Since you’re reading this, you probably don’t love networking and are wondering what the hype…
Have you ever missed out on a job opportunity because you didn’t update your resume? This is often the catalyst for many new clients to contact me: they learned about a job prospect but were too embarrassed to have a conversation with the recruiter or apply for the job because their resume was so outdated.
You should aim to update your resume once every six months—or each time you’ve experienced a significant change in your professional life. This change might be switching companies, earning a promotion, completing a course or degree, or winning an award.
To avoid being caught by surprise when a career opportunity arises, I’ve provided the checklist below to help you update your resume.
10-Step Checklist to Update Your Resume
Step 1: Confirm your contact information.
Ensure that your contact information is accurate and amend as needed. Add your LinkedIn URL if you haven’t included it previously (assuming you’re proud of your LinkedIn profile!).
Step 2: Do a “big picture” review.
Ask yourself what is outdated or irrelevant in your resume. Omit information accordingly. This also creates space for new information.
Step 3: Update your Experience section to reflect any work changes.
If you are very new in a role and don’t have any achievements to document in your Experience section, provide a brief statement about your responsibilities in the new role, but be sure to quantify information and provide context. For instance, rather than “Responsible for account management,” you could reframe as “Oversee a portfolio of 100+ key client accounts valued at $220 million across a five-state region.” Remember to use strong verbs when adding new content.
Step 4: Refresh your Skills section (if you have one).
Add new skills as relevant. Reorder them based on your goals, placing primary skills more prominently than ones that are secondary.
Step 5: Analyze your Profile section.
Analyze and update your Profile section at the top of your resume to reflect both the value you bring and the direction you want to move toward. Your resume is a strategic marketing document, and the Profile section is a critical place to focus your readers’ attention. For instance, if you have been an engineer your entire career and now want to move into project management, you will want to highlight the project management experience you’ve already gained and any related qualifications you have, rather than just your engineering skills and the value you’ve delivered as an engineer.
You can also gesture toward recent relevant key accomplishments such as winning an award or earning a new certification.
Step 6: Update all other sections as necessary.
Review any other sections you’ve included (e.g., Education, Civic Leadership, Volunteering, Consulting) as if this were the first time you were reading the document, and ensure that all information is accurate and relevant to your future goals. You might be surprised by what you find. More than once, I’ve discovered that clients had their degrees written incorrectly (e.g., Bachelor of Arts when the degree was a Bachelor of Science). Other times, dates of volunteering and names of institutions have been incorrect.
Step 7: Review Your Highlights of Achievement or Key Qualifications section.
If you have a Highlights of Achievement or Key Qualifications section, review it and update it accordingly.
Step 8: Read your resume from top to bottom.
Make sure your value proposition and key accomplishments are easily found. Adjust content as necessary.
Step 9: Trim as needed for fit.
If your changes have made your resume longer than you’d like, trim as needed. It’s best to have full pages rather than, for example, two pages plus three lines on a third page.
Step 10: Proofread!
When proofreading, I recommend that you print your resume and read it out loud. Taking this extra step will help you catch not only content errors but also formatting inconsistencies, such as using different size bullet points or different types of dashes in your date ranges. Having a partner, friend, or colleague review your resume can also be helpful. Make sure you offer to review theirs, too! This builds goodwill, and you’ll be setting a positive example of proactive career management.
Using a checklist to update your resume offers a simple step-by-step method to make the process easy and painless. You might choose to work through the entire checklist in one session, or progress through it over several sessions. How you do it doesn’t matter; what matters is that you do it. After a decade of writing resumes, I’ve seen the struggle and stress people experience when they are rushed to update their resume. You can avoid this—and be ready for the next opportunity—with just a little planning and accountability on your part!