Spring is the season for cleaning up, clearing out and starting fresh. It's also a great time for job seekers to ramp up their search efforts and finally land the position of their dreams.
A new batch of college students will be graduating soon, which means that companies are seeking applicants for both entry-level jobs and the higher-level positions needed to supervise those new employees. If you want to compete, it's important to make sure your résumé is current when it comes to both personal information and style.
"The way job applications are searched and reviewed has changed over the years, and so has effective résumé layout," said Tonya Lain, regional vice president of Adecco Staffing. "Sections once thought of as must-haves, like objectives, aren't necessarily the most important or impressive part of your résumé. How you go about detailing your experiences — internships, part-time and full-time — and play up your strengths is likely what will separate you from the pile." [50 Job Interview Questions You Should Be Prepared to Answer]
Career experts offered their best tips for "spring cleaning" your résumé:
Consolidate your work experience
You may have numerous relevant accomplishments and skills from previous roles, but listing each of them on your résumé is only going to increase the time it takes for someone to read it — which could land your application in the trash.
"Hiring leaders do not have much time to evaluate you as it is, without reading a lengthy résumé with irrelevant information," said Gerald Buck, editor of career resource website eJobApplications.com. "Cut down length by integrating your accomplishments within the work-experience section. By consolidating content and avoiding repetition, your résumé will be more advantageous by keeping the message concise."
Shawnice Meador, director of career management and leadership development for The University of North Carolina's MBA@UNC program agreed, noting that it is no longer necessary to include every individual job responsibility in your work-experience section.
"Include a brief sentence about your scope of work, and follow it up with two to four bullets that effectively summarize your key accomplishments in that role," Meador told Business News Daily. "What are you most proud of? Can you measure your successes? Including a concise list of items like these keeps the reader interested. If they want to know more about your role, they can ask you during the interview process."
When deciding what information to keep or cut out of your résumé, it's a good idea to strike abstract traits and qualifications in favor of concrete, quantifiable results.
"The best résumés highlight a job candidate's actions and results," said Bob Myhal, CEO of recruiting platform NextHire. "Employers want employees who get things done, and who take great joy and pride in what they do. Rather than a laundry list of your qualifications, your résumé should reflect your accomplishments and enthusiasm for your career."
Keep it current
If you're more than 15 years into your career, it's likely that you have a lot of work experience with several different companies under your belt. While that yearlong first or second job may have taught you a lot about the field, it's not always necessary to include every detail from your entire career history.
"If an experience noted on your résumé is from prior to 2000, consider striking it," said Jane Trnka, executive director of the Career Development Center at Rollins College Crummer Graduate School of Business. "The skills listed are probably not the most relevant to the work you are currently doing, or plan to do in the future."
Here's yet another reason to not use generic, cookie-cutter job applications: Some companies have very specific instructions as to what they want to see in your résumé, cover letter and work samples. Failing to do what's been asked could mean an automatic "no" from employers.
"Candidates weed themselves out when they don't follow instructions," said Raj Sheth, CEO and co-founder ofapplicant tracking software Recruiterbox. "Attention to detail makes up a huge part of any résumé or job application because it shows that you care about your work and your reputation. Carefully read what the employer seeks in an application, and make sure yours matches up."
Attention to detail is also important when it comes to proofreading your résumé for grammatical and spelling errors, so be sure to take your time and review your entire application at least twice before sending it.
Highlight what makes you unique
Many companies now use applicant-tracking systems to scan résumés for keywords that specifically relate to the job. This ensures that hiring managers spend their valuable time reviewing only the most qualified applications. Tailoring your résumé's keywords to fit the position is crucial, but it's also important to make sure you stand out.
"Think of the job you're going after — what are the most basic skills needed?" said Pete Kazanjy, founder of recruiter search engine TalentBin. "Chances are that all other applicants also have them, so highlight traits that only you offer. This will help you showcase your uniqueness and go beyond the everyday résumé that employers receive, seriously boosting your chances of making it to the next round."