How to Update an Outdated Resume

If you’re back in the job market after years of employment, your resume probably needs a facelift. Your job experience may be extraordinary, but presenting it in out-of-date formats gives prospective employers the impression you’re behind the times.

Today’s resumes are leaner and meaner than their old counterparts. They need careful formatting to get past prescreening software while remaining readable for real people. The modern resume, so often posted online, even needs to consider keyword placement and search engine results.

Paper is Passé

Paper resumes are for old folks. There, I said it. If you’re looking for work in today’s market, you’ll be submitting applications and resumes electronically. This means less time and money spent selecting the perfect paper for your resume and more time choosing the right fonts and formats.

Font choice is more important than you’d think. Courier, for instance, looks like a typewriter font, and job marketers associate the font with out-of-date paper resumes. Many Gen-X employers take the same view of Times New Roman.

The “best” font for a resume is, of course, a subjective choice. Look for a font that looks clear, crisp and modern. Possible options include:

  • Arial
  • Book Antiqua
  • Calibri
  • Cambria
  • Helvetica
  • Tahoma

Size is also a consideration. Any font smaller than size 9 font is too small for easy reading, and no one’s going to squint to read your resume. Size 10 to 12 makes your resume much more readable.

Save your resume as a PDF file. Job reviewers can open and read PDF files easily, and you avoid the risk someone will accidentally edit your resume.

Email Addresses and LinkedIn Profiles

Your resume should start with your name and contact information, but even this has changed slightly over the years. An email address is much more important now than your physical address. In fact, many people now list their name, city and state, cell phone number and email address, but leave out their street address.

Safety concerns play a role here. Today’s resumes are routinely uploaded to LinkedIn and online job boards, where you have little control over who views your information. Most people prefer not to list their actual street address.

Shorter is Better

If you haven’t updated your resume for a few years, it probably needs pruning. Length is a significant problem for veterans converting a military resume for civilian use. The military resume reads as a complete history of the serviceperson’s career. Civilian resumes need to carve away unnecessary filler and only provide relevant information. It’s not just veterans who have this problem. Many older professional resumes include pages of detailed job descriptions.

Instead, the modern resume favors bulleted lists of responsibilities and accomplishments over long, blocky paragraphs. When possible, describe your position in terms of accomplishments, which emphasize your productivity and resourcefulness. A list of responsibilities is all well and fine, but it only shows the resume reader what you should have been doing, not how you did it.

How short should your resume be? This depends on your experience. A recent college graduate may only need a one-page resume. Experienced professionals can expand their resume to two pages, while those with more than 15 years of experience can get away with three pages.

Don’t feel you have to shoehorn every last job in your resume. Information from a decade ago can be left out, unless it really highlights your skills and qualifications.

Objectives Out, Key Skills In

Resumes, like fashion, go through trends. Not so long ago resume professionals recommended leading into your job experience and education with an objectives paragraph explaining your goals and how they applied to your job application.

I always considered the objectives paragraph rather pointless. A good writer could gussy this basic message up with talk of career goals, personal satisfaction, and self-improvement, but when it came down to it, the objective paragraph always had the same message: hire me. Which, of course, was a message implied by applying for the position in the first place.

Thankfully, the objective paragraph didn’t survive the transition to shorter, more concise resumes. Today’s resumes replace objectives with a bulleted list of key skills and accomplishments. Think of this list as a quick overview of your resume for the benefit of the reader.

Pre-Screening Considerations

Online job applications can generate thousands of respondents, ranging widely in ability. Employers use prescreening software to weed out unqualified applicants. You can alter your resume to make it software-friendly.

Humans scanning a resume usually look for verbs. For instance, if I was scanning a freelance writer’s resume I’d look for words like “wrote” and “published.” By contrast, most prescreening software looks for nouns. Software scanning the same resume, therefore, might look for “writer” or “publisher” instead of verbs.

Describe your job history and accomplishments with both human and non-human readers in mind, and use a mix of verbs and nouns as keywords. Some resume writers include keyword lists at the bottom of their resumes, but it’s much more effective to embed your keywords within the actual resume.

As an added benefit, choosing a mix of keywords for your resume increases the chance prospective employers will find your resume in job bank searches.

By Michael Deaven

Michael is a full-time blogger who has passions in all corners of the online world. In his down time he enjoys being outdoors, traveling, and blogging on everything from technology, to business, to marketing, and beyond. Follow him on Twitter or Google+.