Is getting a new job this year still at the top of your to-do list? Then you need to get cracking. Hiring tends to pick up just after the holidays, especially at those businesses that start off the new year with a new budget or who suddenly have positions to fill.
“During the first quarter, businesses ramp up to set the objectives and targets for the year,” career coach Kathleen Brady told Business News Daily. “There is a flurry of hiring activity to support new initiatives, and to replace employees who announce their departure after collecting year-end bonuses.”
While there might be more openings in January, there are also opportunities throughout the entire year. However, other people are also fighting for those jobs. People who really want to find new work this year will need to make sure that they stand out from the crowd. One way to do that is to get your resume in ship-shape condition. Here are nine tips for updating your resume so you can get the job you want in 2017.
1. Make it look good
Unless you’re a designer, an unusual-looking resume can work against you since it seems to privilege style over substance, according to career expert Alison Green. But that isn’t an excuse for your resume to look like a hot mess, either. A sloppily formatted Word doc isn’t going to impress a potential employer.
Focus on making your resume easy to read. Use just one or two professional fonts (please, no script or Comic Sans) and break up big blocks of text by using bullet points. Try to avoid “orphans” – those one or two straggler words that spill over into a new line of text, since they take up valuable space you could be using to describe your experience. Finally, make sure everything is properly aligned and the spacing is consistent, and have a friend proofread the document for errors.
As a bonus, cleaning up your resume’s formatting can also make it easier for applicant tracking systems to read, so you’re more likely to get called in for an interview.
2. Cut the fat
When writing your resume, it can be tempting to include everything from your after-school job in high school to a list of your favorite hobbies. But less is often more in the resume world. Deleting irrelevant information means a less cluttered document that will be easier for hiring managers to scan.
Before you send out another cover letter, scratch those part-time jobs from college, short-term gigs that aren’t relevant to your current career goals, your college GPA, and anything related to high school (unless you are still in college). Other items to delete include your photo, a list of “skills” that includes Microsoft Word or other software most people know how to use, and overly personal information, like your age or religious affiliation.
3. Show what you’ve done
Rather than a deadly dull list of job responsibilities, use your resume to highlight what you’ve accomplished in past positions. Did you successfully complete a big project or close a major sale? Say that on your resume. This is the time to toot your own horn.
Hiring managers also like to see concrete evidence of your work, a 2015 survey by CareerBuilder found. Twenty-one percent of employers said that a resume that included a link to a candidate’s portfolio, blog, or website would make them sit up and take notice.
4. Skip the “zombie” language
Are you a “results-oriented professional”? Well, so are thousands of other people who are also looking for a job. Ditching the “boilerplate zombie language,” will boost your chances of getting a job, according to career expert Liz Ryan.
“Employers can’t tell one zombified results-oriented professional from the next, and the biggest challenge a job-seeker has is to stand out in a crowded field,” she wrote in a post on LinkedIn. “Put a human voice in your resume, tell human stories and don’t be afraid to use the word ‘I.’”
5. Use the words recruiters love
Once you’ve scrubbed the clichés and zombie language from your resume, you’ll need to replace them with words that resonate with hiring managers. Action words like achieved, improved, mentored, managed, and created are among your best bets, according to a CareerBuilder survey of HR professionals.
“Hiring managers prefer strong action words that define specific experience, skills and accomplishments,” Rosemary Haefner, the vice president of human resources at CareerBuilder, said. “Subjective terms and clichés are seen as negative because they don’t convey real information.”
6. Ditch the objective
Like Hammer pants and big hair, resume objectives are out of fashion. Simultaneously wordy and uninformative, an objective takes up precious real estate on your resume that would be better given over to descriptions of your skills and experience. If you want to include some kind of summary at the start of your resume, make it less about what you want and more about what you can do.
“Craft an executive summary or ‘Who I Am’ section that showcases your overarching value proposition (or, as I call it, your ‘So what?’) and speaks directly to the stuff you know the target audience is going to care the most about. This is your chance to make it clear you’re a strong fit,” career strategist Jenny Foss wrote in an article for The Muse.
7. Use the right format
If you’re using a functional resume format rather than a chronological one, you need to fix that, stat. People sometimes try to hide a bumpy job history or a lack of experience by focusing on skills rather than work experience. But it’s a trick hiring managers see right through, and they often view it as a red flag.
When we talked to career expert Amanda Augustine of TopResume about functional resumes last year, she said she’d only use them if a client insisted on the format or had been out of the workforce for a very long time. For the vast majority of job seekers, the traditional chronological resume is best. It’s easier to read and works well with online job application systems. If you do have gaps on your resume or other issues, try a hybrid format, which combines some elements of a functional resume, like a list of your skills, with the chronological job history employers want to see.
8. Correct the lies
Fibs on your resume – even small ones – are a big no-no. Yet three-quarters of hiring managers CareerBuilder surveyed in 2016 said they’d caught a candidate lying on their resume. Lies about skills, job responsibilities, job titles, job history, and education were among the falsehoods employers most frequently spotted.
While you may never get caught in a lie about your communication skills, exaggerating your education (especially where you went to school), work experience, or foreign language fluency is a major problem. If you’ve spruced up your resume with some less-than-honest details, now is the time to get back to the truth.
9. Change the file name
Is your resume saved as “Resume” or “ResumeCompanyName”? If it is, change the filename to include your name. Something like “YourFirstYourLastResume” should do it. This simple fix makes life easier for the recruiters, hiring managers, and assistants who are in charge of collecting and keeping track of applicants’ resumes. Plus, you’ll make it less likely that your resume will get lost in the shuffle.
“My advice is to make sure to include your name in your resume file name. For example: Amy-Wolfgang-Resume. This is a way to brand yourself,” career coach Amy Wolfgang wrote on LinkedIn. Others choose to name their resume with their name and the company’s name. This could, potentially, demonstrate to the hiring manager that you customized your resume for this position. You may decide to name your resume with your name and a description of a trait in order to draw attention to your resume:Amy_Wolfgang_Top_Sales_Producer.”