As an active executive recruiter, I read dozens of resumes every week. Many of them do a pretty mediocre job at selling the person they represent, and I’ve shared here before some ways to turn that around.
One of the most common resume problems is looking out of date. If your resume looks old-fashioned, you look old-fashioned, and when you’re competing with dozens – maybe even hundreds – of other candidates, you need a resume that shows that you understand what’s going on today.
Many old-fashioned-looking resumes are the result of plain old laziness and sticking with the same format for years, just adding new jobs at the top and maybe updating a phone number or new location. That used to be good enough, but it’s not any more.
Modern resumes have a different look and feel, so that continued updating of an old-style resume quickly becomes a mess of a liability instead of the sales tool you need it to be.
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Here are a few telltale signs your resume is over the hill, which means it may be doing more harm than good, with a few tips on how to make it look more in step.
1. It starts with an objective.
Objectives are out of date. No one wants to hire you because of what you want. They want to hire you because you can do something they need done, so dump the objective and replace it with a headline that says what you do, as a job title or an area of expertise.
For instance, “DIGITAL MARKETING MANAGER AND SEO EXPERT” packs a lot more punch than “Seeking a challenging position where I can utilize my experience and skills in digital marketing and SEO.” See the difference? One is confident and about what you can do for someone and the other is wimpy and about what you want.
2. It’s written in corporate-speak.
Old-fashioned resumes are dense with acronyms, pretentious words and trite padding. One example in the objective example above is using ‘utilized’ when ‘use’ would do. Keep it professional but simple.
Pare down your text as much as possible but don’t strip the life out of it. Make it interesting to read. If you’re a funny person, throw in something with personality. Make it feel like you, not some corporate machine.
3. It just outlines information instead of accomplishments.
Old-fashioned resumes are just fact sheets, detailing jobs, dates, responsibilities and tasks, sometimes just as a dry waterfall of bullets with numbers and percentages that no one will really understand.
Modern resumes allow a more relaxed writing style and can deliver a story rather than just dry data, which is why they are much more appealing and likely to be noticed.
4. It’s done in Times New Roman with no attention to design or layout.
The era of beautiful websites has raised the bar on all marketing design (which is what a resume is), and modern resumes should reflect a sense of clean modern design, too.
Go for a clean layout, use a modern sans-serif font like Calibri, Tahoma or Ariel for easier reading. Depending on your industry and profession, color is becoming more prevalent as a design element to make a resume stand out. Make sure the formatting is consistent, too; having the most recent job formatted differently than previous ones is one of the dead giveaways of a poorly updated resume.
5. It goes back too far.
Old-fashioned resumes give details on jobs long ago, but it’s really what you’ve done in recent years that matters to employers. Just about every industry has changed significantly in the past ten years, and if it hasn’t, you have. What you can do now trumps what you did long ago in most cases.
Modern resumes put the focus on recent roles and accomplishments and minimize or omit long-ago experience that isn’t pertinent.
Great resumes are the sum of many subtle choices in design, content and presentation, but these quick tips can help you know if your resume is perhaps sending the wrong signals, and give you some concrete ways to bring it into modern times.