Student reading a book and writing the notesThe first week of August is National Simplify Your Life Week. While you’re cutting out the clutter in other areas of your life, take time to de-clutter your resume in three easy steps.

There’s a lot of conflicting advice out there about resumes. Some experts say an objective is necessary, while others urge job seekers to ditch it in favor of a summary. Debate rages on about the relative merits of functional and chronological formats. Experts can’t even agree on whether it should be one page or two!

It’s easy to get bogged down in the details and lose sight of your resume’s actual purpose: to clearly and quickly communicate your value to a potential employer. That’s a tall order, especially in such a small space, so focus on the three most important qualities of a great resume: it should be easy to scan, up to date, and error free.

Easy to Scan

On average, hiring managers will spend less than 10 seconds looking at your resume. Luckily, there are several ways you can make your resume easier to scan.

Career advisor Mark Cenedella recommends “narrowing your career goal, condensing your opening summary, editing your work experience, consolidating your education, being choosy about your skills and streamlining your ‘What can you do for me?’ employer appeal.”

Balance text with white space and use bullet points instead of long sentences to create a page that’s easy to read quickly, and concentrate your most relevant information at the top, bottom, and left margin of the page. Those are the areas that receive the most attention, according to eye-tracking data compiled by TheLadders.

It should go without saying, but clip art, fancy fonts, headshots, and other folderol have no place on your resume.

Up to Date

While it’s important to regularly update your resume with new work experience, accomplishments, and skills, it’s equally vital to remove outdated or irrelevant information.

Diane Zambruski of Resume Edge advises job seekers to limit work history to the past 15 years. “If you’re in Information Technology, stop at 10 years as the field changes so rapidly,” says Zambruski. “Not only will a hiring manager not read information that goes back decades, that data will invite age discrimination.”

A good habit to get into, even if you’re not actively looking for a new job, is to update your resume every time you have something noteworthy to report. Chairing a committee, winning an award, or hitting a sales or productivity milestone are all excellent additions to your resume—but if you don’t get the details down promptly, you’ll likely have forgotten them in six months’ time.

Error Free

It’s no secret that we think grammar matters; after all, we’re called Grammarly! It’s not just us, though; typos and other writing mistakes send a negative message to prospective employers. You may say that you’re an intelligent, detail-oriented worker, but your resume (and cover letter) need to back up your claim by being 100 percent error free.

In addition, make sure that your writing comes across as professional. You wouldn’t wear shorts and t-shirt to an interview, and you shouldn’t use abbreviations or slang on your application materials. This may seem like common sense, but according to this article from the New York Times, many employers find new hires to be lacking in basic writing skills. “It seems that some young employees are now guilty of the technological equivalent of wearing flip-flops: they are writing company e-mail as if they were texting cellphone messages with their thumbs,” writes Phyllis Korkki.

No one bats an eye if your text or tweet is grammatically incorrect (okay, we do, but we’re grammar geeks). However, the same laid-back approach to business writing is unprofessional at best. Put your best foot forward, and don’t forget to proofread!

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