Performance reviews: A natural opportunity for a résumé update

In today's often-frenetic business world, it's hard to remember everything that needs to be done and even more difficult to make time for it all. Take the task of updating your résumé. If you recently received a performance evaluation, consider setting aside some time to do just that.

The timing is ideal, coming just after you've reflected on your most recent projects and accomplishments. During your evaluation, your manager likely also gave you some insights about your strengths. And what about recently acquired skills, such as proficiency with a particular software package or experience implementing a new accounting rule? Why not feed this fresh information into your résumé while it's still top of mind?

It's always a good practice to have an up-to-date résumé on hand. You never know when you'll hear about an opportunity that interests you or be approached by a recruiter about a position when you least expect it. As the scouting motto goes: Be prepared.

Here are some questions to consider as you undertake a résumé update:

Are my accomplishments showcased? Make sure your revamped résumé focuses on what you've actually achieved in your current role. Professionals often give an exhaustive list of their responsibilities but fail to say how they made an on-the-job difference. For example, rather than listing one of your responsibilities as "managed receivables," explain your success in doing so -- e.g., "Managed more than $350 million in receivables over six years with less than $100,000 of bad debt."
Also, take renewed stock of your intangible assets, particularly those highlighted by your manager during your appraisal. You may be able to plug some of these attributes into your résumé as well.

Is the style up to date? Like your wardrobe, your résumé also needs periodic makeovers. Do some research and check with colleagues to get up to speed on current résumé trends and employer preferences. Granted, the latter can be difficult to nail down; résumé advice can vary from one hiring manager or human resources professional to the next. But you should be able to identify the most widely favored practices.
Many employers, for instance, prefer a professional profile or summary at the top of the résumé, rather than an objective. Another example is provided by executives polled in a Robert Half survey, who said they prefer a chronological résumé, which is organized by your work history, to a functional one, which is organized according to your skills and attributes.

Is the length right? Just as thinking on résumé style has evolved over time, so have résumé length preferences. Senior executives interviewed in periodic surveys by Robert Half have generally been more receptive toward two-page résumés for staff positions, but most still prefer a one-page résumé.
Although there is no hard-and-fast rule for how long your résumé should be, keep in mind that everything about your résumé, including its length, is a reflection of your judgment, so you want it to suit you. If you have only about three years of job experience, you probably don't need a two-page résumé -- and having one won't make you seem more qualified. Hiring managers can spot filler.
Further, an initial résumé scan may command a minute or less of a reviewer's time, so a bloated résumé can work against you. A hiring manager is more likely to glean the most important information quickly if your résumé is short and concise.

Have I avoided empty words? Too often, candidates fill their résumés with buzzwords they think sound impressive but don't convey anything of substance. In fact, they've become clichés (such as "innovative," "dynamic" or "effective"). Moreover, they make you sound like everyone else at a time when you want a hiring manager to see you as a special candidate. So rather than saying you're "creative" or "results-oriented," try to explain how your creativity is reflected in your work and what kind of results you've achieved.
We all know the importance of triggers, which is why we develop routines and make to-do lists. Consider starting a positive professional habit by updating your résumé after every performance appraisal. It can help ensure that you capture career highlights as they occur -- and that you're always prepared for whatever lies ahead.