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Tips for Spring Cleaning Your Resume
Tips for Spring Cleaning Your Resume

Whether due to genetic wiring or social convention, the idea of spring cleaning always starts tickling at our collective consciousness this time of year. As sunnier days approach, we can’t seem to resist the urge to tidy the garage, power wash the patio furniture or weed through our wardrobes.

But why stop there? In addition to attending to various personal obligations, spring can be a great time of year to invest in your professional future and get your resume updated as well.

So if you’re thinking about firing up a search for a new opportunity in the near future, or your job hunt stalled out a bit during the winter months, consider the following ways you might be able to give your resume a bit of a makeover — and bring it up to modern standards.

Out With the Old, In With the New

Resumes are designed to be advertisements, not autobiographies. There’s simply no way you can pack everything you’ve ever done professionally into a single page — or even two or three, if you’ve got 10–20 years of experience under your belt. Nor should you.

Start your cleanup by focusing the spotlight on your recent experience and accomplishments, while downplaying events from the more distant past.

Not only will this save precious room, it will align your document appropriately to the reality that most employers and recruiters today don’t place much stock in experience or achievements that are over 5–10 years old. You really want to highlight your recent rock star accomplishments, in other words. Get rid of the golden oldies.

After you’ve made sure the bulk of your resume, or at least the majority of page one, features the great things you’ve done over the last few years, take a deep breath and trim down any older job information that no longer deserves center stage. In some cases, you might end up tightening whole paragraphs down to one-liners. In other cases, you might completely eliminate certain job entries altogether.

As for exactly how deep these cuts should be, it’s hard to say from the outside looking in, but as a general rule of thumb, try asking yourself: Are these older roles and experiences still highly relevant to my current career goals — and will employers truly care about them? If the answer is negative, it may be time to cull them from the herd.

Refresh Your Contact Details

In addition to trimming down your work experience, now might also be a great time to bring your resume in line with a number of modern resume-writing conventions.

For starters, you can ditch your physical street address. Not only do employers rarely (if ever) contact people by snail mail anymore, in some cases, disclosing exactly where you live can raise issues of what I call commute discrimination — where employers avoid hiring people who live a long ways away due to fears they’ll be chronically late for work.

In light of this, it’s usually best to simply list the broader metro area where you live (e.g., Seattle, Washington) or to eliminate this information completely and simply provide your email address and phone number.

On that note, it’s also worth pointing out that most people don’t list multiple phone numbers on their resume anymore. That was the old days, when people were willing to chase people around all over town by first calling their cell phone, then their home phone, then their beepers and so on. Now it’s best to provide a single number, usually your mobile or whichever number and messaging system you tend to check the most.

As for email addresses? While I know it sounds trivial, many experts suggest that folks who are using an AOL, Yahoo or Comcast email account for their job hunting activities might be seen as old-fashioned in the eyes of certain employers and face increased likelihood of age discrimination. So if you’re using one of these wizened old platforms, consider switching your account over to Gmail, iCloud, Outlook or another system that’s viewed as more contemporary.

Oh, and lastly, ditch any mention of references on your resume. Nobody expects that anymore, and it’s assumed you’ll eagerly provide references at the appropriate time in the interview process.

Drop the Clichés And Be Yourself

Another key area where you can likely improve your resume effectiveness? Sharpen your pencil and start eradicating clichés with prejudice!

As any hiring manager can tell you, the lion’s share of documents that job hunters send around are weighted down by vague, shopworn and forgettable language. Empty calories, so speak. In fact, if I had the proverbial dollar for every “dynamic self-starter” or “results-oriented team player” I’ve come across on the hiring circuit, I can assure you I’d be living quite comfortably on a beach in Bermuda.

Now is a great time to go through your resume and strike out any language that seems overly boilerplate, schlocky or superficial. You’ll know it when you see it. Most job hunters, I’ve found, already sense that a fair amount of the text on their resume simply “isn’t them” and stems from hiring a lazy resume writer or from copying various passages of high-level happy talk from a template you saw once, somewhere.

Replace the fluff with meaning. Kick things up a notch and get a little more creative with your word choices. Be bold. Use unorthodox and interesting language. Tell your story and share authentic insights into the traits that have led to your success, year after year.

As an example, I recently came across a customer service professional who kicked her resume summary off with a statement about how she had “10 years of expertise dealing with ticked off customers, making them feel heard and restoring their faith in the company’s brand.” Love it or hate it, this kind of language stands out from the crowd and shows a lot more personality than the average resume you’ll come across.

So there you have it. In addition to all of the other cleansing rituals you’ll likely engage in this time of year, consider spending some quality time with your resume, too, and seeing if you can elevate it to the next level. There’s no time like the present!

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Matt Youngquist

Guest writer Matt Youngquist is a recognized career coaching expert and LinkedIn trainer in the greater Seattle area. He’s the founder and president of Career Horizons, where he helps clients across the Pacific Northwest tackle the challenges of job hunting and employment transition.

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