June 25, 2014

The State of Your Resume

Close up of man's hands holding resumeWhen was the last time you updated your resume?

Most people wait until they’re looking for a job to brush off their resume. Instead, start thinking of your resume as a living document, kind of like the U.S. Constitution, that should be regularly reviewed and revised.

While the basic information will stay the same—where you went to college, for example—the overall focus may shift as your career unfolds. “After each new project, update your resume while details are fresh in your mind, and it’s easy to explain what you accomplished or learned,” says Lisa Dickter, associate director for Career Consultants Carnegie Mellon’s Career and Professional Development Center. “Whenever you have something to add, do it as soon as possible. The point of a resume is citing your accomplishments and giving the specifics: what you did, and how you did it.”

Dickter’s advice reflects a growing trend in resumes to “show, not tell.” A few years ago, it was more common for a resume to begin with an objective (e.g., I’m a detailed-oriented, driven professional looking for my next challenge) and then list position titles and their associated job duties. Now, hiring managers are more interested in seeing a summary of skills at the top of the page and then an overview of your accomplishments and results for each place you worked.

If you’ve waited until you need a new resume, many of these specifics may have slipped your mind. Make a habit of updating the document every time you hit a major milestone on the job; that way you’ll always be prepared with an up-to-date resume that reflects your best work. You might also want to periodically check on resume writing trends to see if yours has become the equivalent of shoulder pads and mile-wide ties. Using keywords, for example, has become increasingly important in the age of recruitment software, and you need to have a basic understanding of how to include them in your resume if you want to get hired.

We live in a connected society where we expect to access information in real-time from a variety of devices. Unfortunately, that means your carefully laid out Microsoft Word document is already a relic of the past. If you haven’t already created a web-ready version of your resume, it’s time to do so. Hyperlinking to your portfolio or website has become common. Some people even include infographics and embedded video files in their digital resume. It’s up to you to decide how many digital bells and whistles are appropriate for you, but at the very least you should start sending out your resume as a PDF, which can be ready on many different platforms, instead of a Word document.

LinkedIn, of course, is the most popular platform for digitally hosted career information, and it’s a good idea to update the content there often—even if you’re happy with your current position. It’s a great place to network, raise your industry profile, and, yes, get recruited. However, be leery of slinging your personal information all over the Web. According to headhunting firm Robert Half, “While technology enables a far wider distribution of your resume than was possible before, you don’t want to invite excessive spam or other unwanted email by posting your resume too freely. Instead, focus on making sure your materials are posted where your target audience is most likely to see them.”

Finally, it’s a good idea to review your resume for typos and other writing errors. Even when reviewed by multiple eagle-eyed editors and proofreaders, bestselling novels still end up with embarrassing mistakes because the human mind is very, very good at mentally correcting them and then moving on. Careful re-reading often reveals mistakes that have been overlooked many times before, so always proofread the whole document, not just the part you changed, whenever you update your resume.

Read more in Resume

A self-proclaimed word nerd, Allison VanNest works with Grammarly to help perfect written English. Connect with Allie, the Grammarly team, and nearly FIVE MILLION Grammarly Facebook fans at www.facebook.com/grammarly.
Google+ Profile