Time to refresh your résumé? Here's what to do
If you just bought new, expensive résumé paper, you've already made a job-search mistake. Most job applications and résumés are submitted online now, one of the many new trends in the modern hiring process. Many job seekers are using outdated job-search practices, risking the impression that they are unable to keep up with technology.
Are you worried that your résumé is going stale? Read on to determine if it's time to refresh it.
The first section of your résumé needs to include your name, address, email and phone number, as well as any links to portfolios or websites. Check all links to make sure they work, and include links only to sites that you update regularly. Be sure your email address sounds professional; addresses such as "OMGlove2party" are inappropriate.
Summary of qualifications
This section is the best place to include keywords taken from the job description, since most hiring companies use applicant-tracking systems to narrow down the field of possible candidates. Be sure to incorporate keywords throughout the résumé, but don't just copy and paste the job description.
Place your most relevant and interesting experience at the top. Most hiring managers only skim résumés, and leading with strong qualifications can be a good attention-getter. Also, be sure to remove any overly personal information. Old job applications used to inquire about marital status, family members and sometimes religious affiliation. Not only is this irrelevant to most jobs, it is now illegal to request such information. Keep your résumé clean, professional and focused.
Career achievements and skills
In 2012, a résumé section on "career objectives" is a rarity. Instead of wasting valuable space, include a professional summary in your cover letter and tailor it to the job you're vying for and how it fits into your career plan. Reserve the career achievements and skills section for descriptions of honors or promotions, quantifiable information and performance-review quotes that cite your strengths. When referring to previous jobs, use the past tense. Only current jobs and projects should be written in the present tense.
Size up your résumé and determine if you're including more tasks than results for previous positions. Hiring managers are looking for candidates who can go above and beyond expectations as well as fulfilling daily responsibilities, which means that including any professional associations and awards is a résumé boost.
List relevant jobs only, not every part-time gig you held over the past 20 years. If you're not sure if you should include a job, ask if it's relevant to this position and your current career goals. For the employers you do list, make sure to include details on tasks for which you were responsible, as well as the company's industry. If you have a gap in your history because of family obligations, "homemaker sabbatical" will sufficiently explain a work hiatus so the interviewer can focus on your career accomplishments.
Education and training
Include details about your alma mater here, as well as other training, certifications and accomplishments that are relevant to your job. This section doesn't need to list past courses taken. Unless you're in school and are applying for your first full-time position or internship, you probably don't need to include your grade point average.
Unless the job posting specifically asks for references, don't include any with your résumé. A line stating that "references are available upon request" is also unnecessary. If you get asked in for an interview, you may want to have a list of references prepared, but keep your contacts to yourself before that step.
- Design your résumé with a focus. Every detail should support the idea that you're the best candidate for the job.
- Use specific, concrete language that measures your accomplishments.
- Remove overused words, such as "outstanding," "effective," "strong," "exceptional," "good," "excellent," "driven," "motivated," "seasoned" or "energetic." Beware of unsupported claims of greatness.
- Don't include a photo.
- Résumés should be no more than two pages, but most candidates will be better off with one page. Most hiring managers only glance at résumés, so be conscious of how much space you use, and organize the layout with a balance of white space and text. Avoid large blocks of text.
- Go through drafts of your résumé before you settle on one that works, and have several friends or family members proofread it. It should contain no typos or formatting errors. Aim for a résumé that is clean and simple and that can be easily submitted online.
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