imageContributing blogger John Long is a professional career coach and consultant in Atlanta who founded Two Roads Resources. He blogs at Atlanta Career Coach.

Q: I’m getting ready to start a job search but don’t have an updated resume. I thought it was in pretty good shape until I started browsing the web. Now I’m a bit overwhelmed by all the rules I’m reading. What rules do I follow in updating my resume?

A: Everyone thinks they have a great resume, but in reality most resumes can use a facelift. Just be careful you don’t take the Joan Rivers approach and allow things to morph into something you no longer recognize. I critique resumes every week and see common the same missteps over and over. Here are some common-sense techniques to consider when polishing your resume:

Set your ego aside for a bit and allow some objectivity to flow. You’re so accustomed to looking at your resume that you’ve convinced yourself of its brilliance.

Embrace the fact that a true refresh of the resume will take some time and effort. If you make it a priority over the course of a week, you’ll get the job done. If all you really want to do is just push some stuff around in the document, like a toddler avoiding vegetables on the dinner plate, your half-hearted effort will bring mediocre results.

A resume is a business document that needs to be concise and on point. Avoid writing a career obituary with every detail of your journey. Choose your content for maximum impact, using a nice variety of action verbs throughout.

Avoid a purely functional format. In theory, this format has merit but recruiters and hiring managers hate connecting the dots of a functional resume.

The message that career development geeks, like myself, are trying to convey is that the resume is your No. 1 personal marketing tool. It needs to sell you to each and every reader.

Infuse two to four branding titles (job titles you have held or functional areas in which you excel) into the heading. Then make sure the resume content focuses on solid descriptions of your skills, strengths and areas of expertise; and includes strong (quantify whenever possible) examples of your accomplishments. When crafting the content to sell yourself, never embellish or lie on a resume. It will come back to bite you.

If the resume has an Objective statement, throw it out. These are outdated, even for the recent graduate. Objective statements send the message that “I, as the candidate, am looking for this type of role with this type of employer.”

Brace yourself for this news flash: Employers don’t care what you are looking for in your job search. They take the position that by submitting your resume, you’ve done your homework and you’ve researched the organization and the specific job you’re seeking.

Use a Profile section instead of an Objective statement. When creating a profile, include a short, focused narrative to describe the scope of your background. Reinforce it with bulleted key terms outlining core skills and strengths.

Rather than using a one size fits all resume, the profile section allows you to focus on a specific occupation or role. By customizing your profile, you’re creating a separate resume for each distinct position being pursued.

If you include a bulleted, laundry list of job duties under each career position, you will bore the reader to death. Include a concise narrative of your responsibilities supported by bullet points highlighting your achievements.

When possible, include sections for Awards and Honors, Professional Affiliations, Community Affiliations and Professional Development Activity.

There’s no need to include the statement “References Available Upon Request.” This is understood.

We have evolved beyond the era of the ugly cut and paste resume, and two pages are perfectly acceptable. Just make the document pleasing to the eye. A resume should be content rich and visually appealing. Keep in mind that you have just 10 seconds to grab the reader’s interest and invite them to read further.

Follow these suggestions and you will create a well received document that packs a punch. Don’t hesitate to ask for feedback on the draft of the new resume. And don’t be afraid to engage the help of a certified career coach or resume writer. It is, after all, an investment in your primary marketing tool.

Suggested Resources

Action Verbs by Skills Category
Gallery of Best Resumes

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