Editor’s note: Juliana Weiss-Roessler (@weissroessler) is a freelance writer who frequently covers career advice and job hunting topics. She is also a professional resume editor.
It’s been years since you dusted off versions of any of your resumes, and suddenly you find yourself back on the job market. Where do you start, and how do you make yourself presentable again?
Here are 10 epic ways to edit your professional resume to perfection and get yourself back in the game.
1. Get Current – Now!
The best time to chronicle your most recent job is while you’re still in it. Why? Because the details will be fresh in your mind, and you’ll have access to information if you need it.
When you can, use facts and figures to back up your accomplishments. You didn’t just increase sales – you increased sales by 20% in the first month. You didn’t just manage accounts of industry leaders – you managed the accounts of Apple, Google, and Microsoft.
2. Get Rid of the Old
The longer you have been in the workforce, the more experience sludge you have probably accumulated at the end of your resumes. If it’s longer than two pages, it’s time to give it a trim.
Jobs that you held a decade ago or more can be removed entirely. If you feel they are important to show your qualifications, keep the description to one line, such as, “Coordinated a busy desk for two executives,” rather than detailing out each responsibility you handled.
3. Get Rid of the Irrelevant
That one summer you worked as a lifeguard? Probably not important to an employer looking for a new accountant. While you might be tempted to include everything you’ve ever done, you will be much better served by only featuring what is pertinent to that particular job opening.
But it’s not just irrelevant positions you should nix. Look for job responsibilities and accomplishments that don’t directly apply to your current career goals. Consider cutting or trimming them to draw more attention to experience that is applicable.
4. Keep It Consistent
Read your resumes aloud, and see what jumps out at you. Did you write full sentences for the first job description but then brief phrases for the next? Is one job written in past tense while another is in present? What about font and type sizes? Pick one style and stick to it.
5. Make Sure They Can Find You
Bring your resume up to 21st Century standards with keywords. Many employers aren’t willing to sift through resumes by hand, so instead they have a computer do it for them. They type in what they are looking for and the computer looks for a match.
That means it’s important to ensure that your professional resume contains the exact skills someone may need. It may seem obvious to you that an accountant needs to know Quicken, but if you don’t include it on your resume, you may not even be considered. A “Skills” heading is a great place to capture these keywords without bogging down your entire resume.
6. Use Bullets
Most resumes aren’t read; they’re skimmed. In fact, on average, recruiters spend just 6 seconds before deciding whether or not to consider you.
Hands down, the best edit you can make is to break up dense paragraphs into bullet points. Then consider the order. Put the most impressive accomplishments at the top, so they’re easy to find. You can even offset the ones you really want to draw attention to by putting them in bold.
7. Reconsider the Objective Statement
If you need a objective statement, it’s likely your resume isn’t quite working. It should be apparent by looking at your past positions or education what type of work you are qualified for.
The exception to this rule of thumb is when making a career change. You still want to make it as obvious as possible about the new direction you are headed, but a objective statement can help further nudge an employer in the right direction.
Never include a generic objective statement, such as, “Looking for a position with career growth opportunities where I can use my excellent communication skills.” It doesn’t tell employers anything beyond the obvious, and it just takes up space that could otherwise be spent showcasing your qualifications, skills, and talents.
8. Consider the Section Order
Many applicants make the mistake of listing their education at the top of the resume. This is great for recent grads, but for most other professionals, work experience should be front and center. The exception to the rule is for IT professionals who may want to consider including their specific skill sets at the top, such as programming languages and other technical areas of expertise.
Not sure if you’re including all the sections that you should? Consider using a resume builder to get you started. You may not need all the sections listed, but it will give you something to start from.
9. Give Yourself Praise
Sometimes it’s hard to “sell” yourself, so watch for a resume that’s all job responsibilities and no accomplishments. Don’t just tell future employers what you did, but also how it helped your current company. It’s great if it’s quantifiable, but it doesn’t have to be. Did you boost morale? Improve communication? What did you do to go above and beyond? Make sure your accomplishments include clear measurements.
10. Be Human
Giving a brief glimpse at your personality in your professional resume isn’t always a bad idea. Consider adding your soccer league under the Organizations heading. Or keeping that internship you had in Brazil even if it’s not quite relevant anymore.
Don’t do so at the expense of including your qualifications, but sometimes it’s breaking the rules that gets you noticed.
These tips, along with the general rule of thumb to keep it simple and not too long, should help get you back in the game, and with some luck, land you quickly and painlessly in a new job of your choosing.
Juliana Weiss-Roessler is a professional resume writer based in Southern California. She’s written hundreds of resumes and cover letters in a wide range of fields. You can learn more at WeissRoessler.com.