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Resumes 2012: 5 Key Tips to Get Yours Noticed

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With limited job opportunities and competition levels remaining high, your resume has to be top-notch. Not only does it need to make a dynamic first impression, it must also distinguish you from the competition and set you apart as the ideal candidate for the job. Moreover, your resume has to deliver your key selling points within a very brief amount of time.

Studies show that resume reviewers spend 30 seconds or less determining if your resume is worth reading. This means the information must not only be compelling, it has to literally leap off the computer screen. The following are five tips to help ensure your resume is presenting you in a forceful and favorable light.

#1 Follow the placement principle -- think "top/left." Key skills and experience must be placed in a certain order. In English, we read from top to bottom and from left to right. This means that in order to immediately grab the reviewer's attention, you'll need to make certain the most relevant and important items are placed towards the top and the left of your resume.

This principle holds true for each section. Oftentimes, a reviewer will scan through the first page noticing where you worked and the first couple of bullets under each position. Therefore, you'll want to make certain you select your strongest bullet points for the top of each list.

#2 Make it "eye friendly." Use a good-sized font that's easy to read with liberal use of white space and bullets to highlight your critical skills and examples. Do not use paragraphs (even short ones) to describe your prior work experience. There is no way to identify key skills quickly within dense blocs of text. Remember to write in memo style and place your strongest skill words to the left of each statement.

#3 Ask "so what?" and add substance to your points. You'll need to develop compelling accomplishment statements that connect your experience with your goals. And, in order to sell yourself successfully, these examples need to focus on the results you've achieved.

Writing a statement such as "managed four employees" provides nothing more than a job description. Such examples will not serve to sell you effectively. But by asking "so what?" after each of your bullet points, you can flesh out your statements to highlight the contributions you've made and how your efforts have benefited your previous employers.

#4 Give employers what they want. There's no way around this one: you have to customize each resume to the position for which you're applying. If you don't, you're wasting your time. Employers are providing you with their wish list in the position description. You'll want to match this list as closely as you can because there's no doubt that your competition will be customizing their resumes -- yours will fall short if you don't. It's better to send out one or two targeted resumes than five hundred that are boilerplate.

#5 Load your resume with action verbs that sell. Pay particular attention to skills and keywords you see over and over in the online postings because these are the skills that are currently in demand. To make things easier for you, here's a website that conveniently lists action verbs under skill categories.

By following these five tips and loading your resume with current industry buzzwords as well as strong examples of you performing at your best, you should start seeing results. Early fall is generally one of the strongest hiring periods of the year, so now is the time to double your efforts and get out there. A strong and effective resume just might open the door to your next position... and that's a pretty great way to top off your summer!

Mary Eileen Williams is a Nationally Board Certified Career Counselor with a Master's Degree in Career Development and twenty years' experience assisting midlife jobseekers to achieve satisfying careers. Her book, Land the Job You Love: 10 Surefire Strategies for Jobseekers Over 50, is a step-by-step guide that shows you how you can turn your age into an advantage and brand yourself for success. Recently updated, it's packed with even more information aimed at providing mature applicants with the tools to gain the edge over the competition and successfully navigate the modern job market. Visit her website at Feisty Side of Fifty.com and celebrate your sassy side!