By: Heather Kaiser, Certified Professional Resume Writer
Oh no! I need to update my resume!
We’ve all been there – sitting at your desk, having a normal work day and then you hear a whisper or two. You hear “layoffs, downsizing, new management” and panic sets in quickly. You’ve been at your job for a few years now and had a sense of security – until today. You want to get out ahead of the panic and update your resume, but how? What do you include? Can you remember everything you’ve done at your current job? Will you add too much and make your resume too long? Will you use too little keywords and too many buzzwords? Where do you begin?
The first thing you should do is take a deep breath. I’ve been the victim of just as many rounds of layoffs as I have survived. The unknown is unsettling, especially when you have a family to support. Updating your resume “just in case” is always a good idea when you hear those dark rumors spreading.
In my career as a professional in human resources and as a professional resume writer, I’ve seen resumes with eight words describing a 20-year job history and resumes that have four pages of run-on paragraphs describing a 10-year job history. I will tell you honestly that neither of these documents is effective in securing a job interview, which should be a key element of your thinking when updating your resume.
PRO TIP 1: the purpose of a resume is to secure an INTERVIEW, not land you a job.
Your resume is a snapshot of your career history, skills, and most importantly, ACHIEVEMENTS. Using the phrases “detail-oriented, self-starting, dynamic team player” will not help to get you noticed. Instead, use phrases that say you “Led a team of four peers in a special project designated by management that increased sales revenue by 30%.”
PRO TIP 2: Don’t ever say things like “My mother says that I’m a genius at organizing things.” Yes, we’ve seen that happen. You’d be surprised at some of the things people include in their resumes.
Ok, back to the helpful facts. You need to state simple, provable facts that showcase your awesomeness! Anything that is verifiable such as numbers, company names, titles, and dates need to be accurate. You must present facts, not fairy tales. Everyone can use creative writing to describe what they do and help their resume stand out from the pack. For example, if you’re an administrative assistant and your resume states you “Order supplies and answer phones,” you can instead create two separate tasks and say, “Generate office supply orders with third-party vendors” and “Reroute telephone inquiries to the appropriate staff member.” Creative writing does not mean you can embellish or flat out lie. The last thing you want to do is lie on your resume, get the job and then get fired because you can’t do what you said.
If you’re an entry-to-mid-level employee and do not have access to hard, provable facts in terms of your contribution to risk reduction or increases in revenue, you can simply use your latest employee evaluation as a guide to writing your resume. Generally, employee evaluations have positive comments directly from your manager about how your contributions helped the company, whether it’s your willingness to go the extra mile and take on special projects, always provide backup for a co-worker, or your reliability and work ethic. All these positive comments can be used in your resume.
Don’t be afraid to show off a little here, as this is your first impression on a potential employer. Noting your achievements or successful project results is what helps an employer visualize what you might do for them.
PRO TIP 3: It may seem like a no-brainer, but it is critical that you ensure that there are no typos. Spelling and grammar are the most common mistakes on a resume. And while they may seem insignificant, they are not. Just don’t do it. Use spell check but also read through your document to ensure it makes sense. Print it, put it aside for a few hours and go back and read it again, with fresh eyes. Ask a friend to look at it and make honest comments; the second set of eyes helps!
Did you know that the average recruiter spends about 30 seconds scanning resumes? THIRTY SECONDS. Make them count by grabbing their attention and using language that recruiters and employers want to hear and can search for, efficiently. Use searchable keywords like “lead, assist, manage” to describe your daily job tasks. It doesn’t matter if you’re in healthcare, foodservice, or construction, searchable keywords are essential in an effective resume because recruiters and their assistants use these keywords when trying to fill their open positions. It’s almost like using an internet search – you type in what you want to find and get hits. Recruiters do the same thing. They type in certain keywords related to positions they need to fill and get resumes in return. If your resume is filled with buzzwords instead of keywords your chances of coming up in a resume search are slim.
It is not easy writing your own resume, as it’s very difficult to be objective with yourself. A Certified Professional Resume Writer is very helpful as well; our only job is to help you look as good on paper as you are in person.