After a long and bitter winter for much of the country, the oncoming change in seasons is more than welcome. As you open the windows and dust off your bookshelves, don’t forget the cobwebs trailing into your professional life: It’s time to give your resume a clean sweep. Spring is a great time to freshen up your resume because it’s a task best completed annually, according to Jacqui Barrett-Poindexter, master resume writer and career and workplace expert for Glassdoor.com, an online career community. “It makes it less of a chore,” she said.
The first step in cleaning up your resume is examining your own goals. Take a few minutes to look online for positions that look and feel right, or positions that excite you, Barrett-Poindexter said. “Read the requirements for those positions,” she said. “Look at your current resume, or the one from a year ago that you’re trying to refresh. Does it talk about things you’ve done that would qualify you or sell you into those positions? More often than not, there’s a shortfall because your needs and goals change every year.”
Clear Out Clutter
A good resume is clear, focused and free of clutter. It’s just as important to illustrate where you want to be as it is to spell out what you’ve already achieved. “If you’ve been in this job for five or 10 years, your resume needs to reflect what you’ve been doing and also where you want to go,” said Michael Drake, managing partner at FitzDrake Search. “If you can write your passion into your resume, people will see that.”
Without falsifying information, write your resume to reflect your goals, said Michael Paul, technical recruiter for JFC Global. “Tailor your resume to the job you’re applying to,” she said. “Write a resume for the job you want, not necessarily the job you’ve had. If you have the skills that are spelled out in the job description, tailor your resume to it.”
Be specific and focused with your goals, Poindexter recommended. “Many people are fearful of having too narrow of a resume,” she said. “In fact, being specific will help garner the interviews where being fearful and too generic will eliminate you from the running.”
It’s also important to organize your resume in a clear, concise manner. “Address, summary, progression, college — that seems to be the format that works best,” said Drake.
Include a summary on top and customize it on each resume you send out. “Have keywords that are associated with that job requisition in that summary. That’s what the program behind the stacking system is going to read,” Drake said, describing the PC-based system that fields job applicants through online application systems.
Proper keywords can float you to the top of the list when it’s you and 40,000 other people applying for the same job. “When a recruiter does a search, all the resumes that have been submitted for that job will be attached. The computer ranks the resumes, and the recruiter will look at the person with the highest success rate,” Drake said. “Generally that recruiter will have time to consider only the top three.”
After a solid summary with strong keywords, include your work history in chronological order. Within each description, put specific details about what you’ve done for the company, like saving money or bringing in new business. “Show that you’ve done something exceptional,” Drake said.
If you’re a good problem-solver, say so. “Managers don’t want to manage people,” Drake said. “They want people who can do things for themselves. Show them where the return on investment is.”
Paul said she’s quick to hit the delete button if, for example, you’re applying for an IT position and she doesn’t see any IT experience on your resume. To be a good fit for the job you want, include relevant work history. “Even if it’s a nonpaid gig, get an internship, volunteer with a nonprofit. Get something that will make me look again,” she said. “Nonprofits, churches, agencies — they all have IT work. Just volunteer to help them out and put it on your resume.”
Spruce It Up
After all the details are in place, don’t be afraid to get creative, Barrett-Poindexter said. Remember: Your resume is your marketing document. For example, there is value in using spots of color and incorporating charts or graphs to show where you have met or exceeded deadlines or budgets goals, she said. That simple differentiation might garner your resume a second look by the hiring manager.
“When you connect with individuals through face-to-face networking, your resume is introduced in different ways,” she said. “When you job search through relationships, like Glassdoor or LinkedIn, keywords won’t have as much power as they do when you apply online.”
Like sweeping and laundry, some resume work requires regular upkeep. Drake stressed the importance of updating your resume as new items spring forth. “If you’ve done any special projects, get it on your resume right away, while it’s fresh in your mind,” he said. “This document is who you are and what you’re doing. It’s worth updating often.”
Jamie Marturano is a freelance writer based in Pennsylvania.