By Kristen Harris
September is National Update Your Resume month. While this may not be a holiday you frequently celebrate, it’s a good reminder to keep your resume current. A friend and mentor gave me the advice many years to ago to keep my resume and portfolio updated at all times “because you never know who might call, and you want to be prepared to say yes!” Set aside some time this month to see how your resume stacks up in these four areas.
- Follow Convention. Organize the information in an easy-to-follow format for your reader. You’re telling the story of your career…backwards. List all relevant experience in reverse chronological order, starting with what you’re doing now. Include details about your education, like major and graduation date. But, unless you’re a recent graduate or have less than five years work experience, put education after work experience. Make sure your first and last names, address (or at least city and state), phone and email address are at the top, in a place that is easily found. There’s nothing worse than liking the content of someone’s resume, then desperately trying to find their name and phone number so you can contact them!
- Make Your Resume “Tracking System Friendly.” In the past resumes were beautifully designed, in a nice font, and printed on paper with lovely handfeel and matching envelopes. Today resumes are uploaded into a database, searched for key words, and printed out from email attachments. Yes, you should still have a nicely designed version on good paper to bring with you to the interview. But it’s critical that your resume plays well with the databases and parsing tools that companies use to manage their candidate pool so you can get the interview. This means using standard fonts, an 8.5×11 vertical format, 10-12 point type, section headings in bold or all caps, space and headings to clearly organize the text, and including standard contact info. When you’re done, save it as a PDF file and keep the text live. Don’t outline or convert the type, design your resume in Photoshop, or make your name or any other information a graphic without typing it out as well.
- Focus on Success and Achievements. Make your story engaging! Rather than just listing job titles and duties, include details that will engage your reader. The first section of the resume should be an executive summary of your background, experience and (perhaps) what you’re looking for. This is just a teaser…you want the reader to be intrigued enough to continue reading the details of your past experience. For each relevant past position, include details about your contributions and achievements in that role. How many people did you supervise? How large was the company you worked for? Did you manage a budget, or work on projects with large budgets? What were the results of the work you did? How many customers did you reach, awards did you win, or widgets did you sell? Why is the work you did, and can do for a new potential employer, so much better than your competitors? Heck, why are YOU better? Include details that tell an engaging story about what you’ve done, and what you can do.
- Be Searchable. This means using key words relevant to your role in the executive summary and experience sections. Be specific, and use the words and phrases that are common in your industry. What would you use to search online if you were looking for someone with your background? Make sure all of those terms are in your resume. Also consider adding a skills list with all of the software and position-specific skills that you would consider your strengths. Beware of abbreviations, for example if you just say CS6 or Adobe programs, someone who is searching for Photoshop won’t necessarily find you because that specific word isn’t listed on your resume. And only list things you’re feel comfortable using in a professional setting. If someone searches and finds you because of something listed on your resume, they will assume you are competent and comfortable with that skill or program.
With a few updates, your resume will be ready and waiting for the next “you never know” opportunity!