How’s your resumé these days? When was the last time you tweaked it? Heck, when was the last time you even looked at it? Do you even know what to include in a resume to make it a good one? Because most people don’t.
Even if you’re not leaving school and heading into the job market, have been downsized or are looking for the Next Big Job Opportunity, it’s important to keep an updated version in your files.
You never know when someone will ask for your resume — the local chamber of commerce, an industry group, conference organizers and so forth. Be prepared for success. Not only that, but a well-crafted, up-to-date resumé can be the basis for a short biography that you can provide on demand, with minor changes depending on the circumstances.
At the very least, it gives you the chance to remind yourself of what you’ve accomplished recently. We are often so buried in the day-to-day that it’s helpful to take a step back to gain a longer view, to appreciate all that we’ve done.
It’s a great pat on the back, if nothing else – a reminder of your own worth. That’s always good for the soul.
Here are some do’s and don’ts of writing (if you don’t have one) or revamping your resumé :
Resumé : Do this
• Update it once a month. You may have to weed out some old stuff, or condense it, but your primary goal is to keep up with your short-term achievements. Say you’ve led a new product development team to a successful conclusion, or you’ve taken some online training. Be sure that, and similar items, are included.
• Give it a sharp focus. Everything in it should be tailored to your specific purpose, whether it’s to get the job of a lifetime to provide information for your acceptance speech! That means, of course, that you may have to make adjustments to your basic resumé depending on the circumstances.
• Understand that your resumé has up to one minute to make an impression. Make it attractive without going over the top. It’s a resume, not a circus poster.
• Consider a format that is organized around your skills instead of a chronological listing of jobs you’ve held. This is a good strategy for new grads, people who have been out of the workforce for a while and those who are making huge shifts in their careers.
• Think in terms of your accomplishments and skill set rather than your job duties. This is particularly important if you are moving from one industry to another, where expertise in one field doesn’t easily translate to another.
• Proofread, spell-check and get others – preferably people who are not in your industry who can spot the mind-numbing jargon – to look it over. And then do it all again.
Resumé : Don’t do this
• Include an objective statement at the top. I’ve read hundreds of resumes during my career as a news executive and I’ve yet to see a good one. They all are variations of: “To use my superior skills at X to make lots of money for ABC Co.”
Well, duh. What else would an applicant say? “To goof around all day in such a fashion that no one will suspect I’m gold-bricking”?
I think it’s a waste of space – especially for mature workers who have lots of information to convey but only a couple of pages to do it in. But if you think you’ve got a killer objective statement, go for it and hope for the best.
• Tell the story of your life. Your resumé should be designed to get you an interview, not a tell-all book. Any details that need to be fleshed out can be done at the interview, at the request of the interviewer.
• Give highly personal information. That includes your height, weight, age, marital status, sex, ethnicity/race, health, sexual orientation, Social Security number, religious affiliation, salary, political party or anything else that could be considered controversial. And don’t let an interviewer ask, either, as some of these questions are illegal to ask. By the way, if someone asks you how much money you make, tell them it’s confidential.
• Use unprofessional e-mail address. email@example.com has no place in your resumé.
If you haven’t already done so, get your own domain name and a website hosting package that allows you to set up email addresses in that name. This is particularly important if you are in business (you DO have a website, right?), or you have lots of great experience. Showcase it!
• Include letters of reference, unless they’ve been specifically requested. Once you have someone’s permission to use them as a reference – always the first step – give their full contact information. What’s wrong with letters? Would you say something negative about someone in writing? I didn’t think so.
• Assume that the job you have today is the job you’ll have tomorrow. There are lots of people out there looking for work…and a well-crafted resumé may be the only thing that’s standing between you and the unemployment line.
P.S. Don’t kill outdated resumés. You may want to go back and mine details that fit a particular situation. I have close to 100 bios and old resumés saved on my computer and yes, they’ve come in handy.