How to Update Your Resume: 8 Key Areas to Focus On

The key to landing the job of your dreams is a great resume. Standing out from the competition means telling a compelling professional story that includes your accomplishments and skills and what makes you unique. Is your resume telling the right story or is it outdated and gathering dust? If it’s been a while since you updated it, there’s no better time than the present.

It doesn’t matter where you are in your career or job search. It’s important to have a killer resume at your fingertips that’s ready to send off at a moment’s notice. This could make all the difference in landing your dream job.

Here’s a checklist  to help you spot problems and update key parts of your resume. Go through all eight points and make sure your resume is the best possible representation of your experience and skills.

Your resume’s design and structure: keep it simple and easy to read

Employers and recruiters are combing through hundreds of resumes. If yours is long and cluttered or in a difficult-to-read font, chances of it landing in the ‘no’ pile are very good. A hiring manager should be able to get a sense of who you are and your experience with a quick scan of your resume which means it must be concise, succinct and precise. Avoid long chunks of text—bullet points and short sentences create a pleasing sense of white space, and a call-out box or two ensure your narrative doesn’t get monotonous. Choose a simple font and stick with it. Trying to get too fancy just makes it feel cluttered and outdated.

Keyword use: make strategic word choices to ace the ATS

You’ve heard the advice about keywords in your resume, but how do you know you’re using the right ones? Using industry-specific terms throughout your resume is important, but tailoring it to each position you apply for is crucial. Pull relevant keywords from each job description and place them as naturally as possible. If there are responsibilities or skills that are mentioned often, make sure you find a way to use similar words in your resume. This will instantly catch the eye of a hiring manager. Plus, if the company is using an automated system, it will also ensure your resume will make it through the ATS.

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Make it scannable: use a headline, objective, or summary to tell your story

Can someone understand your professional brand within 10 or 15 seconds of looking at your resume? That should be your goal, and a headline, objective statement, or summary will help you do that. Many resume experts suggest a punchy headline, a short phrase that describes your career goals, achievements or something unique to your career story. For example, if you are a Marketing Coordinator, your headline could read: “Marketing Coordinator | To-Do List Master | Team Player.” You can also write a short objective statement at the top, but keep it to two lines or less. Everyone who glances at your resume will learn not only what you do, but they’ll also gain a bit of context about what it’s like to work with you.

Skills summary: relate your core competencies to the job at hand

A recruiter shouldn’t have to search to find out what you’re good at. Your resume should include a list of relevant skills and competencies, and that list should relate directly to the job you’re applying for. Using a Skills Section draws immediate attention to them and offers a quick but clear snapshot of what you bring to the table. Sometimes this short read will provide them with enough insight to move you on to the next round.

Describing your experience: show what you achieved

It’s important to highlight your tasks and responsibilities in your experience section, but hiring managers are most interested in what you’ve been able to get done in your work. How has your work impacted former employers in a positive way? What data can you share to back up your achievements? Job duties only get you so far. Hiring managers are looking for people to solve their problems and to bring results. So when you update your resume, refocus your experience on your top accomplishments and specific achievements to show the value you bring to the table.

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Support your resume with an online presence

Keeping your resume short and to the point is essential, and linking to an online portfolio offers you another way to expand on your professional experience, show off past projects, and include more ways for a recruiter to get to know you. You should showcase your most successful work, relevant awards, industry references, work samples, and volunteer experience. Also, don’t be scared to show your personality: information like hobbies, interests, or stories from your travels show your human side and why you’d be a fun person to work with. Finally, don’t be overwhelmed by the idea of setting up your own website to house a portfolio. There are plenty of tools to help you do this more easily, and you can also flesh out your LinkedIn profile to accomplish these goals. 

Looks matter: share a PDF resume, or make sure it’s responsive

Gone are the days when employers print out your resume or read it exclusively on a computer. In fact, the odds that they’ll be scrolling through it on their phone in between meetings is probably very good. No matter how they read it, it should display clearly, quickly and legibly. Exporting it as a PDF is your best option, and don’t forget to pull it up on a computer, tablet, and phone to make sure that it looks compelling and appealing in every way.

Final check: grammar, spelling, and other essentials

No matter how impressive your resume looks, even one typo or grammatical error will undermine your entire document. If you share a resume that looks like it hasn’t been edited, recruiters will question your attention to detail. Don’t let a silly mistake ruin your chances of getting called in for an interview. So use an online grammar tool and ask someone else to read through your resume for grammar, spelling, and readability. A fresh pair of eyes will always pick up a detail that you didn’t notice.

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One final piece of advice: set a goal to review and update your resume every six months or so. When you let it go too long, it will be harder to update and freshen things up years later. Also, keeping consistent track of your achievements and where you’ve made an impact at work will allow you to make your resume into a living, breathing document that will produce a better resume and save you from scrambling at the last minute. A strong, compelling resume is the key to being ready for new opportunities whenever they present themselves.