Remember that holiday we celebrated a few weeks ago? The one where you stay up late (or try to) and celebrate the start of a new year with friends and family. Perhaps, as part of the celebrations, you set some resolutions for the year ahead. Was one of your goals a long over-due update to your resume? Well then, you’re in luck.
Whether you are an experienced professional, a fresh college graduate, or somewhere in between, updating your resume is a great way to start off the new year. If you’re about to begin a job search, then cleaning up your resume is a crucial first step in the process. Even if you aren’t actively searching, however, having a great resume on hand and ready to go is never a bad idea.
Start the new year off right and keep your career-focused resolutions on track by updating your resume with these five simple and effective tips.
When updating your resume, it can be tempting to include tons of information about your previous jobs. After all, you’re trying to demonstrate how qualified you are. That’s why you’ve included that college internship and the summer job you had before graduation. Better to list out all your previous job experience than forget something important, right?
Actually, no. Your four-page resume filled with details about your previous jobs isn’t helping hiring mangers figure out why you’re a great fit for their open position. Instead, the key facts (like that tech project you helped manage at your last job) are getting lost in the noise. To fix this, consider cutting previous job experience every time you add to your resume. Listing a new job at the top of your experience section? Then it’s probably time to remove that 5-year-old internship description at the bottom.
If there’s a specific job you’re applying for, be sure to update your work experience so that all recent and relevant experience is listed. In addition, aim to showcase your accomplishments and successes; don’t simply list out what you did. Instead of talking about how you streamlined your team’s sales process, explain how the new process you implemented helped grow the business’s bottom line.
Finally, if your resume is short on experience or you’re aiming for that entry-level job to get your foot in the door, consider adding relevant unpaid or volunteer work to your experience section. Ultimately, the goal is to make sure your work experience speaks to how well-qualified you are for the role, so all experience is fair game.
We’ve already covered the concept of “Show, don’t tell” when talking about past work experience. Now, we’re taking that a step further. Instead of simply asserting that you made an impact, back up your claim with statistics and data. Did the email campaign you coordinated get a higher than average click rate? Maybe the sales content you created boosted leads for your team. Whatever the case, provide proof for your claims wherever possible (within the confines of confidentiality, of course).
Similarly, be sure to highlight any awards or special recognitions you’ve received for your work. Like number and stats, awards help convey your worth to a future boss. Have you or your work been recognized within your industry or field? Awards and facts are both credible proof that you have accomplished what you’ve claimed, and it is these specifics and the success stories they tell that will resonate most with a potential employer.
While cleaning up your work experience is a crucial part of every resume update, it’s important not to overlook the section on skills and education. You probably have your degree(s) listed along with your major and minor, but what about that IT certification you earned a few years? Did you list that in-person bootcamp you attended to improve your coding skills? What about those online classes you took to learn a new method of project management? These might seem like insignificant details, but on a resume, they highlight your efforts to keep up with the changing trends in your industry.
When updating your resume, you’ll also want to be sure to include any area of expertise or specific skills that are relevant to the job you’re applying for. Showing off these skills can help set you apart from a competitive field of applicants.
Did you know that a robot will likely be the first person to review your resume when you apply to a job today? That’s not because the robots are taking over. The real reason is the rise of ATSs or Applicant Tracking Systems as part of the hiring process. When you apply for a job, your application is reviewed by artificial intelligence and compared to the job description. If your application doesn’t contain enough overlap with the description (meaning you appear to be an unqualified candidate), your application can be discarded before it ever makes it into human hands.
To avoid this scenario and prove to the software you’re a good fit for the job, you’ll need to keyword optimize your resume. One way to do this is to include verb phrases or mentions of specific skills found in the job description in your own resume. If you’re not sure what keywords to focus on, try creating a word cloud. This builds a visual display of the most frequently used words from the job posting. The larger the word, the more important it is to include in your application.
Be careful though and be sure you don’t go overboard with your keywords. Putting in lots of keywords from the job description might get your resume flagged for keyword stuffing. Worst of all, if it does get past the ATS, the hiring manager will be left with a resume filled with buzzwords but little to no substance.
Instead, work to find the happy medium. Include your keywords, but remember that, at the end of the process, a human, not a robot, will be deciding whether to hire you.
Up until now, we’ve been focused on updating your resume to highlight your experience and unique skills. But there are a few soft skills that every resume should have, and they’re easy to overlook.
First up, communication. No matter what industry, company, or job position you find yourself in, communication skills will always be crucial. Does the role you’re applying for require interaction with customers or clients? Will you be working closely with colleagues on projects? If so, then be prepared to speak to your communication skills and style in your resume.
Next, creativity. In a work context, this means thinking outside of the box, looking at problems in a new way, and suggesting solutions that haven’t been tried before. Like communication, creativity is an asset in almost any role and should always earn a mention on your resume.
The final skill every resume needs to include is flexibility. Today, technology changes rapidly, societal values continue to shift and evolve, and companies need employees who are adaptable and can adjust to changing workplaces. Demonstrating your flexibility and willingness to work through challenges will prove an invaluable skill at every job.