How to Update Your Resume

It’s been a few years and you’ve decided to brush off your resume and start looking… what now?
Many job seekers will simply tack on their current job and send it out.  The problem with this is that your old resume might not be the best sales pitch for your current situation.

When you update your resume, you should reassess every bit of it.  Start by looking at the structure.

  1. Review the Structure – Did you have a functional or chronological structure last time?  Is this still the best choice?  The reasons you chose the structure may not be relevant today.  For example, if you used a functional structure, there’s a good chance you chose this structure because you were changing career fields and wanted to highlight your skills over your progression.  Hopefully, you’ve gained some valuable experience making your progression more impressive.  Switching to a chronological format would make sense in this situation.
  2. Add New Info – Write a description of your current job, along with accomplishments you want to highlight.  At this stage, don’t worry about where you put the information you write.  You may put skills or accomplishments in an executive summary, a skills section, an accomplishments section or somewhere else.  For now, just add it all to the work experience section.
  3. Prioritize Information – Identify the most important information that you want to highlight.  This is the content that best sells you.  The priorities will change over time.  Two factors will affect this – time and relevance.  As time passes, a very significant aspect of your background may lose importance.  For example, for a recent college graduate, their education is probably the most significant thing on their resume.  Ten or twenty years later, it’s still important, but not the top priority.  The relevance of something may also change.  As your career progresses, your responsibilities will change and the skills and accomplishments that demonstrate your potential to succeed in new roles will change. 
  4. Review the Structure Again – In step 1, you assessed the overall structure.  Now that we have the prioritization of information, it’s time to review the order of information.  Should your work experience go at the top, or your education?  Do you want to add/remove an executive summary?  How are you going to present your accomplishments?
  5. Add/Delete Information – Over time, you will want to trim down descriptions to make room for newer content.  Review everything on your resume and ask the question, is this important enough to keep?  This will help you avoid preserving information that has no importance to your current career.  For example, one job seeker I assessed was a senior executive with 30 years of experience.  At the bottom of his resume he listed several accomplishments from the start of his career, including being an Eagle Scout.  30 years ago, this was fine to include.  Today, it is almost comical…  in 30 years, I would hope you have accomplishments significant enough to displace this.
  6. Customize your resume – It’s unlikely you are pursuing the same job today that you were seeking the last time you sent out your resume.  Make sure you are highlighting the skills and experiences that are most relevant to your current search.  Are the skills you deemphasized before, skills that you now want to bring to the forefront?  For example, if you were in a technical role and have since moved into a leadership position, you may want to deemphasize your technical skills in favor of highlighting your leadership. 

Follow these six steps, and you will be well ahead of the majority of job seekers that only do Step 2 – pasting their newest info to the top of the work experience section.