Back on the job market? You may find that the rules of the game have dramatically changed. The landscape can be intimidating, but it's simply a matter of learning how to navigate new territory. At Firebrand Group, I'm often looking at résumés and investigating potential hires, and weekly I'll do three or four informational interviews to help professionals who are on the market.

Here are the four traits I see most consistently among exceptional job seekers:

1. They don't overestimate the importance of their old-school résumés.

Sobering fact: The average time spent reading a résumé is just 30 seconds. When it comes to searching for job candidates, recruiters are now primarily using Google and LinkedIn instead of job boards or talent databases.

Furthermore, many companies are even requiring that new applications be screened using Google. If the first page of your Google search results isn't impressive, hiring managers may not even glance at your application.

2. They're focused on finding the right external recruiters.

There are two types of recruiters: contingency recruiters and retained recruiters. Contingency recruiters are priced at the medium-income level, and the retained recruiters are a step up, at a higher income level. The main difference is retained recruiters are paid for their work whether or not they successfully place candidates.

It's extremely beneficial to build solid relationships with recruiters, because if one job doesn't work out, they will keep you in mind for other opportunities that arise. Not all recruiters are created equal--far from it--so trust your instincts about whom to work with.

3. They build personal brands using strong digital presences.

The job search has become almost entirely digital, which means your online presence is more important than ever. Since hiring managers are searching for potential candidates on Google and LinkedIn, your digital reputation must reflect who you are and your qualifications and accomplishments.

Are your co-workers endorsing you on LinkedIn? Are your employers writing testimonials? Do you run an engaging and relevant Twitter account, or did you last tweet in 2011?

Recruiters are looking at more than just your résumé. A major part of the screening process is getting an accurate sense of your reputation and how others perceive you in your industry.

4. They sell themselves with the right keywords.

To come up in search results, your résumé must contain the right keywords. For example, if you're applying for a job as a marketing director of a beauty brand, you must have keywords that reflect your marketing skills as well as your knowledge of beauty.

And while you don't want to come across as bragging, don't shy away from touting your accomplishments. Also, be sure to highlight any promotions if you've moved up the ranks. Recruiters are thrilled to come across candidates who excel and rise to the occasion.

5. They stand out by highlighting metrics.

Metrics matter. If sales are up 32 percent in your department, be sure to mention it. Bold your top accomplishments. And when I say bold, I mean that literally on your résumé but metaphorically elsewhere. Successful individuals have key talking points and embed metrics into those talking points in a seamless manner.

Published on: Nov 12, 2014
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