Refresh Your Résumé

by Doris Appelbaum

To keep it from getting stale, update your resume at least once a year, even if you aren't looking for a new job. An up-to-date resume is a necessity in a market where a job can vanish in the time it takes to tell investors "lower earnings this quarter." Even if you aren't actively job-hunting, you never know when an opportunity will fall in your lap or you'll be asked to provide a biography for a speech you've been asked to give.

Try to do the update shortly before your performance review. That way, you'll remind yourself of your accomplishments since your last review, something handy to know when you meet with your current supervisor or manager -- or anyone who's considering hiring you.

Destroy the résumé you've been using since graduation. Your old résumé was probably written in recent-graduate style, with education credentials listed prominently. Professionals and executives should have accumulated enough work experience that the academic degrees can fade into the background.

BE SPECIFIC. A popular résumé format contains the usual reverse chronological listing of job titles and work experiences, preceded by a summary which often lists accomplishments, tells the reader about your skills, your qualifications, and what talents you could bring to your new employer. Format is one thing, content another. Clearly and concisely state your skills, accomplishments, and potential without bragging. How do you do that? By being straightforward and specific. "I think that the No. 1 mistake that laypeople make when writing résumés is only including responsibilities rather than achievements," claimed Kirsten Dixson, executive director of a Bronxville, N.Y.-based résumé and career counseling company. "Achievements are necessary to communicate the results of performing those responsibilities. Hiring managers want to know how the candidate is going to increase profits, decrease costs, and/or impact productivity."

A "responsibility-based" statement reads: "Managed trade-show presence to promote brand awareness." An "achievement-oriented" statement says: "Reduced trade-show costs by 25% without compromising marketing presence."

LOOK TO THE FUTURE. Putting together a stellar resume requires a lot of thought about what you've done in your career and what you've learned. It also requires thought about the future: What do you want to do, and what experiences qualify you for this? Forget about a once-unbreakable rule -- that résumés should be only one page, says Dale Winston, chairman and CEO of an executive recruiting firm. The consensus among recruiters and résumé writers is two pages, perhaps more for someone in a high senior position or for a scholar or researcher who needs to list publications. Make the document clean, simple, and easy to follow.

LEGIBLITY COUNTS. Use conservative white or ivory-colored paper (high quality) and an easy-to-read type style. Don't try to save space by reducing the font size. Keep it at about 11 or 12 points. Try this test: "Can it be read if I can't find my reading glasses?" Before you sit down with pen and legal pad, check out some books on résumé writing. A quick search of the bookseller web sites will yield a number You could also go the route of hiring a professional résumé writer. Fees vary widely. You'll find many résumé writers through a quick web search. The best way to find a good writer is to examine credentials and services. Determine if the writer has a background in business, journalism, or human resources. You want your adviser to know what hiring managers look for. Avoid jargon and acronyms, hobbies and interests, unless they say something that would jolt a potential employer -- like you made the Olympics.

Resumes are a necessity for almost every job on the planet -- accountant, teacher, CEO or municipal employee. But unless you carefully and objectively examine your resume before sending it out, recycling bins across America may be filling up with those ill-planned documents. Before mailing your next resume, check the ten resume "don'ts" by Peter Newfield below:

1. Appearances Count -- Don't try to save money by printing your resume on cheap copy paper instead of good quality stock. Check for typos, grammatical errors and coffee stains. Use the spell check feature on your word processor and ask a friend to review the resume to find mistakes you might have missed.

2. Does Size Matter? -- After "What does a Scotsman wear under his kilt?" the second-most asked question in the English-speaking world could be "How long should my resume be -- one page or two?" It's a question Kevin Donlin and yours truly are asked almost daily by clients and prospects. Your resume should be as long as it needs to be ... and no longer. There's no law against two-page resumes, especially for folks with 10 or more years of experience, or those in highly technical careers. Kevin has done two-page resumes for recent college grads who had to list computer languages, certifications and other details. If your career focus warrants a two-page resume, then go ahead and create a document that reflects the full range of your experience and accomplishments. Don't reduce the type size to such a degree that your resume becomes difficult to read.

3. Truth or Consequences -- Don't lie about dates or titles on your resume to hide the fact that you have been unemployed, that you switched jobs too frequently or that you held low-level positions. If a prospective employer conducts a background check and discovers that you lied, you can kiss the job good-bye.

4. State Your Case -- If you are seeking a job in a field in which you have no prior experience, don't use the chronological format for your resume. By using a functional or skills-oriented format, you can present your relevant experience and skills up front.

5. Put Your Best Foot Forward -- Don't simply copy the job description from your company's HR manual. To indicate that you are more qualified than the competition for the positions you are seeking, you need to do more than simply list your job responsibilities. Present specific accomplishments and achievements: percentages increased, accounts expanded, awards won, etc.

6. No Excuses -- Don't include the reasons you are no longer working at each job listed on your resume. The phrases "Company sold," "Boss was an moron" and "Left to make more money" have no place on your resume.

7. What Have You Done Lately? – While it is certainly acceptable to have a two-page resume, don't list every single job you've ever held. Personnel managers are most interested in your experience from the last 10 years, so focus on your most recent and most relevant career experience.

8. Target Your Audience -- Don't mail your resume to every ad in the Sunday newspaper. If you are not even remotely qualified for a position, don't apply. Read the ads, determine if you have the right credentials, and save the wear and tear on your printer.

9. No Extra Papers -- When you send your resume, don't include copies of transcripts, letters of recommendation or awards, unless you are specifically asked to do so. If you are called in for an interview, you may bring these extra materials along in your briefcase for show-and-tell.

10. Don't Get Personal – Personal information does not belong on a resume in the United States. Don't include information on your marital status, age, race, family or hobbies.




Doris Appelbaum is President of Appelbaum's Resume Professionals, Inc. She is an internationally known career consultant, resume writer, speaker, and trainer. Doris can be reached at (414) 352-5994 - 1-800-619-9777 - dorisa@appelbaumresumes.com - (414) 352-7495 (fax). Visit her website . Fax resume for FREE critique.