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by Joe Turner, "The Job Search Guy" | March 31, 2009

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The job market is tough and it's getting tougher. Your resume is your number one marketing tool and it may not be doing its job - getting you an interview.

One reason may be lack of time. With the increased competition for jobs, there is very little time spent reading any one resume. It's been estimated that today's resume is only getting about 20 seconds of "eyeball time." That's not much time to score. In fact, most resumes will get quickly screened out and dumped on the reject pile.

The other reason is lack of interest. Most resumes today lack a sense of urgency. They don't answer the all-important question, "What's in it for the employer?"

Here are four tips on how you can power up your resume for today's more competitive job search arena to overcome these dilemmas.

1. Focused objective
Does your resume have a clear, focused objective? Does it identify one clear job title that you are seeking? Leave out all that nonsense about "challenging opportunity with a dynamic company." Remember, it's not about you.

Try this: lead off with a clear statement of the job title you are seeking under the Objective heading. For example, "Chief Financial Officer." Nothing more is needed.

2. Keyword section
Everyone pays lip service to this, but few act on it. If you don't, you're missing the boat in two major ways:

Your resume needs to get flagged by a computer. To strengthen your odds, you need every potential keyword working for you. And not just your skill sets, either. Make sure to add all your industry buzzwords as well as your biggest soft skills. Did you know that some of the highest searched keywords today include terms we often overlook? These include "problem-solving," "leadership," and "oral/written communication."

You must appeal to the human that reads your resume. A reader will scan a great keyword summary section within the first 20 seconds of looking at your resume. When added to your personal branding statement below, you increase your chances of hooking this reader and getting a more in-depth reading.

3. Personal branding statement
It doesn't matter whether you're a CFO, a software project manager or a wedding photographer. Answer this question: "What is it that makes you unique from other applicants?" Don't think that just having great skill sets or years of experience is going to give you any edge. Lots of other candidates have the same or better skills as you. The solution is to create a brand for yourself.

So how do you create your own brand? Review your resume. Does it have a clear statement that describes who you are and what you offer? This is called a "branding statement" and may also be described as a "value added" or "unique selling proposition." Don't confuse this with a "Summary of Qualifications" section that many candidates like to include. These are merely laundry lists of core competencies and do nothing to make you stand out.

A true branding statement is a one-sentence description of who you are and what critical benefit you offer your next employer. It should describe your biggest strength and the resulting benefit to your previous employer. The best branding statements usually incorporate figures in dollars or percentages of money, or time that was gained or saved over a certain period of time. Here is an example for that CFO:

"Seasoned Chief Financial Officer strong in optimizing organizations to achieve maximum growth and market share who has produced new revenue or savings of over $65 million for my employers over the past eight years."

Does your resume have this strong a branding statement? If not, think about adding one. It'll take some time to develop a really good statement for yourself. Once done, however, you'll break that 20-second barrier and move that much farther ahead of your competitors.

4. Specific achievements
Companies hire employees to be an asset to their balance sheet. That means your work involves helping a company either make money or save money. Think beyond your skill sets and job duties and think of as many ways as you can as to how you accomplish this.

For example, suppose you're a video photographer taping 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 dollars saved by the employer and it's just this sort of achievement that must be on your resume. When you can, try to monetize, or put a dollar value on your achievements. Our photographer example might look like this:

"Saved my employer over $6K in additional labor costs over the past two years by performing post-production work before submitting my final results."

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

Summary
As the economy gets tougher, employers expect more from candidates before they hire them. This means more is expected from your resume to make the cut these days. If you add these four crucial elements to your resume, you can power it up to win that phone interview and take a step closer to the job you really want.

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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