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6 Signs You Need A Resume Refresh, From Entry-Level To Experienced

Avoid these common mistakes to upgrade and advance.

Workin' Girl

As old-school as it might seem, a resume is still your key to letting people know what you offer to the job market. The way you communicate your skills, talents, and experience on paper can make or break landing that dream opportunity. And though many things about the job search have gone digital and the process has gotten quite casual with more jobs transitioning to remote work, a good resume is still a requirement for top companies and brands, even if you're a freelancer or self-employed.


According to a survey by Careerbuilder, one of the leading employment platforms, almost 24% of hiring managers spend less than 30 seconds even looking at a resume and another survey showed that 54% of job seekers don't customize their resume for each employer, leading to the less of a chance of even getting a call for an interview, nevertheless an offer. Also, 75% of recruiters "use some form of recruiting or applicant tracking software," or ATS, according to Capterra, an online business software resource.

Need any more proof that what you include in a resume—and how you include it—is important, sis? Take a look at a few tips for refreshing your resume to get optimal results when job-seeking:

Entry-Level: Your resume includes irrelevant, poorly worded, or hard-to-understand sections or formatting. 

There's always the debate about whether or not to include an "objective" or "summary" section, however, if you do include either, experts recommend not only customizing it to truly tell, in a conversational manner, what you bring to the table but tell it in a way that will capture a prospective employer's attention.

Experts at Indeed, an OG job-listing website, suggest staying away from overused words and phrases like "team player," "go-getter," or "detailed-oriented," and replacing such expressions with actual details about your work history that illustrate that you embody those phrases.

For example, what specifically classifies you as a "go-getter"? Were you able to secure 20 new clients in the past 3 years working for a company? Did you start a new initiative that brought in revenue? Say that.

And since many recruiters and hiring managers use ATS, you'll want to be sure that you have a Word doc or rich text version of your resume that can be easily understood and dissected through any system that filters resumes for relevance to the position. The experts say that the ATS has a hard time reading specialized formatting like headers, footers, certain text boxes, and colored ink, so using traditional fonts and spelling out acronyms is recommended.

Entry-level: You're not selling your skills in a way that's dynamic.

You might have little to no traditional job experience, but that doesn't mean your resume should be bland or sparse. A good idea is to redirect focus from what you don't have (i.e. experience) to what you can offer. If you've volunteered, interned, or started your own side gig while unemployed or a student, market the skills you used in doing that, and tell the story as if you're the best person for the job you're going for. Don't downplay the time spent doing those things because your talents are valid and those projects often require skills that are transferable to almost any entry-level position.

Be sure to include information on any special certifications, training, or secondary education you've excelled at. Again, the key is to play up what you do offer, not what you don't.

You were the treasurer for your sorority, raising $2,000 for a benefit, collecting yearly dues, and handling the accounting for events and expenses? Talk about what you did and detail the results. Did you volunteer at a local pet shelter, grooming more than a dozen animals per month? Talk about your time management, animal care, and empathy skills in doing that. Did you intern for a small business owner, taking photos, scheduling Instagram posts, and coordinating Reels? Well, sis, that's a social media manager in the making. Toot your horn!

Mid-level: You're using descriptions that signify amateur or vague results.

Yes, the phrases and words you use in your resume can be a reflection of where you are in your career and your level of expertise. You don't want to give the impression that you're not a competitive match for your mid-level peers. Careerbuilder experts point to survey results that show that 38% of HR pros and recruiters aren't keen on "deal-breaking" phrases like "best of breed," while 26% are not fans of "think outside the box," for example.

Also, if you're using jargon or "industry-speak" that was all the rage back when you were in college in the early 2000s (See what I did there!), you might want to freshen up on your industry's language or even up your skills and training to reflect the times.

As a mid-level professional, you're at a level where you've gained quite a few career receipts, so speak on them boldly and with consideration of today's technology, deliverable expectations, and success metrics.

Get into percentages when you talk about growth, increase, or management of anything, name those brands you've done campaigns for, and talk about the talent you've attracted, mentored, and cultivated. Indeed experts recommend using words like "overhauled," "chaired," "championed," or "strategized" and including a professional title at the top of your resume to describe where you are in your career.

Mid-level: You're taking for granted the soft skills and omitting them.

By the time you've gotten to mid-level status, you might have been so focused on climbing up the ladder and getting results that you forgot about the soft skills that are the foundation of success. What's a soft skill? Well, if you have savvy with communicating with a certain audience, you're a great listener, you're a person people just like to work with, or you're great at connecting folk for lucrative collabs, those are soft skills.

And when you're looking at advancing beyond associate or assistant, it's the soft skills that CEOs look for when filling VP and other executive seats.

How do you express these via your resume? By, again, showing vs. telling. So, for example, adaptability is a key soft skill that leaders look for. Add in how you helped your company transition from an old system to new software or how you managed remote workers while bringing in new talent during the pandemic.

Experienced: You're listing information that's more than a decade old.

When you've worked in your industry for more than 10 years, it can be challenging to edit and omit job experience that you are proud of, but experts recommend that job seekers limit their resume to two pages, even if you have lots of experience. (For some jobs, like government service positions, you might have to submit a longer resume, but that's one of the very few exceptions.)

Experts recommend that seasoned professionals with more than a decade of experience list only what's relevant to the job they're applying for or their most recent experience.

There's no need to include your first job or details on a gig you had 10 years ago, especially if the duties you had aren't applicable to the job you're applying for.

Experienced: You're not highlighting long-term impact, honors, and awards.

Experts also recommend that professionals with more than seven years of experience highlight impact. That means if you were responsible for revenue increases, talent acquisition, business wins, or long-term investment projects, include that. If you were able to create overarching innovation that benefited the company, detail the how and why on that. You want to be concise, but don't downplay the larger successes you've had in your career, especially at your level. High-achievers respect results, so show them what you got!

Whatever stage you are in your career, be sure to plan accordingly in order to land that dream gig. If you have to get professional help, do that, but just be sure to be strategic and smart. It's the only way you'll continue to live in your purpose and advance in it.

Featured image via Prostock-Studio/Getty Images

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