Artwork by: Alexandra Shevchenko
Entering the job market at any point can be daunting, especially when you have to update your resume that’s been gathering dust. Thankfully, there are effective ways to get your resume “ready for prime time” so you can get back on the interview circuit with confidence in your resume–and yourself.
How do I update my resume? It doesn’t matter if you are a young professional or a seasoned executive, all of us face this question at some point. If you haven’t updated your resume in a long time, the process can seem quite daunting. If you are new to your career journey, you may be worried about what is important to put in it and what you should leave out.
The good news is that it can be a straightforward process! This article will walk you through how to prepare your resume for the job market by providing critical tips and tricks that will make you stand out.
This blog will cover:
How often should my resume be updated?
What information should be updated on my resume?
How to update your resume format
What keywords to freshen up
How to update the resume objective/summary
How far back to go on work history
How to update other resume items
Tailoring your resume to a specific job posting
It is important to revisit your resume at least a couple of times a year, even if you aren’t actively looking. This will save you time when you are ready to start your job search.
Let’s be honest, after you leave a job you might forget specific titles, job duties, and people. Don’t wait until the last moment to polish your resume. In addition to biannual resume reviews, there are some scenarios where you should promptly update your resume.
When your position changes. Whether that is a promotion, a transition to a new role, or a new job altogether, this should be a prompt to update your resume. You will not need to remember the dates for the change in position or what job duties were shifted if you update the information once it happens.
When your education changes. If you get a new degree, certification, training, or other similar professional development, you should add it to your resume.
When your contact information changes. This section of your resume often gets overlooked. As soon as you have a change in phone number, address, or email, make sure you change it on your document.
A good rule of thumb is to read your entire resume over from start to finish and highlight what needs to be addressed. This is especially important if you have a very long career, as that old information can get quite dusty! When checking each section of your resume, this handy list will show you what to look for.
New job positions that aren’t added yet
Older job positions that can be removed
Out of date contact information
New education or training that isn’t added yet
Out of date hobby or interest list
References that are too old
Outdated skills or new skills that aren’t added yet
New technology you’ve worked with
Highlighted accomplishments that are more than ten years old
Out-of-date career summaries or objectives
At the forefront of your mind should be your next career step. That will be a good guide on what to include and what not to include. For example, if you want a new job that focuses on technology, you will want to be certain you include any and all software, hardware, and systems you have experience in using.
Resume formats change with the times. The hiring process has moved to digital, and so the way resumes are formatted and read have changed. Different career fields have different requirements in what is considered the standard for resumes. Chances are if you haven’t updated the format of your resume in the last five years, it is out of date.
How do you know what format to use? A Google search is a good starting point, but that presents a lot of information in a way that is not easy to digest. If you have coworkers or mentors in your field, it may help to take a look at their resumes.
Nothing quite beats the advice of a seasoned professional, however. There are many resume updating services and career coaches out there with formats that are already tested for modernization, efficiency, and attractiveness for hiring managers.
Did you know there are different types of resume formats?
The most common is the chronological format, which focuses on job history.
A functional resume emphasizes skills, which is great for freelancers or professions where a portfolio matters most.
If you want to format your resume on your own without professional help, here are a few tips to follow.
Adding color to your header is a great way to catch the eye but only if it is appropriate to your career field.
A one-inch margin is best on all sides.
Stick to an 11-point font. Too small is hard to read and too big looks unprofessional.
Divide your resume into easy-to-read sections with clear headers for each. This may include job history, education, accomplishments, and skills.
Don’t have large chunks of text that take long to read. Your skills will get lost in them.
Keep your formatting consistent. Try not to change fonts, the way dates are formatted, or text color more than necessary.
Keep your resume length appropriate for your career level and career field.
Ultimately, remember that you want something that catches the eye and is easy to read.
Keywords refer to skills you have acquired on your professional journey. These are divided into soft skills and hard skills. Soft skills typically refer to things that cannot be quantitatively measured, such as communication, teamwork, and reliability. Hard skills refer to things that can be proven on your resume, such as project management, accounting, and meeting quotas.
Every six months or so you should refresh your keywords. Some skills you might not use anymore, and you likely have learned new ones. Employers definitely look at these to determine what you are good at. If there are keywords on your resume for things you don’t enjoy doing, you should remove them.
Keywords are generally sprinkled across your resume, but you should try to have a special keyword section as applicable. This will be a bullet-pointed list in a visible spot on your resume. A general number to aim for is about nine bullets, but it will depend on your career length and field. Too small of a list won’t catch attention. Too long of a list will get your keywords lost in all the text. Technology you have used doesn’t belong on the keyword list; it should be a separate section!
Prioritize hard skills over soft skills. It is easy for someone to put on a resume that they are a team player. However, it is much better to show that you are a team player through examples of when you worked with a team to accomplish a goal. Keep your keywords concise. Here are some examples of ways to maximize the effectiveness of your keywords.
Worked on Projects
Negotiated Important Contracts
Talked to Clients
The top paragraph of your resume is referred to as your objective or your summary. The usage of this space has changed over the years. Sometimes it has been lengthy, and sometimes it has been a single sentence.
Keep the lengthy explanations for the cover letter. This section should only be about five sentences giving a high-level summary of your career. Do not use first person in this section or any section of your resume. This is a better place to talk about soft skills over hard skills.
When you update this section of your resume, look at how your career has changed recently. Hiring managers are the most interested in your recent jobs and accomplishments. Don’t neglect what you have done within the last few years for accomplishments that are a decade old!
If you have a career history that spans more than twenty years, this is a good section to highlight how experienced you are, and how much you have grown across your career. Focus less on the number of years and more on your increasing levels of responsibility and contribution.
It is best to stick to a 10-15 year work history on your resume. Listing too long of a work history can lead to age discrimination issues. Hiring managers and ATS software also focus on recent history over older work history.
As you update your resume, drop off any job that is older than that time frame. You may be asking “What if I’ve worked at the same company for 25 years?” Divide your work history up by position, and leave off any job positions that are older than that time frame.
There are special cases where it might be important to list jobs older than 15 years. You may want to look at a combination resume format to address this. It is a good way to highlight older skills while still focusing on recent accomplishments.
An education section isn’t just for degrees! Companies will often have their employees go to training courses and seminars. These are all professional development items that should be added to your education section. To ensure you don’t forget, update your resume as soon as you finish one of these courses.
Dates on Degrees
It is not necessary to list the date you got your degree unless it is within the last few years. For example, if you got a Master’s degree in the last year, you want to capitalize on that for your next position.
If you have a hobby or an interest section, keep that updated with the most recent activities you enjoy. If you say you like to travel but haven’t traveled in the past couple of years, it is best to remove that.
If you have a volunteer section, keep that updated as you do volunteer work. This doesn’t matter if it’s a multi-month project or a one-day event, it is good to update on your resume!
One of the best ways to prepare your resume for a new position is to tailor it to a specific job posting. This does require extra effort, as you will need to create a new resume for each job you apply for. Follow these easy steps to simplify that process.
Read over the job position you want to apply for. Make note of specific skills or experience it asks for. You might see items like experience meeting deadlines, knowledge of Canva, or leadership.
Look at your keywords section and update your skills to match some of these items. Make sure you are honest, though! For example, if you have never used Canva it is not a good idea to put it on your resume.
Look at your career summary at the top of your resume. Change what you can to reflect what is in the job posting. For example, you might want to add excellent leadership skills if the posting asks for a leader.
Double-check your work history to ensure it doesn’t need to be modified. Chances are you will leave your work history descriptions as-is. But if there is a way to emphasize certain job duties over others, make sure you address that!
Review your resume for updates at least twice a year, and update it following any major professional change.
Make sure your format is modern and easy to read.
Update your keywords to focus on the most recent skills you have.
Tailor strategic sections of your resume to specific job postings for best results.
Ashley is a professional writer with an extensive background in the corporate recruitment industry. She applies her in-depth knowledge of recruitment to her current role as resume writer and career coach—providing insider tricks of the trade to ensure her clients are grabbing recruiter attention and landing their desired roles. From entry level on through C-Suite, Ashley’s clients enjoy her hands-on approach to helping them achieve their goals.