An updated resume is essential, whether you’re a first-time job seeker, you’ve been laid off, or you’re employed but on the lookout for a better position. This is especially true in this shaky economic climate, where jobs are more scarce than they have been in decades. When a position opens up or you hear about an interesting new gig, you must be ready to jump for the job with an updated resume in hand.
At the top of your resume, under the header that includes your name, address and other contact information, write a paragraph describing your objectives in clear, concise language that includes the specific position you’re applying for.
Under your objectives, create a personal branding statement. This should consist of one sentence that demonstrates what sets you apart from the rest of the applicants. It should convey who you are, what you excel in and the benefits you have brought to your employers in quantitative language (money, percentages or time gained or saved).
Here’s an example of a personal branding statement: “Professional journalist with 35 years in the newspaper industry and a thorough knowledge of city desk and copy desk processes, who has lead a team of writers to more than 20 AP awards and a team of graphic artists and copy editors to more than 15 design awards over the past decade.”
The next item on your resume should be a summary of qualifications that emphasizes how you will benefit your potential employer. Include specific achievements that focus on how those achievements helped your current or past company save or make money. Go ahead, brag!
Do some research on your own strengths and on the needs of the company. For example, talk to friends and colleagues about your strong points. Find correlations between your attributes and the skills required for the new job you're seeking.
Use testimonials and endorsements. Keep them brief, include the name and title of the person you’re quoting, along with their professional affiliation and contact information. Include these endorsements directly under your summary of qualifications.
Next, add a keyword summary, a list of industry buzzwords that are included in your resume and are specific to the position that you are applying for. Many employers use computer programs to identify keywords and flag resumes to further consideration.
Don’t forget to use these popular keywords: “problem-solving,” “leadership” and “oral and written communication.” Use common industry acronyms in addition to spelling out common abbreviations.
The more keywords your document contains, the more likely it will rank highly in “keyword density,” and the more likely you will be called for an interview.
Add this keyword summary, which should consist of only one paragraph, after the summary of your qualifications and testimonials, but before your job history.
Even if your resume is not computer scanned for keywords, the person who reads it will take note of a keyword summary and scan it for the words that identify the qualities, skills and experience required for the position you’ve applied for.
Last, but certainly not least, detail your experience, your job history and other significant and relevant accomplishments. Close with a brief statement of your education, including the date you received your degree.
Consider the formatting that will work best for you. You can list this information in chronological order, from current or most recent to earliest (this is the most common method), but it may not be the best way to highlight your qualifications.
You can also choose to group your accomplishments by type, such as administrative experience, computer skills, and awards and honors. List the most relevant skills first and the least important last. This type of format is best if you are changing careers or if you have gaps in your employment history.
Make sure that you focus on your achievements. Don’t bury them in a list of duties and responsibilities. Quantify the results of your achievements using specific figures, dollar amounts and percentages. Convince your potential employer that you will be an asset to the company.
Do not include employment or other experience that is more than 15 years old. Limit the resume's length to no more than two pages.
Proofread and edit. It only takes one mistake, noticed by your potential employer, to kick your resume out of the "to-call" pile.
Be consistent with dates, acronyms and style.
Now that your resume is up to date, don’t just submit or post it online and wait. Cultivate contacts through your networks and social networking sites. Start tweeting on Twitter, update your Facebook page, and participate in industry forums and blogs in a professional way.
Once your resume is updated, work to keep it updated.
Keep up with current trends for resumes and online profiles.
Keep a notebook of performance reviews, reports, emails, achievements and a list of updated goals, which can help you update your resume.
Ask for critiques and feedback of your resume from colleagues and friends.
Do not use the words, “I," “He” or “She” in a resume. Start each sentence with a verb. For example: “Performed consistently beyond supervisor’s expectations, resulting in highest performance review in department for four consecutive reviews.”
If you have a gap between jobs, fill it in with projects that you worked on or training that you completed during your time off.
If you’ve been laid off, be honest about it. Don’t claim work at a company if you no longer work there.
Don’t exclude a job from your employment history, no matter how briefly you worked there. You don't need to explain the reason for your departure in the resume, but you should be prepared to discuss it during an interview.
Never include any mention of demotion on your resume.
If you’ve worked for one company for a long time, detail your movement within that company by listing all of the positions you’ve held there, and all of your accomplishments.
If you’re a recent college graduate or have little work experience, include internships and volunteer positions that you’ve held. You can also include information about any groups or organizations that you’ve been involved with, and any classes or training that you’ve completed.