Creating a resume that reflects your current experience and future ambitions is no simple matter. Career paths can shift imperceptibly over time and before you know it your resume is no longer a reflection of where you are or a signpost to where you are going. Updating your resume regularly is therefore an important exercise.
The best job opportunities often come out of the blue—while your competition is frantically updating their resumes, you may already have that interview invite in your inbox. Make the changes on your terms and timeline—whenever you feel is appropriate.
But when and how should you refresh your professional profile? In this blog, we investigate:
- How often should you update?
- Benefits of a resume refresh
- How to update your resume
How often should you update your resume?
This depends on the trajectory of your career and the likelihood of potential change.
If you are 100% happy where you are or have just received a promotion, staying put is probably a good idea and an updated resume may just be a vanity project. If, on the other hand, you would consider a speculative approach for the right role, your resume should ideally be in a state of permanent readiness.
An unexpected email that drops in your inbox with an exciting opportunity can do strange things to the brain. It is not such a flight of fantasy to imagine that you are a last-minute candidate and that you need to submit your resume immediately. If it is undercooked, that may prove costly.
It may be time to give your resume a bit of polish in the following circumstances:
- You think that you may be 6 months out from a job search.
- People around you are starting to lose their jobs.
- You just completed a significant project.
- Your career ambitions change for any reason.
- You are open to an exploratory chat with a recruiter.
It doesn’t cost you anything to have a discussion with a recruiter if you are even slightly open to exploring opportunities. It is obviously never a good idea to waste their time, but if you have an updated version of your resume ready to go, it doesn’t cost you or them much to figure out whether there is a potential fit.
Benefits of a resume update
Not many of us will stand in the shower in the morning and contemplate how far we have come in our careers, much as that might be a worthwhile activity. Life is just too busy for that sort of contemplation.
The main benefit of a resume update lies in the fact that it forces you to be objective about your career achievements and match them up with an amended view of what you want from your next role. This future gazing will then serve to highlight any possible gaps between where you are and where you would like to be.
When you update a resume, it is an ideal chance to put yourself in the place of your future boss. What is missing in your career story? What parts of your experience could use a little more depth? At the very least, a resume update can send you away with a few ideas of what to work on in your career development.
Being organized in such a way helps to focus your mind on the skills that your ideal next role may require. It may also spark thoughts around other aspects of your current activity that may help to make the next step. Introspection can be useful when you are looking to move up in your career, so ask yourself what your resume is missing.
How to update your resume
Depending on whether you have an imminent job search in mind or are secure in your job with no job search anticipated, each situation will call for a different slant on the resume update.
While you should always tailor your resume for each application, it may be more of a tweak than a wholesale change. In any case, the following advice about how to update your resume is applicable in any situation.
Think about the kind of job you want
Before you sit down to update your resume, it is critical that you consider where you see your career down the line. A resume should look forward as well as backward. It serves as a signpost to a potential employer to let them know what value you could add. If you are unclear on your future career path, you will likely write a resume that covers too many bases. Plant your flag in the ground and tell a career story that will justify your ambitions.
Check contact details
If you haven’t updated your resume in a while, it is possible that your contact details may have changed. Don’t miss out on a job opportunity just because you don’t update your email address. That would be tragic.
Also, when you are reviewing the header of your resume, you may want to consider whether you wish to include your full home address. This is no longer required and could bring data protection or discrimination issues, so consider just including your city and state.
Amend the summary
If you feel that your resume is worth updating, then it is likely that the summary will change to some extent. Your most recent skills and experiences should be reflected in these first 5-6 lines, so consider taking out anything that is redundant.
The summary is also the section where you might outline your career motivations and objectives, so make sure that it still aligns with your vision of the future. Even a small change here might make a potential employer view you more favorably.
Update your latest work experience
Many resumes will be updated with a new employer in the work experience section, so you will have some decisions about what resume content to cut. If you have roles from 15+ years ago you may choose to list the employer, job title, and employment dates without any details of accomplishments. Be selective about which accomplishments to cut from other roles—you may wish to dispense with any lines of text to focus on just bullet points.
When you update the work experience section with a new role, you should ideally dedicate the most space on your resume to what you have done recently. Employers will be looking for someone to hit the ground running, so demonstrate your suitability if possible.
Ensure that keywords reflect your career goals
Every time you update your resume and career ambitions, the keywords that you include in your career story should follow suit. Take the time to consider and potentially rethink how you describe yourself. Something that made perfect sense three years ago may no longer be so suitable, so don’t be afraid to make brave choices with your language.
Any disconnect with the roles that you are hoping to secure will cause doubts to surface in a hiring manager’s mind. Don’t jeopardize your chances just because your resume isn’t as up-to-date as it could be.
Review and refresh your skills list
While the list of your key skills should be relatively consistent, it is not so time-consuming to tweak your resume when you have leveled up an important skill or acquired a new one.
If you need to decide which skill to lose from the list, be ruthless in your assessment of where your future lies. If a skill will not directly contribute to your future success, leave it out. Any part of your resume that might be considered surplus to requirements is wasting the hiring manager’s precious time. Less is more when it comes to resume skills.
Add new education or training courses
As with skills, including additional educational qualifications should not be difficult, but as it likely entails losing something from elsewhere in the resume, this decision should not be taken lightly. Is it worth including an extra line of qualifications instead of a bullet point for an older role? Possibly, but that is a judgment call that you will have to make.
Employers will look for your most recent training courses as an indication that you are keen to improve your skills, so make sure that you always have something relatively recent in this section. They will assume that this is only the tip of the educational iceberg, so don’t be too concerned about not including everything.
Consider the formatting and template
If it has been a while since you updated your resume, it may be the case that you wish to give it a design overhaul. There are plenty of resume templates on the market, including our wonderful selection, so it is well worth giving it a refresh.
Don’t be tempted to go overboard with the design options, though. The most important aspect of a resume is telling a clear and compelling career story and making the case for your future potential. Don’t let a flashy design get in the way.
Match your LinkedIn profile with your resume
Now, while this step may not strictly be related to a resume, it is certainly the case that many employers will view your LinkedIn profile alongside your resume. To avoid any disconnect, make sure that you update your LinkedIn profile with the same information as your resume.
If you are not ready to announce your search to your current employer, be careful with this step as any changes will be public. Having said that, 50% of people are always looking, so you can’t be blamed for updating your latest career history. After all, LinkedIn is your professional profile and should always be current in any case.
Updating your resume should be a proud moment. When you have something to add to your career history you shouldn’t hesitate. Don’t wait until you start a job search to think through the changes—that isn’t something that you should rush.
Also, don’t forget, you never know when your resume may be requested. If you are confident that it is current and aligned with your career goals, it is ready to send to a recruiter or potential employer at a moment’s notice.
- Update it whenever you see fit and take your time with the changes.
- Think carefully about whether the amends improve your career positioning.
- Be ruthless about what you cut to make space—life moves on.
- Quantify your accomplishments where possible.