If there has been a constant term in the job-search vocabulary through the years, it has been “the resume.” At one point, anyone looking for a job would type out a one-page description of his or her talents and goals, head to the local copy shop, pick out some decent paper and ask for 100 copies. One by one, the resumes would be stuffed into envelopes addressed to prospective employers and sent on their way.

Today, while the idea of a one-document approach to your future seems absurd, it’s still an extremely important part of the equation. Today’s grads know that the resume is a fluid, evolving document, one that should be shaped and adjusted throughout the job search and tailored to individual employers. And don’t believe rumors of the cover letter’s demise. In some cases, the cover letter becomes more important than the resume itself.

In the past, a college graduate could craft a resume to compete with his or her peers. Graduates could stress how their activities and accomplishments on campus set them apart from other recent graduates. But in today’s challenging job market, college grads aren’t just competing with each other for entry-level jobs. They’re competing with established and experienced employees.

“Even though unemployment rates are dropping, seasoned professionals are snapping up lower-level jobs at drastic pay cuts just to stay in the game,” says Janice Bryant Howroyd, CEO of Act-1, based in Torrance, Calif. “However, graduates have the advantage of current knowledge and skills plus enthusiasm. The last two years in the employment field have been turbulent, but companies are steadily re-staffing. This means opportunities are out there.”

To make the most out of these opportunities, new grads need to think resumes – as in more than one. Sending out the same resume to each business won’t do in this climate.

“You need to tailor to the company and position,” says Jason Lauzer, jobs expert for JustAnswer. “Don’t lie and make things up, but tweak it just enough so they know that you’ve read about the position.”

Jonathan Hall, West Coast director of operations for IT staffing firm Technisource, agrees, adding that when companies use search engines, they often seek out resumes that have the same keywords that appeared in the job ad.

“Whatever position you are looking for, make sure your resume speaks to your ability to excel in that role,” Hall says. ”Craft your experience so it closely parallels the job description.”

Buy "Calling All Grads" Kindle eBook. Job tips for college gradsThis article was excerpted from the new eBook “Calling All Grads! Turn a Degree into a Job,” edited by careers writer and editor Marco Buscaglia and published by Tribune Media Services, Inc.

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