9 Small, Powerful Ways to Update Your Resume

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When was the last time you did a full review of your resume? If you’re like many people, this document only gets an update when you switch jobs or apply for a new one. That’s understandable: A total overhaul sounds daunting and time-consuming. Fortunately, making a few tiny tweaks to your resume—the type of adjustments that take just minutes to complete—can have a surprisingly big impact.

Here are some suggestions for small yet powerful updates you can make to your resume.

1. Remove Old Positions

Have you been working off the same resume since you graduated college, and just tacking on new jobs? If you’re 10 to 15 years into your career (or more) it’s probably time to remove some entry-level roles. Read your resume from the bottom up, and consider deleting older positions that might not be so relevant anymore. Learn more about how many years of experience to include on your resume.

Estimated time: 30 minutes

2. Update Your Skills

Have you taken a class? Mastered a new program? Started giving presentations regularly? Take a look at your resume’s skills section and make sure you have listed all of your professional skills, both soft and hard. At the same time, consider removing some dated skills. If you’re still listing proficiency with Lotus Notes, you can probably delete it. And, some really basic skills (like Microsoft Office) often can be removed as well, since they’re assumed for most office roles.

Estimated time: 15 minutes

3. Check Your Keywords, Too

If you work in tech, you know the latest jargon and buzzy words can change in a flash. It’s Python one day, Ruby the next! But that’s really true for every industry—jargon changes, and with it, the words recruiters and applicant tracking software look for while scanning through your resume. Take a look at some job descriptions posted in your industry, then read through the experience and skills section of your resume to make sure you have all the necessary keywords listed. (See how to get your resume past an ATS.)

Estimated time: 30-45 minutes

4. Update the Formatting

Your resume doesn’t need to be visually arresting (unless you’re applying to be a designer or other art- or design-focused role). Still, design and formatting matter. Readability is important—that means using a standard font and plenty of white space. And while a resume template can be very helpful, you can also tweak it a bit so it doesn’t look exactly like all the other resumes the human resources department flips through. Here are some formatting updates you might want to make: 

Font: Update your font choice if the one you have is hard to read or ho-hum. 

Estimated time: 5 minutes

Replace paragraphs with bullet points: Or, if you already have bullet points, check that they’re concise. If they spill over to three lines, consider trimming the copy down to just two lines. Here’s more advice on writing job descriptions on your resume.

Estimated time: 1 hour

 Change all written out numbers to numerals: Not only will this give you more space, but it’s visually arresting. And, instead of writing out “percent” use the percentage symbol (%) instead.

Estimated time: 15 minutes

Apply consistent style: If one job title is in bold, all job titles need to be bolded. Make sure all your small formatting choices are consistent from top to bottom.

Estimated time: 15 minutes

Make sure there’s enough white space: In an effort to get everything on your resume, you may have sacrificed white space by decreasing the space between lines, shrinking your margins, or reducing your font size. Print it out, and make sure these adjustments haven’t made your resume a challenge to read and scan through.

Estimated time: 5 minutes

5. Remove Dated Phrases

If your resume includes the phrase “references available upon request” it sends a signal that you’re an older job seeker. Cut that phrase, and any mention of references, from your resume.

Estimated time: 5 minutes

6. Make Sure It’s Saved Correctly

Your filename should not be “resume”—you may only have one document on your computer with that name, but recruiters and hiring managers could have hundreds of documents with that filename. Instead, include your first and last name, along with the word “resume.” And, unless otherwise requested, it’s generally a good idea to send over resumes as a PDF—that way, all your careful formatting will be preserved. See more information on selecting a resume filename.

Estimated Time: 5 minutes

7. Refresh Contact Information If Necessary

While you’re at it, make sure your contact information on your resume is up to date—and that you’re using a professional email address for communications. (Consider setting up an email address devoted to your job search.)

Estimated Time: 5 minutes

8. Review the Top Half of Your Resume

A resume is a concise document (often, just a single page in length). That means every bullet point and word should be purposeful, supporting your candidacy. Still, it’s human nature for people to pay more attention to the beginning of the document than the end.

To that end, make sure the top portion of your resume reflects your best, most relevant experience. This may mean, in some cases, moving sections around. Once you’ve had several jobs, for instance, your education probably belongs at the bottom of the page, not the top. If your most recent position doesn’t display your most noteworthy skills and accomplishments, you may want to transition from a chronological to a functional resume.

Finally, if you lead with a summary, profile, headline, or objective at the top of your resume, make sure that the copy sounds current, doesn't have dull or cliched phrases, and is a good match for your industry and the job you'd like to have.

Estimated time: one hour

9. Proofread (Yes, again)

The space of time can make it easier to catch typos, grammar mistakes, and other small errors. Give your resume another proofread. This is a particularly good idea if you’ve just made many tweaks. Try reading it aloud and follow this proofreading checklist. Or, ask a friend or family member to review your resume.

Estimated time: 30 minutes