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How to Tell If Your Resume Needs a Refresh

How to Tell If Your Resume Needs a Refresh

If you last saved your resume on a CD-ROM while listening to the Backstreet Boys you already know it’s past time for an update. But what if you try to keep it current but are worried that it may still come off a little dated? How do you know if it’s time to refresh your resume?

“A good rule is to refresh your resume six months into a new job or every two years at the same employer, because roles may change and duties can be expanded,” says Christopher Fields, owner and senior resume expert at in Memphis, Tennessee.

Here’s how Fields says you can tell if your resume needs to be revamped.

It Contains Old or Useless Information

Your resume is valuable real estate. Don’t clog it up with information that’s not adding value or, worse, that’s actively showing you’re out of touch. Some items to delete immediately:

Objective. This is an old resume component that isn’t relevant anymore, Fields says. It’s not really news to say your objective is to find a job that uses your skills in such-and-such, because that’s also the objective of everyone else applying for this position. The information doesn’t help you stand out, and Fields says you can ditch it.

“References available upon request.” Any hiring manager will assume you’ll provide this if asked.

Irrelevant skills. Fax machines and copiers aren’t the key pieces of office equipment they once were, so flaunting your skills here just shows you’re out of touch. The same goes for touting your typing speed or familiarity with Microsoft Word, Fields says. Those skills are expected of nearly everyone.

Physical mailing address. Most employers will only need your name, email address and a cellphone number. Fields says hiring managers and recruiters doing executive searches may need your address, so this one’s a toss-up. If you need the space for more important information, drop the address.

It Has Too Much History

Dwelling too much on the past is never a good thing, especially during a job search. That summer job as a lifeguard at 19 is not relevant to your operations career at 41. “Ten to 15 years of job history is all you need. Definitely nothing from the early ’90s and late ’80s,” Fields says, noting that he has seen some résumés that include info all the way back to the 1970s.

Fields recommends a reverse chronological format for your resume. Start in the present with your current or most recent job and work backward. He prefers bullet points over paragraphs and suggests your resume be about a page in length for every 10 years of job history you’re including — which means most should be a page or two at most.

Just as you don’t want to include every single job you’ve ever had, you shouldn’t include every mundane task you ever did, Fields says. You want to be payroll director, so it’s expected you did payroll in your previous roles as payroll supervisor and payroll clerk. Saying it wastes space.

Instead, Fields suggests a “major accomplishments” area under each position with the caveat that you actually list “major, value-adding contributions like ‘Led the migration to a paperless system which saved thousands of dollars and increased efficiencies.’ ”

It’s Not Social

Now that you’ve removed the “retro” material from your resume and livened it up with some big, quantifiable accomplishments, polish it off with some more modern elements like social media.

Whereas typing speed is considered outdated, including social media or relevant mobile technology experience is thriving. Fields recommends including a link to your LinkedIn profile, assuming it’s also up-to-date. If you share professional articles on Twitter or participate in relevant chats there, include that information to show potential employers you’re staying current on issues in your field. If you blog about work topics or have contributed to someone else’s blog, include links to these as well to show off your thought leadership.

It Hasn’t Been Reviewed By Others

If your resume has only ever been viewed by one pair of eyes — yours — it definitely needs a new look. No one wants to hire a “Payrole Director,” but if you’ve been working on your resume for a while now, your eyes may just drift over that typo and not even see it.

Get professional help if you’re able. “Do your homework by researching a resume writer who best fits your style. It makes a big difference,” Fields says.

Even if you can’t hire a pro, get a friend or family member to look it over for typos and anything that may be unclear.

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