Many of us find ourselves plunged into the job market dafter graduation from college, loss of employment, a deliberate career change or from returning to work after starting a family. The downturn in the economy has done some strange things to the job market, and while many people are struggling to find work in some sectors, others are finding doors opening up that used to be closed to them.
Regardless of prospects and experience, all job seekers share the same struggle to tailor their resumes sufficiently to the jobs that they want. There are several ways to increase your appeal to recruiters and potential employers, and many of these have been well documented by career experts; however, there are also less obvious ways to make your resume more targeted to potential employers. After taking the initial steps to tailor your resume to a specific application, such as wording your objectives appropriately and emphasizing relevant experience, there are more subtle ways to ensure you send your potential employers the right message.
Begin each application for a new position with thorough research of the company and a close analysis of the job description. Go beyond a basic analysis of the company’s goals, and try to get a feel of the approach and communication style that the company uses to promote itself and recruit new employees. What are the qualities and experience that seem to be most sought after in the job description, and does the vocabulary they use translate to the vocabulary you use on your resume? Does the job description use words like “lead,” “drive,” “direct” and “innovate,” when your resume is full of words like “collaborate,” “team work,” “contribute” and “follow”? All of these words have positive undertones for the right context, but can also send subtle messages that you are not the right candidate.
Similarly, you can make a better impression by re-wording your resume according to the job description’s priorities. You may be a perfect match for a position for an editor, based on a prior position as an editorial manager. If your resume emphasizes leadership in this position rather than working closely with editorial tasks, you could be considered over-qualified or an unsuitable applicant because your relevant skills are not prioritized.
Unless you can convincingly and honestly demonstrate how unrelated positions in the past have equipped you with transferable skills for the position you are applying for, leave them out. The exception to this rule is for recent graduates who do not have a significant work history, but want to demonstrate they have held postilions of responsibility in general. People returning to the workforce after a long break also need to explain gaps on their resumes.
Lastly, during career shifts rethink your own assumptions about how valuable your different areas of expertise and skills are. For example, as an ex-administrator, you may have a minor volunteer position as an assistant teacher buried towards the bottom of your resume. If you are trying to secure a job teaching English overseas, this suddenly becomes relevant again and should be highlighted.
It can be daunting trying to secure a new job in a tough economy, but when others are panicking and submitting applications in quantity rather than of quality, you can stand out by taking the time to carefully craft a resume that truly fits the job description. There are plenty of good online resources that can offer guidance and ideas for helping you rethink how you present yourself on paper, such as resumeindex.com, which has sample resumes that you can use as templates or just for inspiration.
As the old saying goes, “whatever you do, do it well.”
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