Updating Your Resume: Modern Or Classic?

Updating your resume

The job-hunting world hardly needs another how-to on resume writing.  There is no shortage of articles, full of do’s & don’ts for crafting a credible account of the job-seeker’s professional history.  But for some reason, we still see many resumes that are a hot mess, or at least out of step with today’s digital job market.

Here is Bench’s brief take on resumes.  Using what crosses our desks each day as a starting point, here are two more lists outlining what we believe has changed (2014), and what has stayed the same (Classic).


The purpose of the resume is to keep from getting screened out.  Your first goal is to get a phone call, not to win the job in one step.  That’s it.  Many candidates try too hard to sell themselves with resumes that are verbose and filled with hyperbole.  Verbosity and hyperbole create a picture of desperation.  Don’t blow smoke.

Chronological resumes are more popular than skills-based resumes.  Hiring managers better understand the classic approach, and that’s why 98 out of 100 resumes are still chronological…. which means your most recent job first and the oldest last.  Really.

The 2-page rule still applies.  Just state the facts as they are.  Limit yourself to 3-5 bullets per job role.  Use even fewer for jobs 10+ years ago or for those that are not relevant.  To be able to review hundreds of candidates each day, recruiters still only spend about 5-10 seconds giving your resume an initial glance.

Verb tenses should be consistent.  Use the past tense for every verb that describes each job in the past, and the present tense only for discussing your current position.  Don’t mix and match.

Turn responsibilities into accomplishments.  List results instead, even if only a few, to increase your credibility on paper.  To the contrary, describing a list of 15 duties for a position held briefly (< 2 years) only increases a recruiter's skepticism.


Use plain vanilla formatting.  Forgo fancy fonts, complicated spacing and lines of any type.  Resumes are electronically sucked up into databases used by recruiters (i.e. “parsing” into applicant tracking systems) in large volumes.  Formatting can mess up the placement of skills and job titles into the correct data fields.  Bullets are still ok – just use normal dots or dashes.

Professional Summaries have replaced Objectives.  A concise 2-3 sentence overview describing your skills and experiences now opens your resume in place of career objectives.  Keep it short – think of it as an electronic handshake introducing yourself to the world.

Skills and competencies are consistently worded.  In the digital universe, algorithms are on an endless hunt day and night for keywords.  Throughout your resume, use the same keywords whenever possible.  For example, use “project manager” instead of alternating between “project management,” “managed projects” or “managing projects.”  The frequency in which a keyword appears makes your resume more relevant within automated searches.  The most relevant resumes are listed first in search results for recruiters to evaluate.  Check Linked In profiles for examples on how to best word your skill sets.  State only those skills in which you have some degree of expertise that sets you apart from others.

Update your resume online regularly.  Resumes that have been tweaked – even if only slightly – are perceived by algorithms as being updated.  Recruiters can sort search results for the freshest resumes.  Concerned that your employer will find your resume online?  Don’t be.  You’re a free agent at all times, and you need to know what your options are.  Being located by a recruiter in the digital universe can be a very good thing.

Submit .pdf versions.  Yeah, 99% of everyone uses MS Word, but there are so many versions now running off different operating systems.  Compatibility issues are as prevalent as ever and an Adobe Acrobat (.pdf )version keeps the resume’s formatting “locked” in place while it roams the digital landscape.

This list is not exhaustive, but it does address common mistakes and best practices that Bench recruiters see on a daily basis.  As always – show your resume to others and ask for feedback.  Opinions can differ, so read articles like this one and look for common themes.

Good luck in your search for your next great gig!