Just in case you haven't heard it enough: It's tough to get a job these days. So tough, in fact, that it's not unlikely for a job seeker to spend six months or longer looking for a job before actually getting one. Although it's common for today's job search to take a while, there are ways to increase your chances of getting noticed quickly. So, if you're starting to get frustrated with just how long it's taking to find a job, you may want revamp your job search, starting with that all-important document: your resume.
Although most job seekers feel that they've done all they can with their resume -- included great "action" words, checked spelling and grammar, ensured consistent formatting -- there is almost always room for improvement. Chances are, your resume can benefit from one of the following points:
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1. Make sure your objective has an outward focus
If you choose to include an objective on your resume, make sure it addresses the employer's needs. "Don't emphasize what you're looking for in a job, but rather what skills and talents you offer an employer," says Rick Saia, a certified professional resume writer for Pongo Resume.
For example, an objective statement like: "To find a position in public relations that will allow me to further my communications career and develop my skill set," is all about what you want out of your job search. In order to increase your chances of engaging a hiring manager, change your objective to instead reflect what you have to offer, i.e., "To benefit a company through my extensive network of press contacts, 10 years of copywriting experience, and demonstrated ability to successfully pitch stories to the media."
2. List accomplishments, not duties
"Does the resume emphasize what you accomplished in your current or previous job? That's what should stand out; not merely what duties you performed, but what differences you made in your role for your employer," says Saia. "For example, 'served as project manager for replacement of 1,000 desktop computers' is a duty. Saying 'managed replacement of 1,000 desktop computers in half the allotted time' tells the employer you can take on a big job and meet a critical deadline. That's an accomplishment, and it made a difference."
Most duties can be turned into accomplishments through quantifying them or stating how you met or surpassed the goal of the assignment.
3. Don't list out-of-date or irrelevant skills
At your entry-level job, you may have spent a lot of time on administrative work, like filing documents into a comprehensive system of folders and filing cabinets. But that was 10 years ago. Today, companies rarely even keep physical records, so most likely the "administrative skills" you listed on your resume won't be applicable at your next job. If you haven't done something in 10 years, chances are things have changed, and it's best to leave the skill off your resume.
Although entry-level job seekers sometimes include a section of "interests" on their resume, the space-filler has no place on the resume of older workers. Even if you spend every second you're not working thinking about baseball and you've scored the most homeruns in your recreational league, a hiring manager has no real use for -- or interest in -- this information. Anything you list on your resume should have a professional tie-in.
4. Make sure your resume is search engine optimized
Since much of the initial job application process is done online, recruiters often use software programs to scan submitted resumes for important words and job functions. If your resume doesn't include these keywords, there's little chance that your application will ever reach the desk of a hiring manager.
"Right this minute, recruiters and employers are typing keywords in their search engines to find job candidates to fill openings that match your job objective," says Susan Ireland, author of "The Complete Idiot's Guide to The Perfect Resume." "So do some research to find 10 or so keywords from job postings and job descriptions that best match your job objective. Then weave those keywords into your resume statements and/or make lists of keywords in special sections on your resume, under headings such as Skills, Relevant Skills, Computer Skills, Technical Skills, or some other heading that makes sense for your occupation."
For example, if your goal is to get a job as an advertising coordinator, you will probably come across the same keywords (i.e. accounts, AdWords, media planning, sales, marketing, tracking, supporting) over and over again in job postings for that kind of position. Figure out how to incorporate these keywords into your resume for the best chance of being found by a recruiter.
5. Bold your best features
According to a recent study from the U.S. Department of Labor, there are 5.4 applicants for every job opening. With stats like that, you can bet potential employers are up to their eyeballs in applications. Make it easy for hiring managers to skim your resume for important qualifications by bolding any skills, honors and experiences that support your candidacy.
The strong text should be saved only for your most important qualifications, though, so limit bold items to no more than five. Also, make sure to keep a "plain-text" resume on hand, in case a job listing calls for an unformatted resume.
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