Refresh Your Resume in One Hour or Less

Refresh Your Resume in One Hour or Less

Refresh Your Resume in One Hour or Less

You can give your resume a complete makeover in five, easy steps that’ll take no more than an hour. That’s really not so bad. So stop procrastinating and let’s get started.

When it’s time for me to update my resume, I often feel the same as I do after a big party: Overwhelmed by the amount of chores that have to get done and not at all inclined to get started. Just like picking up after a rager — or even a sedate game night — means unearthing the vacuum from the storage closet, finding another roll of paper towels, hauling the trash and recycling out, cleaning a sinkful (or more!) of cheese-encrusted dishes and sticky glasses, revamping a resume comes with its own set of not-so-fun chores.

But just like a household mess, an outdated resume doesn’t get better with time. And let me leave you with one last metaphor before we get down to it: You know that feeling of panic and dread when your family decides to surprise you with a visit when your house is still a complete wreck? That’s like being asked to send your resume along when you haven’t given it a decent update in awhile. You end up scrambling to finish the task without much grace, and with way too much stress when it can be as routine as doing your laundry.

Step 1: Cut Your Resume to One Page – 5 minutes

Get over yourself. After working in the civilian world and reading resumes as part of my job, I can tell you, less than 5% are more than one page. Even those with 20-plus years of work history pare it down to a single sheet of paper. You can too, unless you’re applying for a government job; if so, ignore all this advice and go spend a week filling out that godawful website.

The quickest way to trim your resume is to open a fresh, blank Google doc (it’s free!) or a use Word document. Copy your heading (name, contact info, possibly an objective statement), education, and work history — but only what’s most recent and fits on one page.

Easy things to cut (and to keep off of your resume): awards, high school, Associate’s degree (if you have a Bachelors or higher, if not, keep it), volunteer info, hobbies and interests. Sure, you may think that those things give color or prestige to your resume, and if you have room at the end, perhaps add your volunteer work back in, but for now, chop it all off.

Step 2: Condense and Refine – 15 minutes

Now that you’re stuck with just one page, you have to make everything on that document condensed and easy to read. First off, delete college graduation dates (unless you’re in school now and have an expected graduation date). The only dates on your resume should be in your work history. For example Army Officer, 2011 – 2015 or Marketing Associate, ABC Company, May 2016 to present.

Next, make sure you’re not breaking down each position in the military unnecessarily. You may have to combine several positions under one general title, such as Logistics Manager, instead of having three, similarly titled jobs in a row. Swap military ranks for civilian titles. No one knows what a Staff Sergeant means. They do know what an assistant manager or team leader is, however, so that’s the terminology you need to use. Snoop around LinkedIn for ideas. Look for resume examples to give you an idea of what your end product should look like.

Step 3: Fix Your Job Bullets – 20 minutes

Don’t make this harder than it has to be! If you ever had to submit award paperwork for your soldiers, or write evaluations, it’s very similar. In every case that you can, you want to show quantifiable accomplishments.

For example:

Hirepurpose Resume Sample

If you run out of room, pick only one or two strong bullets and cut your job description to one line.

Step 4: Verify Your Resume Tells the Story You Want – 10 mins

This is the most subjective step, so make sure you limit yourself on time otherwise you may waffle around forever. You have to read your resume as if you’re the hiring manager/boss at the company you want to work for.

Even if you’re updating your resume in general, it needs to paint a cohesive picture. For example, when I applied to writing positions after serving as an intelligence officer, I left off all the maintenance and logistics work I did as an executive officer. Instead, I highlighted report writing and anything related to writing.

Make sure what you have on the page in front of you presents you as the best candidate for the career.

Step 5: Give it a Final PCC/PCI – 10 mins

This last step is easiest if you step away from your document for at least five minutes. Go read something else, take a bathroom break, or make a cup of coffee. You want fresh eyes for the final checks. Once you’re refreshed, run through the following inspection:

  • Make sure the font sizes match. You don’t want one job title larger than the next or other mismatches.
  • Check font types, font color, and margins.
  • Look for any tense changes; in general, keep your past jobs in past tense and your current position in present tense.
  • Run spell check one last time and make sure you spelled the names of your current and former employers correctly.
  • Ensure the dates on your work history show no unaccounted-for gaps. It’s easy to screw up and leave out a year, but you definitely don’t want that on your final resume.
  • Can you read your resume without reaching for reading glasses? Cut things out rather than shrink your font to make things fit.
  • Verify that your contact info — name, email, address, phone number — are correct.
  • Print if possible. Reading a hard copy resume can help you spot errors you glossed over on the screen.
  • Done! For bonus points, send to a mentor or someone you trust to give it a once-over.