Tips for Polishing Your Resume
Just as April is a perfect time for some spring cleaning, the end of the summer — when things are slower and most of us start looking ahead to the busy fall — is a great time to dust off the cobwebs from your resume. Hiring experts say that even those not involved in an active job hunt should have an updated and polished resume — because sometimes when you’re not looking, that’s just when someone gets interested in you, right?
And for those on a job hunt, it’s important to continually update your resume. Use the hard-won knowledge you’re gaining about what works and doesn’t in a job search to ensure that you are using your resume to its best advantage — and that all parts of it are working for you rather than against you. Also, you want your resume to scream relevance — and the best way to do this is to highlight what you’ve been doing lately, such as freelance or consulting work.
Here are some tips for polishing your resume whether you’re actively job hunting or not:
*Keep it updated. Often, once someone lands a job, they let their resume languish. And then when they need it again, they’re furiously seeking to include information about their most recent job and activities. It’s better to continually update your resume with details about your most professional experience, freelance work, awards, honors and references or recommendations. (And to make this information fit, make sure to cut long-ago or less relevant positions and honors.) That way, when you make a contact who wants to see your resume (who may be key to getting your next job) you can show how organized you are by immediately sending it to them. And don’t forget to keep an updated copy of your resume on LinkedIn or other professional networking sites you’re on — a good number of people have outdated resumes on these sites, and that means they aren’t taking full advantage of the opportunity right before them.
*Edit with care. A tendency among mid-career professionals, especially, is to pack a ton of information on their resume — after all, they’ve worked hard to gain this experience and want to show it off. Yet too-packed descriptions and paragraphs often have the opposite effect and can frustrate a recruiter — they want to know what you think are your most important qualities and qualifications. Prioritize. Then ruthlessly edit each section of your resume, especially the job descriptions, and take care in word choice. Less is usually more. Also, give your resume some room to breathe. Don’t include so much in any one each section so that it’s literally hard to read on the page. White space is also your friend — provide a little room between sections.
*Simple and elegant is usually best. A resume is your professional calling card — it isn’t an advertising flier or press release. So while it may not look exciting or sound exciting, you’re better off keeping it plain vanilla in terms of look and language. It’s best to ease up on the bold key and to lightly use italics, dashes or underlining to make your point. Also, these can turn into gobbledygook in this world of scanners and email attachments — make sure you send your resume as an attachment to yourself and print it out before sending to others so that you can see what it will really look like once printed out (which it will be). Also, when printing your resume at a copy shop (and you should always show up to interviews with your resume on a paper of decent stock) don’t use odd-sized or boldly colored paper; you will be making a statement by doing that and it’s usually not one you want to make. And don’t include your picture on your resume unless requested to do so. And remember, it’s best to leave off items that really aren’t any of a potential employer’s business — such as personal data like marital status or how many kids you have, and statements such as “in excellent health.” Keep it focused on your professional achievements — and polish away!