I’ve talked to a lot of people in between jobs -or about to be in between jobs. Usually when they talk about getting a new job, they slump their shoulders, sigh, and say, “But I have to update my resume.” For whatever reason, this task gets us a bit tired before we even start. It doesn’t help that there’s always a bit of conflicting opinions on the resume. One sheet. No Objective. The cover letter is dead. The suggestions and updates to the process feel endless. When it comes time to make the necessary updates, you have to focus and pay attention to what matters with your resume.

7 Resume Tips

The beginning of a new year is the perfect time to refresh your resume. Like Allstate says, “Life comes at you fast.” You don’t need to change your insurance company, but you do need to update your resume with the latest and greatest. And while you’re in there, take a few extra swipes at it with these seven tips.

1. Layout matters, but not as much as you think.

If you’re spending more time on the visual appeal of your resume and less on the actual content, you’re doing it wrong. By all means, reduce your white space. But don’t spend more time on that in favor of leaving in bullet points that read: Supported XYZ program.

2. You’re writing for an ATS and a recruiter.

An applicant tracking system (ATS) may be a machine, but the recruiter is definitely a human. You can stuff in the keywords (which you need), but make sure you don’t look like an idiot to a human when they read the resume that made it through the ATS.

3. Make a connection.

Not all of us can be Elle Woods, handing out perfume-scented, pink resumes. But you can make a connection in the process. The cover letter may be considered dead by some, but maybe not to you if you really want the job. Find a way to let them know that you’re awesome and amazing. Find a way to connect if you really want the job.

4. Phone a friend.

You know what resume a recruiter is likely to spend more than seven seconds looking at? The one that’s delivered personally by someone in your network. Don’t be too proud to beg. You don’t have to mass email tons of resumes to find your next gig. Look at who you know and hand them your updated, 2024 resume.

5. Clean out the filler and fluff.

I found it painful to remove extra items on my resume. I agreed that it was important to tell a recruiter my accomplishments. But what about all the tasks that I did on the regular? Those were meaningful aspects of my job too. Don’t they want to know all about them? Not particularly. They took up space AND took away from the question that really needed answering: Can she do the job? Get cutthroat with your resume content and remove what only matters for the job you want.

6. Get a reviewer involved.

A friend and former boss has reviewed my resume every time I’ve headed into a new position. It’s in my nature to feel bad when I ask each time, but the advice given has been from a place of someone who knew my old jobs and understood how to make the work translate. He pushed me to define my accomplishments and not just list out my tasks. The fact that he was a former boss helped me find that weird line between owning my work and not taking unnecessary credit.

7. Don’t be afraid of a little AI.

This is a bit of a hot take. I find that we have some people who are anti-ChatGPT and others who let AI write everything for them now. Somewhere there is an in-between. Your resume is a great time to use the tool. Whether you’re fresh out of school with zero experience or are entering year 20, you can still use a little AI to smooth out your resume. Sometimes, you can ask it to say things better. Or ask it to review your resume for any mistakes or issues. Your resume isn’t classified or intellectual property. There’s no reason why you can’t employ your AI assistant in the process. You can look up all the action words or you can see what AI brings to the table. You don’t get extra credit for doing it all by yourself.

Don’t Forget Your Online Profiles

Of course, it’s not enough to just update your resume. You have to send it out too. But if you’re not yet in the market for a new gig, at least update your ClearanceJobs profile in the meantime. Keep all your information current, and you’ll have less work to do when you’re ready to explore what cleared jobs are out there.

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Jillian Hamilton has worked in a variety of Program Management roles for multiple Federal Government contractors. She has helped manage projects in training and IT. She received her Bachelors degree in Business with an emphasis in Marketing from Penn State University and her MBA from the University of Phoenix.