It’s that time of year again: time to update your resume. If you read our post on keeping your resume updated, you know you should be updating your resume at least twice a year.
But what if you haven’t been? And what if you realize you need to do it now, but you’re pressed for time, are applying to lots of different jobs, and need to give your resume a quick facelift?
When you don’t have hours to dedicate to updating your resume, grab a cup of coffee and go through this checklist. It won’t be as thorough as a complete revamp, but it’ll keep your resume fresher longer, and you’ll promise to do a real update in a few months. Right?
Check for Anything Outdated or No Longer Relevant
You might be surprised how much has changed since your last update. Have you gotten married? Moved? Gotten older? Updating your name and address (if you use one) might seem like a no-brainer, but not everyone thinks about aging. If you’re 40 or older, it’s probably time to move your college graduation year from your resume and LinkedIn profile. Don’t give recruiters an opportunity to dump you before even talking to you.
Also, scan for triggering keywords or ideas. In our age of lightning-fast news, it shouldn’t be too hard to keep abreast of new taboos or social no-nos. If you spot these in your resume, strike them out. For example, many people now prefer gender-neutral language. In this case, “actress” becomes “actor,” “salesman” becomes “salesperson,” etc. Also look for terms that have been updated in our social consciousness: “waiter” becomes “server,” “stewardess” becomes “flight attendant”. Even if these things are not super important to you, it may be important to the recruiter or hiring manager. You don’t want to lose an interview because someone was inadvertently offended or thought you might not be a good fit for a team.
Review for Readability and Grammar Mistakes
Run your resume through a reader like Grammarly and find missed commas, subject-verb disagreement, things like that–anything that could cause a recruiter to roll their eyes and pass on your resume without talking to you. Remember: your resume is an application for an interview. It’s not an application for a job. You want to get the recruiter’s attention–but not in a negative way! So make sure your language is crisp, clear, and concise.
Look for Power Words and Statements that Matter
The classic advice is to start sentences with verbs–tell the recruiter and hiring manager what you did. But the 1% advice, the advice that will take your resume to the top, is not just showing what you did but what results you achieved for your business. Sometimes this is easy, especially for mid-career workers and management folks. But sometimes it’s difficult. Retail workers, for example, might not have a lot of creative ways to say, “I worked the cash register and dealt with screaming customers over the holiday.” And let’s be honest–if you try to be overly fancy here and say things like, “Expedited customer transactions while managing expectations and delivering customer solutions,” you’ll probably earn the eye-roll, and that’s not what we want.
So avoid BS at all costs. (That goes for you, too, business manager-person who likes to use the words “utilize” and “leverage” for no particular reason)
But that doesn’t mean you can’t supercharge your resume with strong words. If any of your bullets begin with words like, “Helped,” “Assisted,” “Supported,” “Ran,” “Considered,” etc., cross those out and think about more powerful ways to express the same idea. What did you improve? What skill did you contribute? How was your input unique? What did you do that kept the machine rolling?
Even if you’re “just” a cashier, you’re an essential part of the business. Did you have the most days of your register tallies coming out exactly right? Were you working the floor the day you met 110% of your daily sales goal? Including bits like this demonstrates that you knew what your goals were and you cared about them. Maybe working the register doesn’t sound impressive. But showing that you know your role, you understand the business, and you take the work seriously counts for a lot.
Powerful words are words that indicate change. Words like “helped” and “supported” don’t point an arrow toward the future; they reek of the present. Businesses are always looking to move forward, and they want to understand how you can help them do that. So words that indicate change or advancement are great. Consider words like:
All of these words suggest a change—hopefully for the better!
As you work your way through your resume, always ask yourself the following questions:
Is this accurate?
Does it make sense?
Am I showing my value to the business?
Does it indicate a change?
The more you work on your resume, the easier it will get. All of us fall behind, but try to keep your resume up to date so that when that opportunity comes knocking, you’re ready.