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Seven-Day Résumé Makeover
July 2010

Does your résumé need an upgrade? If you get a sinking feeling every time you think about what you need to do to get your résumé into shape, here's a seven day plan to makeover your résumé focusing on one thing each day.

Day 1: Header and preparation – 20 minutes

You name should be easily visible – make it a larger font-size than the rest of your content and make sure it is in bold typeface. Your email address and phone number should be the next thing underneath or across from your name. Then include your address. You'd like to think that there is no discrimination when it comes to gender or ethnicity, however if you suspect that your name may be keeping you from getting through – use initials for your first name instead. For example, Sonia Mayfield applying for a position as in IT sales representative might get a quicker call back as S. Mayfield. Unfortunately we live in a world where there is still some bias.

After making these quick changes to your header, let's prepare for tomorrow by gathering any notes about your performance including recommendations you've received through LinkedIn.

Day 2: Summary of Qualifications/Career Highlights – 60 minutes

Forget about writing an objective statement that outlines what kind of position you are looking for and what skills you'd like to use. Focus on what makes you stand out as an ideal person for the job. What special accomplishments, skills, experiences or professional wins have you had that communicate the value you can bring to your potential employer? Expert résumé writer Susan Ireland suggests using the following questions to help generate ideas for your summary:

  • Imagine your best friend is talking to the hiring person for the job you want. What would your friend say about you that would make the employer want to call you for an interview?
  • What is it about your personality that makes this job a good fit for you?
  • What personal commitments or passions do you have that would be valued by the employer?
  • Do you have any technical, linguistic, or artistic talents that would be useful on the job?

Day 3: Headings & Organization – 30 minutes

There is no one correct way to organize your résumé. Your choice of organization will be based on your skills, experience, and background. Whether chronological, functional or a combination of both, what's important is that the most relevant information about your skills and experience is highlighted first. Are you a recent graduate short on experience? Start with your education. For those that have been in the workforce and have substantial experience, your education should come after your work history. Make sure you use headings that stand out by varying the size and weight of the font. Avoid making the headings too fancy – your résumé may not transfer well to employers or recruiters that use scanners. Whatever styling you choose, make sure it is consistent from section to section.

Day 4: Content – 2 to 4 hours

Here's where the fun comes in. The challenge here will be to strip out wins, tasks and responsibilities that are irrelevant to the position you are seeking. This will not only help you lighten your résumé visually, but it makes it easier for hiring managers to see the work that matters without wading through lines that don't relate to the position you are being considered for. Having a hard time trying to decide what to keep in? Focus on your accomplishments rather than copying and pasting a job description in your résumé. For positions that you've had more than 10-15 years ago, instead of bulleted lists, summarize your responsibilities and successes in 3-4 lines. Consider leaving work history more than 15 years old off your résumé all together.

Day 5: Pass it along to someone else to read – 1 day

When we look at our own writing, it can be easy to miss typos, grammatical errors, or phrases that are unclear. After doing a spell check and reading through your résumé yourself – pass it on to someone else to look at. If possible, get feedback from three people. In addition to checking spelling and grammar, have them give you feedback on the following questions too:

  • Have I clearly communicated the value I would bring to an employer?
  • Does the résumé give a clear sense of what I have accomplished?
  • Is it easy to read? Is it clutter free, easy to navigate, well organized?
  • Based on my résumé, what stands out most about me as a potential candidate?

Day 6: Revise based on feedback – 2 hours

Remember to graciously thank your reviewers from day 5 and be very careful about what changes you make. Use your own judgment to determine what to add, change, or remove.

Day 7: Deliver your updated résumé – 2 to 3 hours

Take the time to repost your newly updated résumé to all the online sites you've posted to. If you are using social networking, make sure you update your status on Facebook and LinkedIn letting your network know you have made updates and tweet the link to your followers on Twitter. For any recruiters, hiring managers or people in your network that you've been communicating with directly, send them an updated copy of your résumé letting them know you've made some updates.