Résumé Building: Don't Let Your Résumé Date You

Published in CareersConnect, August 2011

By April Silverthorn Southward

Your résumé is the first impression a potential employer will have of you as a professional. Therefore it's important to project the best possible image of yourself and what you have to offer potential employers through your résumé. One of the best ways to ensure a great image is to be careful not to date yourself. Regardless of where you are in your career, there is absolutely no benefit to dating yourself. While age discrimination is illegal, it inevitably happens when résumés are reviewed. What can you do to help safeguard yourself? Follow these five steps and minimize the chance of becoming the next victim.

1. It's Time for a Résumé Check-up
A great résumé, like many things, starts with great bones. Give your current résumé a check-up against the high expectations of today's hiring market by reviewing an article from earlier this year, "Résumé Building: Creating a Résumé for 2011." In the article I discuss how to create the clean, clear, and concise résumé that employers are looking for. Above the recommendations discussed in the article, you need to make sure that your résumé is presenting the best depiction of your professional career. This means highlighting the most critical contributions that you bring to the hiring table.

To begin this process you need to make sure that you are listing your experience in the correct order. You'd be surprised how many professionals list their experience in chronological order. Instead you want to list everything in reverse chronological order beginning with your most current work experience and education. The average employer takes only a few seconds to determine if they want to continue reviewing your résumé, which is why you want to list the most relevant information first.

Another important consideration is how far back in your career to go on your résumé. The vast majority of employers recommend between 10–15 years. However, rather than focusing on a strict cut-off point, the more important factor is relevancy. What positions that you've held are relevant to the position you are applying for? When you combine the two considerations it should be pretty easy to find a clear cut-off point.

Finally, avoid incorporating a double space after each period. The outdated practice drives me, and so many others, crazy! Instead, remove the extra spaces, which are not only taking up valuable white space, but are a typographical error recognized by every major editorial style guide.

2. Don't Let Dates Make You Look Dated
Odds are, when you were first taught how to create a résumé, you were taught to document everything. However, things have changed quite a bit over the years and this is no longer considered a best practice. Instead, the philosophy "less is more" has taken over the hiring market. When it comes to your work experience list only the year versus the month and year to help simplify your résumé.

However, when it comes to your education, it's better to not state when you obtained your degree. As crazy as it may seem, it's quite possible for your degree to have been obtained prior to the birth of the person reviewing your résumé. Talk about a way to appear dated! The same goes for new professionals; listing education dates that are only a couple of years ago may severely impact how a potential employer perceives your knowledge and abilities as a professional.

3. Don't Appear Vague, Discuss Specific Accomplishments
All too often, when a job seeker updates their résumé, they continue to use the same text created years prior with little to no edits. This simply does not work in today's highly competitive environment. Rather than being vague, you have to be specific and stand out in order to be considered. Take a look at your current résumé—does it include any of the following statements?

- bottom-line oriented
- client focused
- detail-oriented
- cutting edge
- excellent communication skills
- extensive experience
- dynamic
- entrepreneurial
- fast-paced
- goal-oriented
- highly skilled
- innovative
- meets or exceeds expectations
- motivated
- problem solver
- proven track record
- quick learner
- results-oriented
- seasoned
- seeking a challenging opportunity
- self-starter
- strategic thinker
- strong work ethic
- team player
- trustworthy
- veteran
- works well under pressure
- works well with others

If so, you must rewrite your résumé. Many of the expressions listed above can be showcased on your résumé by simply showing these traits through the actions that you have made throughout your career. What's the best way to do this? Use quantifiable data such as statistics and numerical value, whenever possible. If you in fact have a proven track record, discuss the specific actions you have to back up that statement. As the old saying goes, actions speak louder than words.

4. Stop Showcasing Expected Qualities
To take the last point a step forward, many of the outdated terms listed above are really expectations rather than accomplishments. Great, you're a problem solver, aren't we all? When you think about it from that perspective, it's easy to see that you are wasting prime résumé real estate focusing on expectations rather than achievements.

More importantly, all sections of your résumé should be reviewed for expectations. For example, it's no longer necessary to state that you understand common software such as Microsoft Office products since the vast majority of today's job seekers do. The reality is that employers are looking for the most competent individuals, and by listing these basic expectations throughout your résumé, you're telling employers that these basic skills are all that you have to offer.

Finally, it's not necessary for you to state that you have "references available upon request." This is yet another employer expectation. Think of it this way, if you were to hire someone to repair something at your house, shouldn't the vendor be able to provide you with references, if they are in fact a legitimate business person? This is no different.

5. Don't Forget to Include Social Media
Whether you like it or not, social media is here to stay and is being used by employers to get a better picture as to whom applicants are. Therefore, it's now completely appropriate to list your LinkedIn, Twitter, or blog URL on your résumé. Maybe you're not currently on social media. The great news is that there is no better time to join. With employers planning to Google your name, you need to provide quality content for them to find, and social media can do just that.

If you choose to join only one site, I would highly recommend creating a LinkedIn account. While the process of creating a LinkedIn account seems intensive and almost overwhelming, the time you invest into the site is truly an investment in your career. To learn more about LinkedIn, the site's benefits, and how to go about setting up an account, check out "Link-up with LinkedIn" and "Link-up with LinkedIn Part II." 






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