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How to Nail Your Dream Job with an Impressive Resume

How to Nail Your Dream Job with an Impressive Resume

Stuck in a job rut nightmare? It’s never too late to dig yourself out. And an all-star resume might just be the shovel you need.

Picture this: You finally get the chance to apply for your dream job. You already know what you’re going to wear to the interview. You’ve envisioned which pictures to hang in your office, and how you plan to decorate your desk. You just know that once they meet you in person, they won’t be able to say “No.”

But before you can sell yourself in person, you have to rely on your resume to do the initial talking.

And just the sheer mention of the “R” word has you cringing.

It can be difficult, especially for personable people, to describe their life’s work on a piece of paper. But these 10 resume tips can land you the breakout interview you’ve been working for. That dream job will be as good as yours.

1. Make your resume interactive.

You can add interactive resume links to your social media profiles, like LinkedIn, and examples of your work to give the hiring manager extra opportunities to explore your strong points. However, make sure you test every feature before you send your resume.

2. Take advantage of formatting tools to help important content stand out.

You can use different font sizes, bolded or italicized words to highlight important information, like this example:

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    But don’t overdo it. Using formatting is supposed to help the recruiter find information easier, but using the wrong formatting can complicate your resume, like in this example:

      3. Learn how to utilize your real estate effectively.

      You only get one page (two, tops) to show your stuff, so you need to use it wisely. But instead of sacrificing font size or cramming text into every white space, try decreasing your margins, and minimizing the size of blank lines between content.

      For instance, you might choose to use an 11-point font for your content, but you can change the blank lines in between sections to an 8-point font without your text becoming cluttered or unreadable.

      Also remember to use enough white space and minimize text on the page for easy searchability. You can do this by replacing long words with short ones (bigger isn’t better in this case), and writing phrases instead of complete sentences.

      4. Empower a keyword strategy.

      Recruiters typically scan resumes for certain criteria, and using action words early on in your resume can help to spark their interest:

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      • Utilized
      • Developed
      • Managed
      • Led
      • Designed
      • Initiated
      • Taught

      Front load these keywords in your job duties and accomplishments so the recruiter won’t be able to miss them.

      5. Don’t overdo it on design work.

      Sure, you want your resume to look nice (at least nice enough to catch their attention), but the content within will ultimately land you in the Yes or No stack.

      Hiring managers are used to a standard (if boring) format. It helps them find the information they want to know quickly. Differentiating yourself from the stack may help get you noticed, but no recruiter wants to spend extra time searching for key findings in your reinvented resume because your design skills got in the way.

      Here’s an example of how a nice-looking resume’s design confuses the content:

        Yes, it gets attention. But will it get an interview? Perhaps for a design job. Probably not for any other job.

        6. Your skills and job expertise should reflect how you can do the job you are applying for, not how you did your previous job.

        It’s important to recruiters how you performed in your previous jobs, but it’s even more important to forecast how you might perform if you’re offered the job.

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        No, this doesn’t mean creating a brand new resume from scratch each time you apply to a job. But it does mean you should make a few tweaks to tailor your resume to each job you apply for.

        7. Include the same language of the job posting into your resume.

        Nowadays, your resume will go through a computer scanner before it ever reaches human eyes. These scanners are searching for keywords and information: if yours has it, you might move on to the next step.

        Start by looking for clues in the job description. Add their language verbatim into your resume to ensure your skills match their requirements. This could mean the difference of an actual person seeing your resume, or having your digital resume hang out in eternal cyberspace.

        8. Put your strongest qualities at the top.

        Oftentimes recruiters will not read your resume word for word as they decide to move forward with interviews. If you want certain information to get noticed, it’s best to put it first.

        Start by listing your most relevant duties at the top of each job on your resume. These should be the specific items also listed in the job description. Also, make sure you are only including the most important information, rather than every single duty you can think of. You’ve got limited space and time to make an impression, so put your best foot (and only your best foot) forward.

        9. Be specific in listing your achievements.

        Details tell the story that recruiters want to know about you, so make sure you’re giving them a clear picture of what you’re worth. For instance, instead of listing things like

        • Promoted to shift manager
        • Problem solver
        • Self-directed

        you could say

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        • Managed a team of 7 employees after promotion to shift manager
        • Solved a shipping problem that saved $5,000 a year in materials
        • Initiated a company-wide account review that generated $6,000 in annual revenue

        10. Only talk about skills that pertain to the job.

        Listing irrelevant hobbies or skills that might not carry over to the job you’re applying for is a blatant waste of real estate on your resume. Yet many folks continue to include useless information as page fillers.

        For example, if you are applying for an office job, don’t waste time talking about how you maintained the office appearance, or made fresh coffee daily, or ordered office supplies. These things are either assumed, capable of anybody, or don’t matter.

        Instead, you could talk about how many clients or employees you managed, how you initiated a new process that boosted efficiency, or a mistake you caught that saved the company some money. This is your chance to talk about the things that differentiate you from other applicants.

        You don’t have to be an excellent writer to write an excellent resume!

        Use these 10 resume tips as your starting block to help you finish the job race and you’ll emerge with the dream job you know you deserve.

        Featured photo credit: Flaticon via flaticon.com

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        Last Updated on April 23, 2019

        How to Set Stretch Goals and Keep Your Team Motivated

        How to Set Stretch Goals and Keep Your Team Motivated

        Stretch goals are a lot like physical fitness. When you adopt a physical sport such as running, continual practice leads to increased stamina, growth and progress.

        While commitment to the sport improves performance, true growth happens when you are stretched beyond your comfort zone. I know this from personal experience.

        For years, I was an avid runner. I ran with a variety of running groups in the Washington, D.C., area and in Columbus, Ohio, where I lived prior to moving to the nation’s capital in 2011.

        While I was initially fearful about slacking off on my exercise habit when I moved to D.C., running enthusiasts in the area provided continual motivation, inspiring me to lace up my shoes day after day. Much to my surprise, many of the area’s running stores (including Pacers and Potomac River Running) boasted running groups that met in the mornings and evenings. So, it was relatively easy for a newcomer like me to connect with like-minded peers.

        I was never a particularly fast runner, but I enjoyed the afterglow of the sport: being completely drained but feeling a sense of accomplishment; setting and reaching goals; buying and wearing out new tennis shoes. The sound of throngs of feet pounding the pavement in semi-unison is still enough to bring tears to my eyes. Yes, I sometimes tear up at the start of races.

        Of all the groups I ran with, the Pacers Store group that met on Monday nights in Logan Circle boasted the fastest runners. I met up with the group week after week only to be the slowest runner. It was difficult to muster the courage to get up every week and meet the group knowing what was waiting for me: sweating and watching the backs of fellow runners.

        Each time I joined the group, I was stretching myself without even realizing it. Instead of feeling like I was transitioning into a better running, for a long time I felt I was torturing myself.

        Then something remarkable happened. I went for a run with a different set of runners and noticed my time had improved. I was running at a faster pace and doing so with ease. What was once uncomfortable for me I now handled with ease.

        The reason I was becoming a better runner was because I was taking myself out of my comfort zone and challenging myself physically and mentally. This example illustrates the process of growth.

        Fortunately, we can create situations that stretch us in our personal and professional lives.

        What Is a Stretch Goal?

        A stretch goal – as authors Sim B. Sitkin, C. Chet Miller and Kelly E. See detail an article “The Stretch Goal Paradox” in Harvard Business Review[1] – is something that is extremely difficult and novel. It is something that not everyone does, and it’s sometimes considered impossible.

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        In general, you establish stretch goals by doing things that are difficult or temporarily challenging.

        For instance, when I was first promoted to a senior communications management role, I knew I needed to beef up my relationships with media personalities. I set a goal to once a month book a day of media interviews in New York City – which is home to many media outlets, including SiriusXM radio, CNN, NBC News, HuffPost, VIBE.

        This was a huge goal because it meant not only identifying the right people to meet with but convincing them to meet with me and my team. While I didn’t end up meeting the goal of doing a full day of media interviews in New York City, I met more people than I would have met had I not established the goal and instead stayed in the comfort of my D.C. office.

        It is important to note that just because you establish a stretch goal doesn’t mean you’ll achieve the goal each time. However, the process of trying is guaranteed to provide some level of growth.

        The Importance of Creating Stretch Goals

        The beginning of the year is a perfect time to assess where you are excelling and where there is room for you to grow. I typically start the year by creating a yearlong strategic plan for myself.

        I think about the things that are necessary to do and things that would be cool to do. I assess the people I should know and think through how to meet them. Then I ask myself if the goals are realistic and what would need to happen for me to achieve them.

        Over time, I have learned that there are five things I can do to set stretch goals:

        1. Get Outside of Your Head

        If I exist within the confines of my imagination, I imperil my own growth and creativity.

        If I examine my accomplishments and celebrate them in isolation of others’ accomplishments, my vantage point is limited.

        I want to be comfortable with what I accomplish, but I also want to be motivated by watching others. In some respects, stretching is about expanding your network of friends, associates and mentors. These are the people who will propel or slow your growth and development.

        Since two are better than one, I always value being able to share my progress with others, seek feedback and then map a plan for success.

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        2. Focus on a Couple Areas at a Time

        When setting goals, it is important to focus on a couple of areas at a time. Most of us are only able to focus on a few things at a time, and if you feel you are unable to tackle all that is before you, you may simply disengage.

        I see this in so many areas of life:

        When people get in debt, if they believe the debt is insurmountable, they refuse to look at incoming bills for fear of facing down the debt. Unfortunately, many businesses go awry when setting stretch goals.

        In “The Stretch Goal Paradox,” Sitkin, Miller and See note:

        “Our research suggests that though the use of stretch goals is quite common, successful use is not. And many executives set far too many stretch goals. In the past five years, for example, Tesla failed to meet more than 20 of founder Elon Musk’s ambitious projections and missed half of them by nearly a year, according to the Wall Street Journal.”

        Goal-setting is like a marathon, not a sprint. It doesn’t all need to happen at the same time, and pacing is extremely important if you want to get to the finish line. It is better to focus on a couple goals at a time, master them and then move on to the next thing.

        3. Set Aside Time Each Year to Focus on Goal-Setting

        When I was a managing director for communications for the Advancement Project, I spent the first part of every year facilitating a communications planning meeting.

        The planning meeting began with the team members assessing the goals the team had established in the preceding year, and whether those goals were realistic or not. If we failed to meet certain goals, we broke down why that happened. From there, we brainstormed about possibilities for the current year.

        For instance, one year we set a goal of pitching and getting 24 opinion essays published. This was audacious because no one on the eight-person team had the luxury of focusing exclusively on editing and pitching opinion essays to publications around the world. We would need to focus on pitching in between the rest of our work.

        We hit this goal within the first eight months of the year. Remarkably, in total, we ended up getting 40 opinion essays published that year, which was an indication that our original goal was too low. We upped the goal to 41 the next year, and amazingly, we hit 42 published opinion essays or guest columns.

        From this experience, we not only learned what was feasible, we also learned the power of focus.

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        When we focused as a team on getting the commentary on our issues out in the public domain, we were successful. The key in all of this is that there was a ton of discussion around which goal we’d pursue and why.

        Equally important, as a manager, I didn’t set the goals alone; the team members and I established the goals collaboratively. This ensured buy-in from each individual.

        4. Use the S.M.A.R.T. Goal Model to Set Realistic Goals

        S.M.A.R.T.

        is a synonym for specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and time-bound. For the sake of this article, the realistic portion of the acronym is most important.

        While you want to set audacious goals, you want to ensure that they are realistic as well. No one is served by setting a goal that is impossible to accomplish.

        Failing to meet goals can be demoralizing for teams, so it’s important to be sober-eyed about what is possible. Additionally, the purpose of setting goals is to advance and grow, not depress morale.

        For instance, my team would have been discouraged had I begun the year asking it to pitch and place 40 opinion essays if we didn’t already have a track record of placing close to two dozen essays.

        By using the S.M.A.R.T. formula, we were able to achieve all that we set out to do.

        5. Break the Goal up into Small Digestible Parts

        I am a recovering perfectionist. As a writer, being a perfectionist can be counterproductive because I can fail to start if I don’t see a clear pathway to victory.

        The same is true with goal-setting. That’s why I join Lifehack’s fellow contributor Deb Knobelman, Ph.D., in noting that it is critically important to break goals into bite-sized chunks.

        When I had a goal of doing daylong media meetings in New York City, I had to think through all the barriers to achieving that goal and all the steps required to meet the goal.

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        One step was identifying which reporters, producers and hosts to engage. Another step was writing a pitch or meeting invitation that would capture their attention. Another step was thinking through the program areas I wanted to highlight and the new angles I could offer to different reporters.

        Since reporters want to cover stories that no one else has written, I needed to come up with fresh angles for each of the reporters I was engaging. An additional step was thinking through who from my team I’d take with me to the various meetings.

        I was clear that, as a talking head, as public relations reps are sometimes called, I needed the right spokesperson in order to land repeated meetings with different outlets.

        A final step was thinking through what I needed to bring to each meeting and which reports, videos and testimonials would buttress our claims and be of interest to media figures.

        As I walked through what was needed to bring my goal of doing daylong meetings to reality, I realized that not only was the idea within reach, but I was excited to tackle the challenge.

        From that point until now, I have learned to break down goals into smaller parts and tackle the smaller parts on the path to knocking the goal out of the park.

        The Bottom Line

        These are my recommendations for setting stretch goals, and there are a ton of other resources to support you in the workplace and in your community.

        For instance, LinkedIn’s Lynda.com platform has a wonderful suite of leadership development videos, including ones on establishing stretch goals. This is a paid resource but may be worth the investment if you lead a team or want to invest in tools for your own growth and development.

        Featured photo credit: Avatar of user Isaac Smith Isaac Smith @isaacmsmith Isaac Smith via unsplash.com

        Reference

        [1] Harvard Business Review: The Stretch Goal Paradox

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