In the rush to get your resume in front of employers, stop for a minute (or a few hours) and consider whether you’re giving an accurate picture of your capabilities.

All too often, candidates unload a mixed bag of skills, job duties, and meaningless phrases (take “self-motivated team player” – please) on employers, and then wonder why they’re still job hunting months later.

It’s important to map out a resume strategy BEFORE writing anything! Get a clear picture of your goal, the skills you plan to market, and the audience you’re targeting.

Then, run your document past these critical tests to ensure that it produces results:

1 – Are you making employers read a book?

In my recruiting days, we simply tossed resumes that were 4 or 5 pages long–especially when they began with long, self-important paragraphs that took up half of the first page.

What happens for many executives and seasoned professionals is this: they’ve kept up with their careers by creating a basic resume, then adding to it throughout the years. Pretty soon, it resembles a novel.

If your strategy for updating your resume has always been to add your latest job, and then add the next, and the next… it’s time to STOP.

Hiring authorities don’t have the time to wade through pages of your career to find out the relevance to their requirements.

Summarize your credentials up front, and then chop-ruthlessly-from the back, until you’ve narrowed it to 2 or 3 pages at the most.

2 – Are you thinking like a recruiter?

Hold every word up to scrutiny–and I mean EVERY. Does it have relevance to the job you are pursuing? Does it show the level of leadership accomplishment that you want to sell to employers?

You’ll know the answers to these questions if you’ve done your homework. Peruse job ads, not just to apply, but to see if your content matches what employers are seeking.

Think about it: if you’re trying to hire an operations manager, do you really want to see a list of college coursework for engineering on a resume? Probably not.

Conversely, that list of process analysis, efficiency improvement, and performance metrics evaluation skills should be front and center – within the top half of the first page, if possible. This is the kind of information that catches the attention of most recruiters.

Employers are interested in your tendencies, work style, and the pattern of achievement you bring to the table. The more you can articulate (yes, on paper!) what those patterns and contributions look like, the more captivated and interested your audience will be.

3 – Are you still using an outdated presentation–from your college days?

Job hunters who want to get hired in the aggressive market of 2009 have learned to skip objective statements, tiny fonts, and outdated, 1-page formats.

They gain key information on what a masterpiece resume looks like by visiting reputable websites that contain cutting-edge, current resume samples.

A Google search for resume examples can turn up a surprising array of styles and provide you with great starting points (NOT phrases to copy) for your own resume.

Presentation, as I have stated before, is a critical piece of marketing yourself. Be aware that the style and tone of a document speak volumes as to the qualifications and business savvy of the candidate it presents.

Therefore, move outside classic fonts like Times New Roman and Arial, and experiment a little. Try out Book Antiqua or Garamond to shake things up a bit and help your qualifications stand out.

Overall, the best way to get attention during your job search is to throw out the colored paper, lengthy tomes about your career, and worn-out phrases.

Instead, focus on what employers need when they hire a new candidate, and how you can market THOSE capabilities using a fresh, direct approach.

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