college, there’s probably not much benefit to listing the job you had in high school anymore.
4. Remove dates from the education section
It’s important to list the dates of employment for various positions in order to demonstrate a consistent work history. However, the dates you attended college or completed other degrees aren’t relevant. Place the education section of your resume before your professional history and cut out the dates. Whether you just finished school, or attended long ago, listing these dates could lead to age discrimination. Leaving them off costs you nothing.
5. Make sure it’s in reverse chronological order
There are so many different ways to structure a resume. However, when it comes to the order in which you list your educational attainments, and your professional experiences, reverse chronological order is generally best. You want hiring managers to come across the most impressive information, and the most relevant, as soon as possible. So, rather than listing your college degree and then your graduate program, flip it around. Similarly, your most recent job should come first with the rest following it in reverse chronological order.
6. Modernize the formatting
It’s important that your job application documents be formatted in a modern way. If it looks out of date, you could be passed over for the interview.
What’s modern formatting look like? Simplest is best. At The Balance Careers, job search expert Alison Doyle explains:
Basic, readable fonts like Arial, Verdana, Calibri, and Times New Roman will ensure your resume will be read.
When you are selecting a font for your resume, the font size should be between 10 and 12 to allow for readability. It can feel tempting to make the font on your resume very small, so you can include more information about each job, and still have your resume fit on one page. However, resist this urge – a tiny font is difficult to read, which will ultimately defeat your resume’s purpose.
7. Lose the “references available upon request” bit
If an employer wants to contact your references, they’ll do that. You should have the information you need to give these references ready to go when you’re applying for a job. But, there’s no need to write that you’ll provide this contact information if asked on your documents. It goes without saying. So, don’t waste the valuable real estate of a one or two page resume on it.
You also may want to consider eliminating a physical mailing address when you make these resume updates. You’ll probably get an email or a call about next steps. It’s very unlikely that a hiring manager will contact you by snail-mail for an interview. So, it’s generally safe to leave that off, too. (Note that you may want to simply list your city and state if the job is local.)
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8. Update your skills
Take a look at the skills section of your resume and think back to the time that’s passed since you last updated it. Have you taken any classes or had new professional experiences since that time that you can list here? And don’t forget to consider both hard and soft skills when making these resume updates. Today’s employer often values soft abilities, like interpersonal skills, as much as anything else.
Also, consider removing any skills that are outdated. Your proficiency with software that’s rarely in use these days, for example, will do your resume more harm than good.
Finally, keep in mind that the skill section of your resume is a great place to include some of those keywords that you identified earlier in the process. (You might also use the professional summary section to incorporate those that don’t fit into this section of your resume.)
9. Make sure it’s scan-friendly
You want hiring managers to be able to scan your resume quickly and pick out your relevant experience, skills and qualifications. Then, they’ll feel compelled to move onto the next step and give it a closer read.
There are several things you can do to be sure that your resume can pass the scan-test. Instead of varying your font size, for example, try using bold, italics or all-caps for emphasis. You also maximize and tighten all bullet-points. Ask yourself, if a hiring manager only read two or three of these, would they hold up well enough?
And, don’t forget to use a font that’s easy to read. If your resume takes longer to decode than most, it will probably stand out — and not in a good way.
10. Spend five more minutes….
Before finalizing your resume or sending it to hiring managers, walk away from it for a day or two. This will give you some much-needed clarity. It’s hard to see typos and errors when you’ve just finished working on a document.
Then, spend five minutes taking just one more look. Are there any final details that need correction? Are there any formatting errors that you should correct? Perhaps there is one section, or even just one phrase, that’s still bothering you. Give yourself time to make these last-minute resume updates before you apply.
Chances are that you’ll find something to improve if you give your resume just one more pass. Remember that any time you spend bettering your job application materials is time well spent.
Tell Us What You Think
Which of these resume updates will you apply today? We want to hear from you! Leave a comment or join the discussion on Twitter.