The biggest mistake job-seekers make with their resumes, according to a hiring expert

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The summer's rebounding job market has slowed in recent months, and opportunities for work remain uncertain for tens of millions of Americans during the coronavirus pandemic. Nationwide, there are roughly two unemployed workers for every job opening, as of the latest Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey from September.

With more people looking for work during the pandemic, and in many cases switching industries to do so, TopResume career expert Amanda Augustine says an effective resume becomes all the more important.

She tells CNBC Make It the biggest mistake that job-seekers make is submitting the same resume to every type of job they're applying for. Understandably, people impacted by the pandemic are applying to more jobs than usual, including ones that fall outside of their chosen field "simply out of desperation because there just aren't enough opportunities in someone's given career path," Augustine says. Additionally, "a lot of people impacted at this time haven't been on the job search in a while — they've likely had steady careers until this curveball came this way."

She says recruiters often expect people will apply for jobs that don't make "perfect" sense, but that a well-tailored resume can help them connect the dots as to why the job-seeker is a good fit for the role. That could mean making some tweaks to your existing document, or creating a few different versions that suit the different types of jobs you're applying to (for example, administrative assistant jobs versus customer service roles).

"If you are going down that route, you have to reframe and reposition your resume based on your job goals," Augustine says.

Here's how she says you can quickly reorganize your resume to land an interview and job offer.

Start with a personal statement

If you're applying for a job that seems out of your wheelhouse, consider writing a one-sentence personal statement at the top of your resume to draw the connection.

"This section is a targeted professional summary," Augustine says. "Think of it as an elevator pitch that sets the tone for the entire document and explains to the reader what you're pursuing, why you're pursuing it and highlighting your skills with your current job goal in mind."

Keep the focus on your future job target and be deliberate in framing the work you've done that will get you there. Augustine says to highlight any similarities between your old job and the new one, including day-to-day responsibilities, interactions, workflows or necessary skills.

Make sure to answer the question: "How has the work you've done at XYZ company helped you build the skills to make you a unique hire to this current job?" Augustine says.

Tailor your work history

To quickly tailor the work history section of your resume, mirror the language used in the job description of the role you're applying to. Focus on using keywords that are repeated throughout, especially ones that mention special skills or leadership abilities. Reorder your bullet points to prioritize what's listed highest in the job description.

You may also want to make your bullet points more general, Augustine says, which can take the focus off your experience in one field if you're moving into a new one.

She gives the example of a family member who had only ever worked as a marketer for a rental car company but wanted to move into beauty e-commerce. Her old resume used auto industry-specific terms and raised a red flag to hiring managers that she wouldn't be a fit for the beauty brand.

"If you looked at her resume, she had great accomplishments," Augustine says, "but if you didn't know anything about the car rental industry, you wouldn't know what she was talking about."

By making simple language switches to make her accomplishments more generic (from "advertising cars" to "advertising products"), the hiring manager could focus on the skills she had as a marketing specialist rather than the type of company she previously worked for.

"If you're changing industries, get the emphasis off the industry and more on bridge work that you're pursuing today," Augustine says.

Highlight soft skills

A skills section can take care of any remaining specialties you weren't able to include in your work history — or it can be a place to reiterate your strong suits. Again, think more about what's needed of the job ahead of you, rather than things that may have been your top priorities in a past job. Skills should be "swapped out or reordered based on what's relevant today," Augustine says.

It can pay off to focus on translatable soft skills. Indeed, hiring managers are finding a number of skills have taken on greater importance as they hire during the pandemic. According to a TopResume survey of 334 HR professionals between August and September 2020, hiring managers are increasingly favoring candidates who can demonstrate the following five skills in their application:

  1. Adaptability and flexibility
  2. Communication
  3. Critical thinking and problem solving
  4. Collaboration and teamwork
  5. Time management

With the job landscape changing as fast as it is with added challenges due to the coronavirus pandemic, experts ranging from workplace futurists to business leaders say soft skills are what ultimately set top candidates apart.

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