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by Joe Turner, The Job Search Guy | March 10, 2009

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With the current economic meltdown forcing companies across the country to rethink their future hiring plans, your current resume and the way you use it may no longer be serving your needs.

If you're making any of these four mistakes, it might be time to sharpen your resume or your approach.

1. Lack of focus

The first step in a successful job search begins with identifying your goals. Clarify specifically what you want in your next job or career, including your next job title. I’ve heard countless job seekers say, “I’ll take anything” or “I’m open,” when asked what kind of job they’re seeking. The candidate who’ll take anything, ends up with nothing.

Look at your resume. What is your objective? Avoid either failing to state your objective or listing several objectives. Either extreme can work against you as you’ll appear unfocused, uncommitted or unqualified. While many of us wear many hats throughout our careers, it's best to focus on only one hat, or specific job title, for the resume. Employers today tend to look more for talented players who understand and specialize in a niche rather than those who are more general in nature.

So ask the questions, "What's my niche, specialty?" and "What special problem do I solve?" This might be one specific job title. If so, then highlight that and drop the laundry list of "qualifications."

2. Not answering their most important question

Most resumes fail to answer the employer’s question, “What’s in it for me?” Employers have a problem, not a job. That problem almost always revolves around money in some way. So, look for ways that you can show them a return on their investment. Since most resumes only receive about 20 seconds of actual read time, you have to answer this question quickly. A good way to accomplish this is by including a concise unique selling proposition (USP) that distinguishes you from your competitors. This USP is a single sentence that describes three important things:

  • Who you are
  • Your biggest strength
  • Your primary benefit, which should be measurable

Your USP describes what you bring to the employer. Every employee either makes money or saves money for an employer. Determine how you bring value in either or both of these ways. The best branding statements usually incorporate figures in dollars or percentages of money, or time that was gained or saved over a certain time period.

3. Selling skills and length of service

Skills are just a commodity. Leave behind that old mindset that your job-related skills or length of service are selling factors. The new mindset is to view yourself as a mini profit-and-loss center rather than just an employee. Employers today buy results and are less impressed when a candidate promotes a laundry list of skills. Instead, define the many ways your past and present job performances are assets to your next employer.

How are you an asset to a company’s balance sheet? Once again, focus on how your work either helps a company make or save money. Think beyond your skill sets and job duties, and list every possible example of how you accomplish this.

For example, you're a video photographer recording and editing weddings and special events. You take the extra step of performing all of your post-production work before submitting your final results. Your extra effort has saved your employer several hundred hours of additional work.

This translates into potentially thousands of dollars that you saved the employer. This is just the sort of achievement that must be on your resume. When you can, try to monetize, or put a dollar value on your achievements.

By including several specific achievements where you've helped your employer make or save money (or time), you separate yourself from your competitors and quickly gain the attention of your reader.

4. Just blasting your resume to websites

Once you have a great resume, it's just as important how you use it. Most job seekers blast their resume to job boards and websites' posted openings. In fact, there are some services that exist to do just that for a fee. But is this the best way to approach it?

Referencing the current economic crisis, Neil McNulty, principal recruiter of the McNulty Management Group, states that, “now, more than ever, job seekers need to change their mindset from looking for ‘openings’ to looking for ‘opportunities’ … and opportunities are borne out of crisis and chaos, and exist even in the worst economy.”

This means that you, as a job seeker, must look beyond job postings and move into marketing yourself to the managers of the companies and organizations who are experiencing problems that you can solve. This can be tough at first because it means doing extra research, and actually calling people who you don't know and developing conversations with them. It's those conversations, though, that will win the referrals, the interviews and the next job for you, especially when you have a great resume to back up that conversation.

Summary

If you're going to put forth the effort to build a resume, why not incorporate the elements above to make it really sell you? When you can avoid the mistakes so many others are making, you'll more easily get noticed and get that phone call.

As a recruiter, Joe Turner has spent the past 15 years finding and placing top candidates in some of the best jobs of their careers. Author of Job Search Secrets Unlocked and Paycheck 911, Joe has interviewed on radio talk shows and offers free insider job search secrets at: www.jobchangesecrets.com.

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