It’s common to not think about your resume until you need it—which means it’s also common to seek out resume help only when it’s time for an update. Whether you’re searching for a job for the first time in years, changing careers, or just doing a regular update of your career management document, there are several quick changes you can make to prove you are up to date.

Remove mentions of references

Students and recent graduates tend to be especially guilty of including the outdated line about “references available upon request.”

Everyone is expected to have references. Saying you have references doesn’t make you seem professional or special—and it does take up valuable space.

Employers will ask for references when they want them (typically right before or right after an interview). When this happens, provide a separate reference sheet.

Find orphans a home

An orphan is a word on a line by itself. If your resume contains lines with orphans, rephrase them.

One easy way to tighten your resume writing is to remove every instance of “was.” Instead of saying, “Was responsible for securing donations for a fundraising auction,” say “Secured $12,000 worth of donations for a fundraising auction.” Be brief, be specific, and eliminate the passive voice.

Without orphans, your resume will be much more visually appealing.

Don’t spell out numbers

Even small numbers, which are typically spelled out, should be presented numerically on your resume. They stand out much more that way.

Use numerals for all numbers
Save space and add clarity by writing numbers numerically.

On a related note, use the percent sign instead of spelling out “percent” or “percentage.” It’s much easier to read “11%” at a glance than “eleven percent.”

Another benefit to ditching spelled-out numbers is that you’ll gain a little space.

Leave high school in the past

If you have attended college at all—even if you didn’t graduate, or haven’t yet—it’s time to take all references to high school off your resume. Don’t be like Uncle Rico.

If, during your high school years, you did something especially relevant to a job you’re applying for, you can refer to it in your cover letter or your interview.

Categorize your skills

Your skills section can be one of the biggest selling points on your resume. Make sure it’s easy to read at a glance by sorting your skills into categories. For example, if you’re applying for a marketing job, you might want to call attention to your social media skills like this:

  • Professional Social Media Experience: Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+, YouTube, Pinterest

An effective skills section is one of your best bets for impressing an applicant tracking system, or ATS. An ATS is a type of database used by employers of all sizes to store, sort, and score resumes.

Using the right resume keywords is one of the best ways to make sure an ATS will give you a high ranking. Phrase things on your resume to echo the phrasing in the job listing that interests you. For example, some photography job listings mention “image editing software” while others say “photo editing software.” The wrong phrasing may mean your keyword gets overlooked.

The task of writing a resume that gets noticed by both a database and a human is one of the main reasons more and more people are seeking out resume help. Following the five steps above will make sure your resume is in top shape for the job search.

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Trista Winnie

Trista Winnie has been writing and editing professionally for nearly a decade, primarily covering the job search, investing, engineering, and health.

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