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Go Beyond Your Resume to Build Your Job Search Skills

Given all the energy and stress involved in having your resume critiqued, followed by the inevitable rounds of revisions, it's only human for you to wind up thinking, “Enough already! I’ll live without anyone evaluating my work for, oh, the next decade or so.”

But no matter how great your resume is, you must confront a job-hunting truth: By itself, your resume won’t land you the job or even the opportunity to land the job. What this means from a practical standpoint is more critiquing of your overall job search skills. Here are several other key job search elements you’ll need to examine closely.

Your Cover Letter

For most employers, your cover letter is the first thing they see associated with your name. But they won’t like what they see if your letter is filled with grammar or content mistakes or is generic or jargon-laden.

“Your cover letter should be your story -- what makes you unique, perfect for the job and someone a company should interview,” says Brad Karsh, author of Confessions of a Recruiting Director and a former recruiter for advertising giant Leo Burnett.

Your Interviewing Skills

A mock interview lets you practice your interviewing skills with a career counselor, trusted friend or colleague who can critique the way you carry yourself and answer questions when the pressure’s on. You can even videotape the session so you can review your performance when it’s over.

“Would you even consider standing in front of people to sell them something without first doing some prep work?” asks Carole Martin, a former Monster contributor and author of Interview Fitness Training. “Of course not. So why would you think you could wing an interview?”

Your Appearance and Image

Are you dressing and grooming appropriately for your job interviews and networking meetings? Do you speak clearly and intelligently? Do you have bad breath, off-putting body odor or a strange haircut?

“If you don’t pay attention to the details of your appearance -- with pressed clothes, proper attire, proper hygiene -- an employer can reasonably question how you will pay attention to the details and important elements of your work,” says Pamela Holland, coauthor of Help! Was That a Career Limiting Move? and chief operating officer of Brody Professional Development.

Your Job Search Tactics

Job Web sites like Monster feature so many job openings to apply for -- and make it so easy to apply -- that you’ll be tempted to concentrate your job search efforts online. But you’ll have far more success if you diversify your search, especially by including plenty of networking and relationship-building activities like informational interviewing, getting involved in professional organizations, and asking for advice and leads from family, friends and colleagues.

The numbers don’t lie: In a 2005 study by outplacement firm DBM, 64 percent of respondents said they ultimately landed new jobs through networking.

Your Job Search Targets

In your job search, you may be doing everything right except the most important thing: Looking for the job that’s a good fit for your education, experience, skills, abilities and interests.

Who decides what a good fit is? Ultimately, it’s the employer, not you. If in the employer’s mind you’re pursuing a job that’s either far beneath or far beyond your capabilities, you’ll be out of the running in a hurry -- no matter how great your resume is.

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