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 getting one. Although it's common for today's job search to take awhile, there are ways to increase your chances of getting noticed quickly. So if you're starting to get frustrated with how long it's taking to find a job, you may want revamp your job search, starting with that all-important document: your résumé.
Although most job seekers think they've done all they can with their résumé -- included great "action" words, checked spelling and grammar, ensured consistent formatting -- there is almost always room for improvement. Chances are your résumé can benefit from one of the following points:
1. Make sure your objective has an outward focus
If you choose to include an objective on your résumé, 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 résumé writer for Pongo Résumé.
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 reflect what you have to offer, such as: "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 résumé 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," Saia says. "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 Don't list out-of-date or irrelevant skills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, such as filing documents. But that was 10 years ago. Today, companies rarely even keep physical records, so most likely the "administrative skills" you listed on your résumé 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 résumé.
Although entry-level job seekers sometimes include a section of "interests" on their résumé, the space-filler has no place on the résumé of older workers. Even if you spend every second you're not working thinking about baseball and you've scored the most home runs in your recreational league, a hiring manager has no real use for -- or interest in -- this information. Anything you list on your résumé should have a professional tie-in.
4. Make sure your résumé is search-engine optimized
Since much of the initial job application process is done online, recruiters often use software programs to scan submitted résumés for important words and job functions. If your résumé 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 Résumé." "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 résumé statements and/or make lists of keywords in special sections on your résumé, 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 résumé for the best chance of being found by a recruiter.
5. Put your best features in bold
According to a recent study from the Labor Department, 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 résumé for important qualifications by putting in bold type any skills, honors and experiences that support your candidacy.
The strong text should be saved for your most important qualifications, though, so limit bold items to no more than five. Also, make sure to keep a "plain-text" résumé on hand, in case a job listing calls for an unformatted résumé.
Kaitlin Madden is a writer and blogger for CareerBuilder.com and its job blog, The Work Buzz. She researches and writes about job search strategy, career management, hiring trends and workplace issues. Follow @CBForJobSeekers on Twitter.
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