New Year, New You: Guide to Taking Your Résumé Up a Notch

Business.com / Careers / Last Modified: February 22, 2017

You probably don't need a complete resume overhaul, but some quick changes can make a big impact. Here are 10 ways to update it now.

A résumé is, first and foremost, a marketing document. It's not supposed to be your entire life history, and it doesn't include bad things, just good.

Remember marketing. Would Coca-Cola make a commercial that highlighted the sugar content of its flagship product? No? Then don't put negative things on your résumé either.

You probably don't need a complete overhaul, but you could bump it up a notch or two. Here are ten ideas to turn your résumé from good to great.

Related Article: Quick Tips to Improve Your Résumé in Just 5 Minutes

Ditch the Objective

No one wants to work at a corrupt company that abuses its employees and offers no chance for growth, so saying the opposite is just wasting space. 

Add Bullets

Did you know that most recruiters spend less than a minute on each résumé before deciding whether to pursue it or reject it? This means that they aren't reading every line. They are looking at it quickly. Bullets separate out your achievements and make them easier to spot. 

Run It Through Grammarly

Everyone tells you to have a human proofread your résumé and you should, but also have a computer proofread it. Why? It will catch things that your spouse or best friend won't. You don't have to follow all of its suggestions, of course, but you'll be rejecting them as an informed person.

Add in Some Numbers

Did you have budgetary responsibilities? For how much money? Yes, it matters. How many people did you directly supervise? Three is a lot different than thirty. A $3 million budget is a heck of a lot different than a $10,000 budget. Numbers tell a lot without taking up precious space.

Go to That Second Page

If you're a new grad, ignore this advice. You haven't done enough to go to a second page. If you've been in the workforce for a while, go ahead and add that second page. Give more details about what you've accomplished.

Delete That Third Page

Unless you're in academia or a few other places where publications are important, no one needs a third page. Drop that job from 1982. Get rid of the fact that you can use Internet Explorer and Microsoft Word. Narrow it down to a two-page maximum.

Move Education to the End

Only new grads put their education first. Why? Because it's the most important thing. Now, if you've got a degree in Philosophy and have been working at Starbucks for the past two years, your education is still first because that's the most important thing. But, if you've been working in any professional capacity or anything related to your field, that goes first. What you've done is far more important than your degree.

Get Rid of Those Job Description Bullet Points 

Most résumés are interchangeable with job descriptions. That doesn't show how fabulous you are. Instead, focus on accomplishments. Don't write: Handled all escalated client complaints. 

Instead, write: Decreased response time for client complaints by 25 percent. Created new guidelines for customer service reps, which resulted in a 5 percent decrease in escalated calls. What did you do that was smarter, better, and more effective than other people? Focus on that.

Sure, you'll have to include some of the boring stuff because not everything you do is life changing, but the focus is on what you accomplished, not what the next person in the job will need to do.

Get Rid of the Fancy Formatting 

Sure, if you're a graphic designer, it might be good to have a résumé that highlights your skills, but otherwise, keep it simple. Name at the top. Jobs in reverse chronological order. Bullet points. Education at the end. Ta-da! Finished. Don't worry about font choices, or using arrows instead of dots as your bullet points. No good manager cares one whit. Bad managers and bad recruiters might care, but you don't' want to work for them. 

Translate Your Titles

If you worked for a company that was in one of those "cool" title phases, you (unfortunately) have to keep that title because when the recruiter does the background check, your previous company will identify you as that. But, put the title people will recognize in parentheses. So, like this: Happiness Coordinator (Team Lead): July 2009 to September 2014. Alpha Corp Community Rockstar (Public Relations Specialist): September 2014 to Present. When you do this, it helps the recruiter and hiring manager know what your experience was.

Related Article: Who Are You Hiring? The Shocking Cost of Résumé Fraud

None of these changes take a huge amount of time, but they can be the difference between a quick reject and a, "Let's look at this more closely." You need to pass that first quick reject look (remember, recruiters these days are looking for reasons to reject rather than reasons to hire, as they generally get far more applicants than they can reasonably interview). 

One question that often comes up is if you have to put down that three-month stint where you got fired. This is a marketing document, so no, you don't. But, if they have you fill out an application that asks for "all" positions held, you'll need to put it on the application.

Additionally, a gap in your work experience can look worse than having to explain that you were fired, so think about that before you leave it off.

Happy job hunting!

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