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Advice / Job Search / Resumes

Spring Clean Your Resume (in Less Than 2 Hours!)

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Alright. I realize that most of us like spring cleaning about as much as we like updating our resumes—so, putting the two together is probably not getting you very excited right now.

But keep this in mind: Just like going through your closets and untangling those cable cords have their payoff, giving your resume a good scrub every once in a while is the best way you can make sure it stays in great shape over time. Because you never know when those unexpected guests will drop by—or when that recruiter will see your LinkedIn profile and give you a call.

Don’t worry, though—we’re going to make this as quick and painless as possible. Two hours on a weeknight is all you need, and you’ll have a resume that’s straightened up, spotless, and ready to go.

Get Your Supplies

To get started, print out a copy of your resume. Yes, actually print it. Seeing those bullet points on paper, not glazing over them on the screen like usual, is the key to making sure you look at every word with fresh eyes.

Then, grab a red pen, have your laptop handy, and plop down in a comfy chair for some reading time. Don’t worry about switching between the hard copy and your computer for now—rather, mark all your changes down on your printed resume, then go back to make them in the document later.

Scrub Out the Typos

The first step is to give your resume a complete once-over for any glaring errors. Is your formatting impeccable? Are your bullet points consistent? (e.g., Are they all the same size? Do they all end with periods?) Most importantly—are there any typos? A misspelled word is the resume equivalent of that huge, dead bug that’s been on the corner of your rug for a few weeks now. Get it off.

Declutter the Jargon

Then, go back to the beginning, and look at each bullet point for its substance. Pretend you’re reading them to your uncle—the one who still uses an AOL email account—and see if they would make sense to him. Sure, there are some industry-specific terms he wouldn’t get that do need to be on your resume (Adobe Creative Suite, PHP), but there are probably others (“optimize social media presence”) that could be explained in more readable terms.

Remember that the first person who sees your resume might be a recruiter, an assistant, or even a high-level executive—and you want to be sure that it is readable, relevant, and interesting to all of them.

Banish anything that doesn’t make sense, as well as any nebulous adjectives that aren’t truly describing who you are or what you’ve done—words like “experienced,” “effective,” and “dynamic” can be swept right into the trash. Kill the unnecessary adverbs, too—managing a very large budget or very large event is not actually more impressive than managing a large budget or a large event. (What would be more impressive: adding numbers that describe the size of that budget or that event.)

Throw Out What Doesn’t Work Anymore

Next, actually think through everything that’s printed on your resume and make sure it’s still true. Is that small agency you interned with in college still around (and is it based in the same town)? Are you still “an expert” in Photoshop—really?

Also make sure all of your accomplishments are up-to-date and accurate. Has the team of four you manage grown to five? Has that marketing program you implemented generated even more sales that you originally stated? Make sure you’re actually taking credit for what you’ve done.

Swipe on a New Coat of Paint

Once you’ve thrown out the clutter, you’ve made some room for some good new stuff. Think through what you’ve learned or accomplished since you’ve last updated your resume. Have you tackled any new projects? Seen results from the efforts you implemented last year? Have you taken classes or become proficient in any new programs?

Jot down the areas where you could add or expand, including specific numbers that showcase just how awesome those achievements were (this is where your computer will probably come in handy).

Once you’ve marked things up on paper, go back to the screen and make your updates. See? So easy—and now you’ve got a shiny, new, updated resume that you’ll be excited to show everyone. And if you’ve been thinking of getting a new job, too—well, get out there and start applying!