Here in Canada, we launch summer with the Victoria Day “24” weekend; in the U.S., it’s Memorial Day. Either way, while it may feel like summer, it’s not official until June 21st so there’s still time for those annual cleaning projects. In addition to whatever needs attention around the house, cottage, car or boat, your resume deserves a good “spring cleaning” too.
As career coaches, we often deal with resumes when clients have a pressing need—a call from a recruiter, an unanticipated job loss, a posting too good to ignore. When we ask for a current resume to help get the process started, you’d be surprised at what we get:
- Out-of-date resumes missing information about the current/most recent employer and job.
- “New grad” resumes from mid-career professionals with years-old education cited first.
- Multipage documents that have never been edited—just added to over the years.
If any of these sound like your resume, here are some tips that can help you create a current, level appropriate document that accurately represents who you are today‒ and where you’re headed:
- You need a career objective, but your resume doesn’t. No one is interested that your goal is “A role with a progressive firm where I can grow and develop.” Job seekers get hired to meet specific needs and solve particular problems. After a Header that provides your coordinates, begin your resume with a Profile that describes succinctly what you’re known for and in what functions and industries. Consider a list of Core Competencies as well; some employers start there and don’t go any further if they don’t see something that speaks to them.
- A resume is your primary self-marketing document, not just an employment history. Too many clients give far too much “real estate” to describing in lengthy detail all the duties and responsibilities of every job they’ve ever held. Instead, give the key facts: organization name and location, brief description if it's not a household name and the dates you were employed (years only). State your title and a brief description of the role: reporting relationship, span of control, mandate.
- Don’t confuse activities with accomplishments. The bullet points on your resume are the prime "real estate" so make sure there’s compelling content in each. That means focusing on what you accomplished v. what you were responsible for or spent time on. Start each bullet with a powerful action verb and use #, $ and % to quantify your results (as well as draw the reader’s attention to eye-catching symbols and numerals.
- Taper off. The further back you go, the fewer details you should give about each job. If you discover that the work you want to emphasize is related to several jobs ago, consider a combined functional/chronological format that presents relevant accomplishments up front followed by your employment history.
- Be selective when it comes to Education & Professional Development (which goes after Experience in a mid-career professional resume) State degrees earned, but not every course, seminar or workshop you’ve ever taken. The same goes for designations and certifications. If it’s relevant to your future include it; otherwise, save the space.
- Keep it professional. Activities and personal interests are mostly distractors (except in some smaller markets where showing community involvement is a plus). So unless there’s a link to your career goals (e.g., someone wanting to shift from sales to finance as Treasurer for a non-profit), leave it off. You can always discuss hobbies and interests in the interview, plus employers are skeptical about hiring someone with too much “extra-curricular” activity.
- Unless you are a new grad, graduate from the one-page resume. After you’ve been working for a while, you’ll need extra space to clarify and quantify your relevant work accomplishments and professional development activities. Just make sure to use a different Page 2 Header to avoid confusion and keep your name and contact details in front of the reader.
Because the resume is often your first point of contact with a potential employer, what you say, how you say it and the way you present yourself are all important. Keep in mind the average amount of time spent on a first reading of a resume is only 11-22 seconds. Make every second count by cleaning up your resume so the reader sees you as you want to be seen. And keep your resume up to date so you’re always ready to ‘spring” ahead in your career.
If you would like an independent assessment of your current resume, our Senior Career Coach Derek Smith would be happy to provide a complimentary resume critique. Send your resume to the Info address on our website; we’ll assess it via our Resume Checklist and provide you feedback.