How to Update Your Resume: 5 Tips for Professionals

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Sharon Wilfong
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In addition to her work covering bootcamps, technology, and careers for BestColleges, Sharon Wilfong focuses on SaaS, marketing, media production, education, and lifestyle content. She's also an award-winning screenwriter, memoir writer, and poet. ...
Published on November 4, 2021
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  • Use a pre-formatted template to make putting together your resume more efficient.
  • Identify target keywords from the employer's job post and customize your resume.
  • Remove outdated information and keep contact information up to date.
  • Add relevant skills and accomplishments, including education, awards, and employment.

Maintaining an updated resume is essential — whether you are a recent graduate, a veteran job hunter who recently became unemployed, or someone looking to make a career change. Moreover, statistics show 63% of recruiters look for resumes that reflect details related to the company's job post.

While you may not need to revise your resume for each job you apply for, it's important to know the skills and competencies employers typically require. Look for terms and qualifications that repeatedly appear in job postings that interest you. Then, as you make updates, be sure your resume reflects your capabilities within that industry.

A resume and cover letter are your calling card to future employers. Make sure your resume reflects your qualifications. And use your cover letter to address specific information outlined in the job posting.

The following resume-writing tips can help increase your chances of landing an interview.

5 Essential Tips for Updating Your Resume

Learn how to update your resume format and design. Identify target keywords, get rid of outdated information, update your contact information, and add relevant details.

1. Tweak the Design and Formatting

You can use a resume template to visualize a new design and format. Templates are easy to customize and help make your resume easy to read. Resume templates work well for college students and recent graduates with little employment history, professionals, and people wanting to change careers.

A reverse chronological template (from most recent to oldest) may be best if you're searching for new work in your current field, though functional and skills-based resumes can be used to illustrate skills for certain types of work. If you're switching careers, a combination of these approaches might be the best option.

2. Identify Target Keywords

Implementing target words, also known as keywords, can help improve your resume. Many employers use an applicant tracking system (ATS) that scans resumes for target keywords. Look for these words and phrases in the employer's job description or on the company's website. Then, incorporate them into your resume.

Add target keywords to your professional summary and skills as you update your resume sections. For example, Python is a keyword you may find in the skills section for someone seeking a tech job. Some action words you may want to use in your resume summary include "led," "managed," and "redesigned."

3. Remove Dated Phrases and Information

Perhaps one of the most useful resume-writing tips for professionals is to drop the objective statement. Remove outdated jargon like "motivated," "hard-working," and "self-starter" — those terms are vague. Instead, use a professional summary to highlight targeted keywords.

Additionally, don't include an employment history that extends decades back. That said, if you're a career changer and have been with the same employer for more than 7-10 years, you might want to include another employer to emphasize your robust work history.

Also, consider deleting positions and education in unrelated industries.

Lastly, remove mentions of references and use the space to highlight your skills and experience. References should be in a separate document and offered only when requested by the employer.

4. Refresh Contact and Personal Information

Be sure to review your personal and contact information. For example, delete any mentions regarding children, marital status, or other personal data. A resume should focus on work.

Make sure your phone number and email address are current, too. An email address is essential but should be professional — even better if the email address contains your full name.

5. Add Relevant Skills and Accomplishments

Employers typically prioritize candidates who have a balance of technical and interpersonal skills. It's essential to update your skills, proficiencies, and accomplishments that are most relevant to the position. Give examples of soft skills that illustrate verbal and written communication and work ethic.

You should also include industry-specific hard skills, such as computer programming and software development. If you have a proficiency, highlight it with a certificate or other achievement. Don't use examples you can't verify or discuss in an interview.

How to Explain Employment Gaps on a Resume

An employment gap is probably the most uncomfortable thing to address when you're applying for a job. Still, it's best to describe any gaps in your professional career. Hiring managers are usually more interested in how you handled that time rather than the exact reason for the gap in employment.

While you may address gaps in your employment history directly on your resume, a cover letter may be a better place to explain the reasons behind your period of unemployment. A cover letter allows more space to detail your employment gap and talk about how you used this time to your advantage.

Explaining employment gaps demonstrate to an employer that you're trustworthy. When you get into the details, make sure you focus on positives rather than any negatives.

Here are some examples of employment gaps and how to address them.

If You Were Laid Off

If you were laid off, be honest about it. Most employers will understand if you were let go as a result of downsizing. The most important thing is to take your share of responsibility, if any, and clarify the situation upfront.

If You Were Terminated

Stick to the facts, and don't get defensive. The important thing is to own and acknowledge what happened and note what you've learned from the experience.

Due to Personal Reasons

You don't have to go into great depth about personal reasons. Give a brief explanation, and reassure the employer you're currently ready to work.

Due to Caretaking Needs

Employers generally understand when you have to take time off to care for a loved one. Explain the situation and how it was resolved.

As a Consequence of COVID-19

Briefly explain that you were one of the thousands of people who lost their jobs because of COVID-19. The most important thing is to project a positive attitude.

Frequently Asked Questions About Updating Your Resume

How often should you update your resume?

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It's important to update your resume when you take on new responsibilities, get promoted, earn a degree, or learn an industry-specific skill. Additionally, update it when you move or get a new phone number or email address.

Periodically review your resume -- at least once a year -- to ensure it's current. Updating the format and design will help keep it fresh. It'll also be easier to prepare when you're searching for work.

If you're looking for employment, check your resume to ensure your experience fits the job description. Scan the job listing and employer website for target keywords. You might want to update your resume to address specifics in the listing.

Should you put your LinkedIn profile URL on your resume?

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Yes. Most hiring managers look at your LinkedIn profile. Adding the URL to your resume makes their job easier. It also allows you to add endorsements and recommendations, images, and links to projects and websites.

Make sure the dates and information match with and expand on the information in your resume. In other words, proofread and polish it before you add the URL to your resume. A good tip is to include your private URL on your resume.

You can personalize your LinkedIn profile to stand out. Think of it as an opportunity for personal branding, and customize it to make it easy to remember. Once it's ready, add your LinkedIn profile URL as a hyperlink in the resume's contact section.

What is an applicant tracking system?

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An ATS is a database that human resources departments use to track job applicants. It streamlines the application process for recruiters and hiring managers. A tracking system automates HR processes such as job postings, resume screenings, pre-interview testings, and more.

An ATS separates and stores resume information, making it searchable through filters and targeted keywords. These systems attempt to manage and prioritize qualified candidates and eliminate unqualified candidates. Resumes are typically filtered based on keywords, experience, education, and former employers.

As you update your resume, it's essential to know that an ATS is likely filtering applicants.

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