By Joanne Gehas, Ph.D.
People who are content in their current role and have no immediate plans to leave their employer ask why they should spend time and effort now on updating their résumé. Most people update their résumé only when under some type of stress, like a reduction in force, or if they’re still employed, when making a conscious choice to actively seek their next career move.
However, there are important reasons why you should take some time every 6 to 12 months to shake the cobwebs off your résumé and give it a fresh review:
- Updating your résumé regularly can help you focus on your career aspirations. Always focus your résumé on what you’d like to be doing in your next career move. For example, if your goal is to move into a management role from a scientific, nonmanagerial position, ensure your résumé doesn't solely highlight technical skills. Highlight the skills that add value to your next role. In this example, lead off your résumé with terms such as "project lead," or "team lead," instead of “scientist.” Adding action verbs that exemplify leadership will also help capture the attention of a future manager who's looking for people with these skills, for example, action verbs like "coordinated,” “organized,” or “spearheaded.”
- Updating your résumé will ensure you capture your most recent accomplishments. If you wait too long to revise your résumé, you might inadvertently forget important accomplishments that should be highlighted. Your résumé is not a place to be complacent about communicating how you have added value to a position over others in the same or similar role. It’s OK to boast a little about ways you added value to current and previous employers. Just ensure you provide some specific examples of your accomplishments, and add stronger action verbs (“streamlined,” “implemented,” “established,” etc.).
- Updating your résumé regularly can help expose potential gaps in your experience. If you haven’t reviewed your résumé in a few years, you can become complacent and overlook what specific areas of professional growth are important to you to move your career forward. Maybe now is the time to get that certification, take that short course, or work toward that other degree you have been considering.
- Updating your résumé regularly will help you become better at promoting yourself and your unique skills. Knowing how to sell yourself effectively is a key aspect to successful career growth. Ensuring your résumé is always up to date is essential so you will be ready to submit it to a hiring authority as soon as a promising career opportunity becomes available. While you are updating your résumé, think about how you personally added value in your current and past positions. Challenge yourself to not only list bullet points of your major responsibilities under each position (what anyone in that role would be expected to do), but ask yourself, "What are the one or two things I am most proud of accomplishing in this role?”
a. Did I volunteer to lead a team that solved a problem or improved a process?
b. Did I suggest an improvement for efficiency in my department that I implemented?
These are examples of accomplishments that should be listed separately from your responsibilities. Remember, the content of your résumé should focus on your potential value to your future employer. Listing only responsibilities under each position will generally not be enough to get your résumé noticed over others with similar background and experience. Think about using words and phrases that will differentiate you over others (”results-oriented” or “proven track record of success”). Resist the urge to use verbiage that sounds like everyone else (“team player,” “hard worker”).
- Don’t just continue to add on and on to your résumé. Your résumé should focus on your two to three most recent roles (or the most recent 5 to 10 years). Highlight how your responsibilities have changed over time with each new role or promotion. That said, now is also the time to reduce the focus on the positions that you held long ago (more than 10 years) and may no longer be reflective of your current strengths or career passions. Pare down the bullet points under earlier positions that no longer reflect the professional you are now. For example, instead of listing 10 bullet points under your first position after college or graduate school, only highlight a few. Doing this periodically will prevent your résumé from becoming that 5+ page novel.
- Make that first impression a positive one. Since your résumé is the first thing to cross the desk of a hiring manager, it becomes critically important for it to be as fine-tuned and focused as possible on your key strengths and the key strengths that will land you your next position. With multiple candidates always considered for each opportunity, assume that the recipient of your résumé will most likely quickly review only the first page before deciding whether to place it in a “reject file.” First impressions are vital! Most hiring professionals typically look at your résumé for only about 10 seconds before deciding whether to advance you to the next stage of the interview process.
- Proofreading is key. Content obviously is very important; however, you also need to ensure your résumé looks crisp and well-organized at first glance. Keep formatting and font consistent and easy to read. Make use of bullet points to showcase your talents and skills instead of full sentence paragraphs, which take a lot longer to review. Bullet points are more impactful and help hiring managers quickly grab key information that will help identify you as a good fit for their open opportunity. Don't rely on automatic spell checkers to ensure you have not misspelled a word. Nothing gets your résumé placed into a reject pile faster than not taking the time to check these things on your résumé.
- Take the next step.Take time now to invest in reviewing your résumé. Keep a laser focus on highlighting your accomplishments and skills for your next career move. This will surely show your future employer that you are indeed the goal-oriented candidate with a track record of success whose résumé should be the first they consider!
Joanne Gehas, Ph.D. has been a nationwide executive recruiter with FPC of Raleigh since 2005. Prior to that, she was a director of analytical with Cardinal Health (now Catalent Pharma Solutions).