From sudden unemployment to unexpected opportunities, you never you when you might need a well-honed, up-to-date resume. These tips can help you maintain resume readiness.
Updating your resume should be an annual event. Sprucing up your resume helps you stay current by keeping all your big career accomplishments fresh in your mind. Even if you're not on the job market right now, updating your resume comes in handy for annual reviews and salary re-assessments.
It helps tremendously to look at examples of other people's resumes before updating your own. When looking at other people's resumes, you'll form opinions very quickly about what works and what doesn't for your experience, your personal taste, and your job field. It's ideal to see resumes from applicants who are in the same job field as you are, but if you don't have access to any, you should still look at something.
Plenty of websites have generic sample resumes to peruse, but if you know of a job search website in your field that allows users to upload their resumes, poke around. See what you can find.
Bear in Mind That They Only Glance
When you're learning from other people's resumes, look at each for just a few seconds, and then look away. One study from The Ladder showed recruiters spent just six seconds evaluating resumes before deciding to put them in the "keep" or "reject" pile.
Because recruiters and hiring managers barely even glance at resumes, the trick in drafting a resume is to figure out what counts, and spend your time wisely making those parts shine. But how do you do that?
Whatever Counts, Make it Pop
Try to get into the mind of the recruiter or HR manager who might look at your resume. Ask yourself:
What's most impressive on your resume for your field and personal experience: names of organizations where you worked, job title, length of time at job, job title progression?
What else catches my eye if I look for six seconds? Often, the answer is numbers purely because of how they stand out from alphabetic text, e.g., "I managed a $2 million account," or "Website traffic grew 55 percent under my leadership."
Why or how does my resume look different from those of my competitors? Hiring managers often look at a stack of resumes and select a few candidates from that pool. In other words, you're not competing with everyone in the world—just the people in that pool. What can you do that's still tasteful to make your resume look better than the ones around it?
When you figure out what needs to pop, go back to those other resume samples you reviewed and look again at what stands out and why. Is it because of a different font, or the use of boldface, or ALL CAPS? Or maybe something stands out because of
intentional, excessive white space.
Think about what doesn't work as well. Personally, I would never use more than two fonts on a resume. And I'm not a designer, so I don't mess around with color. Know your limitations. If you have an absolutely wretched eye for formatting and design, use a resume template, and do not veer from it.
Make a Base Resume, Once a Year
There is no such thing as having only one resume, but there is such a thing as having a base resume. The base resume is the one you'll riff on to create variations you can actually submit to job openings.
If you use the handy year-folder organization method, you can save your annually updated base resume in the year folder, perhaps named something like 2014_Duffy_Resume. That way, you'll always know, more or less, how current the resume is and whether you've updated it for the current year.
Update the resume to reflect not only new information about your and your career highlights, but also anything that might make the resume look dated if left unchanged. Change your fonts and formatting if necessary to look fresh. Remove or alter any language that might subject you to ageism, racism, or sexism. Basically, edit it based on best practices (there may be new ones this year), what you learned from looking at other people's resumes, and to keep the information relevant and up-to-date.
That base resume could take you days to put together. And it should be spotless. Having an absolutely clean resume that you've gone over with a fine-tooth comb many times makes it easier and quicker to create clean variations on it. Have at least one friend, colleague, or professional resume writer review it, too. Your eyeballs shouldn't be the only ones to have seen it.
It shouldn't take a lot of time to create a variation, which I'm going to call a tailored resume. The trick is to reorder a few items, customize some of the language for the job at hand, and cut irrelevant stuff.
Let's say you're applying to a job, and in the description, there's a strong emphasis on financial experience. Perhaps you have a bullet point or two under your most recent experience about dealing with accounting matters. Gussy those points up, and move them to the top. Eyeball that section to see whether those two points pop, and, if they don't, consider what you can do to make them stand out more.
That kind of tailoring makes a difference and doesn't take more than a few minutes.
You should create a tailored resume for every job application. Even if the core details remain the same, it's incredibly important to match the language and highlights on your resume to the job at hand. Don't lie, but do put the most relevant stuff in front of the hiring manager's face.
Cut, Cut, Cut
Again, based on the field in which you work, your personal experience, and the job at hand, you'll want to leave out details that don't matter.
If you're applying for a job as a programmer, and your first job was as an administrative assistant, but since then you've have three other programming jobs with extensive experience, you don't need to mention the admin job. Not at all! You can leave it off entirely. If the experience wasn't relevant to the job at hand, no one cares that you did it.
Sometimes people want to include every single job they've ever held since graduating college so as to show continuity, or that they've had a job continuously since university. The workaround is to simply not include the year you graduated on your resume. In all likelihood, it's not relevant. Plus, your graduation year is an easy way for someone to guess your age and discriminate against you based on that.
If something on your resume isn't relevant to the job at hand, leave it out.
There are some exceptions, but they are specific to certain kinds of careers (government jobs come to mind). In many fields, a one-page resume showing only your highlights is more than fine—it's preferred.
When you have that resume exactly as you want it and are ready to submit it, hold it for a day. This is advice I have had to learn over the years, as I'm impatient and like to check tasks off my to-do list immediately rather than wait.
If you wait, however, you can review the resume with fresh eyes before you send it in.
Unless the job application has a looming deadline, taking an extra 24 hours or even six hours to apply will not change your chances of you getting the job in the slightest. And if it lets you catch a typo or inconsistency on your resume that you might have otherwise missed, waiting probably helps your chances.