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When and How to Update Your Resume

A man typing on his laptop, updating his resume.

Most people don’t think about updating their resume until they’re actively looking for a job. If you’re not job searching, should you do anything with your resume? The short answer is yes!

While it’s obviously important to tailor your resume to each new job application, you also need to keep your resume up to date between job searches.

If you wait until you’re submitting an application to brush up your resume, you’re missing out on valuable opportunities to improve it.

Let’s take a look at some things you can do with your resume, even when you’re not looking for a job.

Why Update Your Resume Between Job Searches?

You’ve probably had this experience: you decide to browse job listings and happen upon one you like. It’s been a few years since you’ve touched your resume, but you give it some quick updates before firing off that application.

When you’re not filling out job applications, it’s easy to forget your resume even exists. The problem is, though, this limits your chances of getting the job.

When you let your resume sit untouched for months or years, you forget lots of things you could add to it. By the time you actually get around to updating it, you might not even remember you once helped your company get 10,000 new Instagram followers or secure a huge project. And it’s details like these that really showcase your skills.

Updating your resume only during a job search also limits how much time you spend on it. When you’re working on a job application, you probably won’t want to spend two hours tweaking your resume first. But if you spread those tweaks out over a longer period of time, you’ll always have a polished resume that’s ready to send whenever you need it.

In competitive fields, you’re far more likely to get hired if you apply quickly. The longer you wait, the lower your chances of being considered. An updated resume allows you to jump on that job application the moment it’s posted.

Finally, the best practices for resumes can change over time. For example, resume scanning software has changed the way a good resume should look. Many job fields are also using terms and concepts no one even knew a few years ago.

Regularly making changes to your resume will keep it relevant.

Resume Updates

A woman working outside with her laptop, adding some updates to her resume.

The tips below will help you keep your resume updated between job searches with the least amount of work.

Keep a Running List of Work Accomplishments

The specific experience and accomplishments you list on your resume might change depending on the job for which you’re applying. However, if you save your notable accomplishments on a master list, you’ll always have an easy way to add new information to your resume.

Whenever you take on a significant new role or accomplish something major, add those details to your master list. Maybe you brought in five new clients in a single month, started training new hires, or increased ad revenue by 150 percent. You might forget these details a year or two from now, so save them in a doc so you can use them when it’s time to update your resume.

Read Through It Periodically

If you haven’t looked at your resume for a few months (or longer), check it out when you have some downtime. Read it as though you were a hiring manager looking for a candidate.

If anything is awkward, wordy, irrelevant, or otherwise problematic, correct it. These types of things will stand out since you’re looking at it with fresh eyes. Do this occasionally, even when you’re not looking for a new job.

Add Skills and Qualifications as You Achieve Them

Did you just complete training on WordPress plugins, take on a part-time internship, or receive a professional certification? Add these new details to your resume as soon as they occur.

Don’t worry about formatting or wording right now, just add them to the correct section with some basic information and dates. You can tweak the details later, but at least you’ll have the essentials on there.

While you’re at it, you can also get rid of any old skills or qualifications that are no longer relevant. For example, you don’t need to list your familiarity with outdated software or common programs, like PowerPoint.

Update the Filename

This takes just a few seconds, but it can make a huge difference in your chances of getting a job. Make sure your resume’s filename is simple, logical, and includes your name.

For example, “John Smith Resume” is much better than “Resume Final Version,” which can look confusing and unprofessional to hiring managers. Consider saving your document as a PDF, too; it will help preserve your formatting.

Strengthen Your Word Choices

Sometimes, improving your resume is as simple as switching out a few terms. If you don’t have anything new to put on your resume, you can still strengthen it by swapping old words for stronger ones. It’s easy to rely on overused terms like “assisted” or “helped,” for example. For some fresh ideas, check out this incredible list of action verbs for resumes.

This is also a good time to add a few industry-specific keywords. If you’ve heard certain terms popping up at work, see if you can incorporate them into your resume. You can also browse recent job listings in your field to see which buzzwords are currently popular.

Use Numerals and Symbols

If you’ve been writing out numbers like “three” and “twelve” on your resume, consider changing them to numerals (3, 12) instead.

Numbers help quantify your experience and accomplishments, which is what hiring managers are looking for when they scan your resume. In addition to saving precious space, numerals can also make this valuable information stand out.

You can also use symbols, like the percentage (%) and dollar signs ($) instead of spelling them out.

Check Your Links

Your resume shouldn’t connect a hiring manager with anything you don’t want them to see, like a personal website you haven’t updated in years.

Make sure the email account you’ve included is still active, and that all websites and social media profiles are fresh and polished. If you don’t have time to update these, just delete them from your resume until they’re ready to be seen. Keep in mind, though, interested employers will usually look you up online anyway.

We all update our resume when we’re applying for new jobs, but that’s not the only time you should make changes. If you make small updates over time, your resume will always be ready to go when you need it. Then, when you’re filling out applications, all you’ll have to do is tailor your resume for that specific opportunity.

Elyse Hauser Elyse Hauser
Elyse Hauser is a freelance and creative writer from the Pacific Northwest, and an MFA student at the University of New Orleans Creative Writing Workshop. She specializes in lifestyle writing and creative nonfiction. Read Full Bio »
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