New Year, New Résumé, New Job = Happiness!
A friend called me in a panic last week because she wanted to apply to a job opening she found that closed the next day. She asked me to help write her résumé, cover letter, and LinkedIn profile.
I discovered that her résumé and cover letter had not been updated in 10 years, her LinkedIn profile did not have a professional photograph or summary, and it only listed her job from 10 years ago! The résumé and cover letter formats were outdated, not accomplishment-driven, and not written to address the needs of the employer to make it EASY for them to hire her.
This is what I call a REACTIVE approach, rather than a PROACTIVE approach. I convinced my friend that it would be a better strategy to take the time to do it right than to throw something together and end up with a poor quality product that would not even be optimized to make it past the first gatekeeper—the applicant tracking system.
This situation can EASILY be avoided when you make it a habit to keep your résumé updated. The beginning of the New Year is the perfect time! Here are some tips to make this an easy, efficient process.
Add and Replace Information
Updating your résumé does not just mean adding your latest job. In today’s highly competitive job market, your résumé needs to convey exactly how you can solve the employer’s problem…and quickly!
- Pre-qualify yourself to ensure it is worth your time to apply to the position.
- Most résumés only need to include the past 10 years of work experience.
- Delete outdated and irrelevant information.
- Keyword-optimize to get past the 6 potential audiences.
- Add new responsibilities and accomplishments.
- Add new certifications or training.
- Add volunteer roles, if they are relevant, to help you score more points. Experience counts, even if it is unpaid.
- Add new patents, professional affiliations, and publications.
- Keep your résumé short, succinct, and relevant to the job announcement.
- Carefully select (and regularly update) your references to create an alliance of support. Be sure to inform them of your job search.
You may find it difficult to eliminate information. Sometimes, there is an emotional attachment to the information. You could have noteworthy accomplishments from 15-20 years ago that you believe will help tell your story. However, if the accomplishments are not relevant to a particular job posting, it can detract from your overall presentation.
Put yourself in the place of the hiring manager whose responsibility it is to find the BEST candidate that has experience and can perform the duties of the job. Would you interview (or hire) a candidate whose most compelling accomplishments were a decade or two old?
Hiring managers want to know what you have done recently and how that transfers to their requirements in a candidate. They want to know what you can do for them. Enhance your résumé with current accomplishments and avoid the ancient ones. There are other places you can tell those parts of your story.
Keep a File of Your Accomplishments
Hopefully you are doing this already and you will be able to easily update your résumé with accomplishments from your file. If you are not doing this, now is a great time to start! Get in the habit of recording special projects, important accomplishments, new responsibilities, new certifications, and enhanced skills while they are fresh in your mind. When “push comes to shove” or in this case, fingers to keyboard, you very well might contract a terrible case of writer’s block and you won’t be able to account for all of your successes and contributions or remember all of the important details.
Try to document as many qualitative facts as possible – before and after figures; dollar amounts you have saved the organization; processes you have improved, number of people you trained, and so forth.
Keep a folder for accomplishments in your file cabinet, and even a Word document with the information to easily recall when you need it. Memories fade over time—if you try and recall information from the past year, you will likely forget important details.
Rewrite Your Summary
Does your résumé begin with a compelling summary paragraph that is about what you can do for the employer? If not, it should. Write a 4-6 line paragraph that draws in the reader by demonstrating your highest relevant accomplishments. You want to make the reader/employer think: “He/She is the perfect candidate. I need to interview this person!”
Think of this paragraph as a very short story summarizing the best you have done and the great value you can offer a new employer. If you are using this résumé to apply to a specific position, customize this paragraph to match the requirements in the job announcement. Keep it short, convincing, and relevant.
Describe Accomplishments More Than Duties
Does your résumé discuss job duties more than accomplishments? If so, plan on a heavy editing session. It is important to summarize your job duties and responsibilities, but it is far more important to describe your accomplishments. Hiring managers want examples of what you have done—concrete contributions to improve organizational performance. The summary of your duties and responsibilities exists to provide a context for your accomplishments.
Customize Before You Apply
Having a current, updated résumé will get you to 90%+ prepared for opportunities that may come your way. However, before you apply to a specific position, be sure to make that last 10% effort to customize your résumé so that it is targeted to the needs of the employer listed in the job announcement. Every résumé you submit should be unique to the job announcement for maximum effectiveness.
It’s a New Year! Create a new résumé and begin your path to a new job!
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"New Year, New Résumé, New Job = Happiness!"
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