During my five years in Schwab Talent Acquisition, I’ve worked hard to identify myself both in and outside of the firm as an authority in job search techniques. As a result, when friends, colleagues, or family members are presented with a new opportunity I’m often the first person they ask for advice. More often than not, they call me in a total panic because they haven’t updated their resume in several years and have no idea what the standard is today for a great resume. Oh, and they have to submit their resume by tomorrow. Yikes! If a recruiter contacted you today, do you have a resume you are proud of?
To avoid having your career hinge on a resume created on the fly, every professional should update their resume once a year. Even if you are blissfully employed at a great company and would never think to leave, you never know when a great internal opportunity will emerge! Just after tax day is a great time to do this. The stress of filing your taxes is over, and many of us are motivated to do some spring cleaning – so why not freshen up your resume?
Here are my five tips for spring cleaning your resume:
- Update any new positions and responsibilities
This one might seem like a no-brainer and it should! It’s important to accurately depict your role, including any new projects and accomplishments. Updating your employment history annually will help you avoid the common headache of remembering your dates of employment. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve helped a friend with their resume and they’ve forgotten when they started or left their last job. Inaccurately stating your dates of employment can cause you to fail a background check or employment verification, and possibly cost you a job.
- Add an objective or skills profile
Just a few years ago an objective statement was standard on every resume. Now, recruiters will all tell you something different when it comes to including one or not. I think there are two situations in which you should include an objective: (1) if you are a new grad, or (2) if you are changing careers. Both of these situations warrant an explanation of how your experience correlates to the role. If you don’t fall into either of these categories, go with a more modern skills profile. A skills profile is a brief synopsis of your expertise and a great way to highlight skills that are relevant to the role you are seeking. A quick internet search will return plenty examples!
- Add numbers
Antiquated resumes focus on “what” you did in a role. The resume of today highlights “how” you did it. Recruiters love to see numbers that quantify your success in a role and show that you were a strong performer. Every job listed should have a brief (one to two bullets or a sentence) description of the role and at least twice as many bullets showing achievements. “Developed and implemented new reporting process which improved report accuracy by 200% within 2 months” will impress a recruiter far more than “Responsible for reporting processes.”
- Free up valuable real estate
Just as with objective statements, the jury is out on how many pages a resume really should be. Your resume should be a reflection of your experience level, so a new grad might only need a page while an experienced executive needs two-and-a-half to share vital information. Most recruiters will agree that anything over three pages is too long, so move your most relevant skills to the top and remove redundant or unnecessary info. Start by removing job responsibilities that are obvious. If you were a server at a restaurant the recruiter will know that you took orders and delivered food to patrons. You can also delete references. They typically won’t be called until a hiring decision is close, and you will be asked for them at that time. If you have compelling references or letters of reference you can always include them as an attachment.
- Check your formatting
Wingdings, cool fonts, and images might look great on your computer’s screen, but often that fancy formatting gets lost in translation if it’s not compatible with an applicant tracking system. A font such as Arial is easy on the eyes and, most importantly, used universally. Use basic bullets or dashes, or the underline, bold, or italic option to highlight key points or separate headings. Having a .pdf version is another great way to ensure your resume looks clean. And for goodness sakes, please don’t include a headshot unless you are applying for an acting role!
Having a great resume at your fingertips will ensure you are always ready to explore a new opportunity. Sure, you will need to make a few tweaks to customize your resume for your desired position, but having an accurate, modern resume that highlights your strengths and accomplishments will help minimize the stress of the important process of snagging your dream job.
About the Author: Shannon Grimes is a Phoenix-based talent attraction manager for Schwab, and her work focuses on connecting with job seekers at networking events, information sessions and career fairs.