I hear the same situation over and over again from candidates of all levels – “I haven’t updated my resume in years!”
It goes without saying that you should keep your resume, cover letter, and LinkedIn presence up-to-date, even if you aren’t actively searching. Candidates often find themselves scurrying to update their materials the moment a great opportunity arises – such as a job opening, a board position, or a freelance project.
Thing is, resume writing is complicated, and shouldn’t be approached with a “get it done last minute” mindset if you truly want to put your best foot forward. When done right, the process requires time, thought, and effort to ensure you’re communicating an impactful and accurate message around your value and qualifications.
Not everyone needs an extensive overhaul, and perhaps all you need is a refresh to bring your latest version up to standard. Here are three easy updates you can make in minimal time to ensure your resume continues to stand above the competition:
Evaluate the Resume in Terms of Information Design
An excellent resume is a combination of impactful content and polished design. If you haven’t had to look for a job in some time, it’s likely you haven’t changed up the formatting or template of your resume, and the style you’re using may no longer be appropriate for your level.
Consider the design and information flow: is there too much emphasis on earlier jobs and not enough real estate dedicated to your most recent accomplishments? Does your resume look outdated? Ditch solid page borders and black and white for a subtle pop of color to achieve a more sophisticated and modern look.
BONUS: A well-designed resume that’s sleek, attractive, and not over-the-top suggests that you’re a serious candidate who put solid time and effort into their professional presentation. Don’t overlook the importance of that when presenting yourself to hiring managers.
Utilize the Summary Statement
The summary statement (which many people make the mistake of omitting in their resume) is perhaps the most valuable real estate on the page. Outside of your job titles, it’s the first piece of information someone will read about you when scanning your resume, and it will set the tone for the rest of the document.
Use those 4 or 5 lines (or bullets) to brand yourself effectively for the type of job you’re targeting, by summarizing your core skills, experience, and training most relevant for the job. You should always brand yourself for the job you’re targeting, versus the role you’re currently in. Use the summary to highlight skills and potential that speak directly to the next level up.
BONUS: changing up the summary is an easy way to tailor your resume to each role without completely overhauling it.
Experiment With Type
If your resume has utilized the same font type and size for several years, consider giving it a refresh with a cleaner, more sophisticated font that’s optimized for screen reading. Strong choices include sans serifs such as Avenir, Helvetica Neue/Light, and Century Gothic, which include different weights so you can draw attention to different sections and elements of the resume without overdoing it.
BONUS: Give the resume an updated look by regrouping the way you present basic elements like titles and company names. Experiment with formatting elements, justification, and line breaks.
Failing to update your resume regularly is akin to leaving money on the table. Don’t lose out on a potential opportunity by not having your resume ready to pass along to a hiring manager, recruiter, or colleague. Chances are, a few minor changes can go a long way in bringing your resume and presence up-to-date and positioning you for success.
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