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Hit Your Job Target Just Right with a ‘Goldilocks’ Resume

Cartoon of Goldilockes and the three bears infront of the bears house

Like the fairytale in which Goldilocks favored the “just right” chair, food, and bed, your prospective employer wants a “just right” resume from you. If you lean too far toward generic or too far toward specific, you risk missing the mark altogether.

The too-generic resume

How do you tell if your resume is too generic? There’s a good chance it is if your reasoning goes like this:

  • “I want to cast a wide net so I’m sure not to leave out any possibilities.”
  • “I don’t know what I want to do next, so I’ll send out some resumes and see what happens.”
  • I’ve been doing the same job for a long time. If I just list what I  do, they’ll get the idea.”
This generic approach is lukewarm and noncommittal. It is saying “I don’t want to do the work it’s going to take to make a good choice for my life and work.”
The too-specific resume
On the other hand, a resume can be too specific. You might be having this problem if you’ve been thinking:
  • “I don’t know what I want to do, but if I list all the details of all my projects in all my jobs, they’ll know.”
  • “I want another job just like the one I have, so I’ll make my job description into a resume.”
  • “If I give as much information as possible, they will think by sheer weight of the resume, that I am qualified.”
These assumptions tend toward the overload end of the spectrum, but surprisingly, they avoid the same work and commitment as the too-generic list. Most hiring managers know a line of bull when they see one. Even more know when they see a whole bunch of lines.
The Goldilocks resume
The Goldilocks approach acknowledges resume writing as a process that requires decisions, commitment, and follow-through. Here is the way to get it just right:
  1. Decide on the target of your search. In short, what type of work do you want to do next?
  2. Make a list of the reasons you want it. Is it a new house? College education for your children? Better working conditions? Write the reason(s) on your bathroom mirror and read them aloud to yourself every morning and every night. Commit yourself to reaching your goals. I know it sounds woo-woo, but trust me on this one. What we think about is what we get and where we go. Think about the things you really DO want.
  3. Follow through. Write your resume. Include your target position in the form of a resume headline. Align all of your information and especially your accomplishments with your target.
Most people start with Step 3, forgetting to specify the target and make the commitment. Often, the result is a long and frustrating search or worse, a job that doesn’t fit the job seeker’s needs.
Instead, follow the steps in order.  Write a Goldilocks resume that will help you land that just-right job.