Be specific: Why it's the key to job search success

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(MoneyWatch) Job-searching online can certainly make you feel like a number rather than a human being. And that sentiment goes both ways; hiring managers often feel like they're getting hundreds if not thousands of unfocused resumes. For both parties, the process feels like a fishing expedition. Because of this, the key to a successful job search, today more than ever, is being specific -- from your resume to your thank you note. Recently I spoke to career consultant Alison Doyle, who serves as About.com's resident job search expert, about how specificity is a crucial component of the advice she gives. Here's what she had to say:

Target your resume

Today, you don't just have to catch an employer's eye, you have to catch a computer's scanning software. "Many employers use applicant tracking systems to accept job applications," notes Doyle. That means that you should include keywords that will alert those tracking systems to pick-up your resume. "The closer a match you are to the requirements, the better your chances of getting selected," says Doyle. She says to find keywords from the job posting, and then include those in your resume as well as your cover letter, to be sure the computer will "recommend" you to a human.

Tailor your interview responses

Your answers in a job interview should be about what you can provide as a candidate, as opposed to the next person. "When responding to interview questions, take the time to give the specific examples of the relevant skills you have," says Doyle. "For example, if you are asked about how you handled a certain situation or an issue, share how you handled a similar situation at your last job, providing the employer with details of what happened, what you did and how the situation was resolved."

Send a customized thank you note

Ideally, you'll send a hand-written thank you note, but whatever format you use, make sure the content is carefully constructed. "Sending a thank you note for the interview gives you an opportunity to reiterate why you are the best candidate for the job," says Doyle. "It's also a chance to mention what you wish you had said during the interview, but didn't get a chance to say." For instance, if the hiring manager mentioned certain challenges facing the team you're hoping to join, pinpoint how adding you (versus the next guy) will help address those issues.

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    Amy Levin-Epstein is a freelance writer who has been published in dozens of magazines (including Glamour, Self and Redbook), websites (including AOLHealth.com, Babble.com and Details.com) and newspapers (including The New York Post and the Boston Globe). To read more of her writing, visit AmyLevinEpstein.com.