It can feel demoralizing to know what your dream job is when you aren't yet in it. But in actuality, anyone who has identified their dream job is already ahead of the pack.
If you know what you want to do with your life, then you can focus on pursuing it. (If you're not already sure of your dream job, follow these steps to uncover it.) Once you've identified the job(s) you want to pursue, the next step is to apply for the role with your best foot forward. And that's where strong resumes come in. For the purposes of this article, I'll assume you're already familiar with the resume writing basics. You probably know that you need to include your name, contact info, and employment history. But when you're pursuing your dream job--or any competitive work opportunity--it's not enough to stop at the basics. Instead, implement the following six "resume hacks" to make your resume stand out from the pack.
1) Do your research.
It's all too easy to send off the same resume to every job for which you apply. And it's equally easy for recruiters to spot when a resume hasn't been tailored to the job in question. If you're trying to land your dream job, then it warrants the time and energy it will take to tweak your resume so it's custom-made for the job. Here's how to make the right nips and tucks:
- Try to determine how your resume will be screened. Will it be reviewed by a human being or a computer algorithm? If the former, research the person who will be screening your resume and make minor adjustments to suit their preferences. If the latter, place a strong emphasis on using keywords throughout your resume. (More on that below.)
- Review the job description and note the qualifications that match your skill set. Then be sure to emphasize those skills throughout your resume.
- Re-read the job description and highlight any keywords that are specific to the position (e.g. "team player," "ability to work independently," or "proficient in Microsoft Office"). Then, utilize those keywords throughout your resume.
2) Be selective.
Speaking of tailoring your resume to the job in question... An important piece of this puzzle involves being selective about what you include in your resume. If you've been in the workforce for years, then you have probably accrued a long list of tasks and accomplishments that could be included. But don't throw everything and the kitchen sink onto the page. That's just going to make it harder for recruiters to identify the relevant skills you bring to the table. Instead, use your resume to highlight skills and experiences that are most applicable to the job and that emphasize your growth within the industry in question. Also aim to highlight unique achievements that might help you stand out from a sea of equally qualified applicants.
3) Quantify your success.
Many people emphasize the tasks they've been responsible for at previous jobs rather than their accomplishments. Writing that you "led the sales team" is one thing. Writing that you "led a team of 12 sales professionals to 34% growth over two years" is another. The first is vague and could amount to a lot of different things. The second gives recruiters a much clearer picture of what you're capable of. Whenever possible, utilize numbers to showcase your achievements. And always, always aim for specificity over generalizations. This is a simple but powerful hack that can help move your resume to the top of the stack.
4) Tweak your verbiage.
When you're trying to condense all your relevant job skills and experiences into one or two pages, every word counts. Go over your resume with a fine-tooth comb and eliminate any vague or generic words. Replace them with verbiage that adds to the total picture of who you are as a worker. Verbs are especially susceptible to vagueness. Try replacing flat verbs such as "was" or "did" with action verbs such as "initiated" or "designed".
5) Make it readable.
The best content in the world won't land you an interview if it's presented in a confusing, disorganized, or otherwise unreadable way. What that means is the format of your resume matters. Here are a few tips for crafting a readable resume:
- Because most recruiters are liable to scan your resume rather than read it word for word, utilize bolding, bullet points, and other stylistic devices to make the resume easier to skim. Make sure you use these devices consistently throughout the resume.
- Be consistent with your use of font sizes and spacing.
- Give the file a clear-cut name such as "Jiminy_Cricket_Resume.pdf" so it's easy for hiring managers to keep track of.
- Save and send the resume as a PDF so it will retain its formatting if somebody prints it.
6) Enlist some help.
The strategies on this list will come more easily to some people than others. Those who work in a language-driven field such as marketing will have an easier time tweaking the verbiage of their resume, for example. But even the most proficient writer might struggle to identify which skills to include or how to format their resume in an aesthetically pleasing way. That's why it can be useful to enlist some help.
Rebecca Henninger, a certified professional resume writer, says, "Everyone you meet has an opinion on resume writing and when you are struggling to move your career forward, this can be frustrating. Working with a well-established professional can give you both peace of mind and an objective perspective. It's worth the investment and can pay dividends throughout your career." There's no shame in reaching out to a professional for career help--in fact, it just might be the factor that elevates your resume to interview-worthy status.
The key word in the title of this article is "help". A resume won't be the only factor that helps to land you a job. You have to do that by putting your best foot forward at every stage of the process. What a quality resume can do is get your foot in the door so you have an opportunity to shine in an interview. Put those two pieces of the puzzle together, and you'll be well on your way to obtaining the job of your dreams.