Does Your Resume Need a Face-Lift?

by Knight, Jeanne Wednesday, June 13, 2007
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While aging gracefully may be an admirable quality for most people, it unfortunately, cannot be applied to resumes. The passage of time and inattention can lead to a resume that's out of date, inconsistent with your career goals, and fails to market you to its fullest potential.

So, regular maintenance is critical to your resume's success, and ultimately, your overall career success. In fact, most experts recommend updating your resume from once a year to as frequently as every six months. As distasteful as this may sound (and, believe me, you wouldn't be alone!) there are a number good reasons to make a resume evaluation and update a priority on your to-do list:

1. THE DREADED L-WORD IS MAKING THE ROUNDS AT THE WATER COOLER

Layoffs. They've been occurring over the last several years and continue to be many employers' way of meeting the bottom line. Unfortunately, downsizing decisions are often based more on dollars and cents than the quality of the employees being let go.

It may seem harsh, but you don't want to count on company loyalty or performance excellence to spare you if signs are pointing toward layoffs in your firm. So make a point of updating your resume while you're still employed and feeling confident in your skills and accomplishments. That way, you'll be prepared for the worst case scenario should it occur.

2. YOU'RE STARTING TO WATCH THE CLOCK

If you're unhappy in your job and wondering if it's time leave, it's best to update your resume now before your dissatisfaction becomes too great.

Over time, boredom or frustration at work can lead to severely diminished confidence in your own skills and performance. To attempt a resume update when questioning your own worth, even subconsciously, could result in a document sure to undersell you.

So beat boredom to the punch. If you're starting to wonder if the grass might be greener elsewhere, don't hesitate to update your resume to reflect your skills and accomplishments while your self-confidence is still high.

3. YOU'VE EARNED BRAGGING RIGHTS

Employers aren't simply looking for candidates who can do a job. They're looking for candidates who will excel at that job.

So if you've recently completed a significant accomplishment, now is the time to feature it on your resume. Whether you've received an official recognition, completed a relevant training, carried out a large project, or overcome a major challenge, including your achievements in your resume will show potential employers that a job description is more than a checklist to you; it is a springboard for initiative and success.

Above all, make sure to update your resume while details of your accomplishments are still fresh in your mind. Don't allow the passage of time and its companion, fading memory, to steal your thunder.

4. WHEN OPPORTUNITY KNOCKS, IT OFTEN DEMANDS A QUICK TURNAROUND

Employers usually don't have the luxury of a long, leisurely search for the perfect candidate to fill a newly vacant position, as the work the position requires doesn't stop with the departure of the person who occupied it. Consequently, rapid application deadlines are often attached to new job opportunities.

Avoid the undue stress and lackluster results that rushing to update your resume could cause. Update your resume when you can do so thoughtfully and at a reasonable pace. Then make sure it's easily accessible, and in all the right formats, so you can swiftly seize opportunities as they arise.

5. YOUR RESUME IS OLDER THAN THE PERSON INTERVIEWING YOU

Okay, that may be a slight exaggeration. But if you haven't updated your resume in a while, chances are it's displaying some tell-tale signs of neglect. So, blow off the dust, break out the red pen and start editing:

  • If your career spans more than a decade, it's time to bid adieu to any references to your sorority days or to that first job out of college and focus on more recent experiences that reflect your current career goals. Companies are typically interested in what you've accomplished in the last 10-15 years, so focus on that timeframe. And be selective about what you include - information that may have helped you land your last position might not be relevant enough to help you land your next job.

  • Make sure your resume includes technology and industry key words that are relevant to today's market. As well, you'll want to eliminate any references to outdated skills or industry terminology, especially in the area of technology. Unless you invented BASIC, it shouldn't be included on your resume.

  • Things that were once resume "do's," like references to hobbies and personal interests, are now absolute "don'ts" and should be removed. In fact, including information that was once standard resume fare, such as age, marital status, and health, could actually hurt your candidacy.

  • And, finally, by all means make sure that your contact information is current. Nothing will turn a potential employer off quicker than discovering the phone number you supplied is out of service or your email address is undeliverable.
Whether your resume is in need of a little tweaking or a complete overhaul, make a point to tackle it. Then promise yourself that you will give this portrait of your professional self the attention it deserves with yearly (or more frequent) tune-ups. When a new opportunity arises or a development in your current position necessitates change, you will be prepared with a resume that communicates a complete, up-to-date representation of your skills, expertise and accomplishments and showcases your value to a potential employer.