Whether you're actively looking for a new job or getting yourself ready just in case; you wonder how to get your resume noticed in today's competitive environment. Right?

So how do you stand out in a sea of competition - often equally qualified?

The answer is two-fold:

- By knowing the 3 must-haves to include in your resume.
- By using the right job search strategies.

It will take me two separate articles to display my advice on this matter. So today, I'll discuss the 3 must-haves for your resume.

First of all; there are no hard and fast rules when it comes to resumes as much of the strategy depends on the person and the situation. But we do know there are certain things that always work.

Start by putting yourself in the shoes of a hiring person or recruiter. They see resumes all day long. Therefore, they simply won't sit there and read your 5-page essay-style resume. Nor will they try to piece things together and figure out how your interesting and diverse background might fit with their organization. You need to make this clear to them.

Typically, they'll spend about 10 seconds to see what jumps out at them - specifically: who you are, what you do, where your expertise lies, and what you can do for them. In other words: what solution do you bring to their problem?

So here are my 3 must-haves that will help your resume get noticed among your competition:

1. Your resume needs to be branded.

What do we mean by that?

A personal brand is a differentiated promise of value. It's about what's unique about you which has a bottom-line impact for an organization.

When your resume is branded, it clarifies why YOU should be hired over anyone else with the same background, with the same type of responsibilities, and even similar achievements.

Often, it's about HOW you get results. Employers want to know how you do something differently.

A personal brand is organic and authentic. It's really about who you are and your core skill set, and then distilled into the one, overriding factor that would make you irresistible to employers. It is also something you would absolutely love doing.

The challenge is in identifying and leveraging it so people see it even more clearly.

How you can do this: It is not always easy to figure out your personal brand by yourself as you're too close to the source.

You can get started by asking yourself - and those around you - what it is you consistently do really well, that you love doing, and is of value to the kind of employer you want to work for.

It could be several things. It could be work-task related, or it could be more of a personality thing. Or, both.

Once you find your brand, you want to turn into a branding statement of 1-2 sentences max. This goes in the top third of your resume.

And remember this: Companies will interview you for the money or the bottom-line part of your brand. But they will hire you for the chemistry part. However, without the money part, you don't get through the door in the first place.

2. Your resume needs to be focused.

Trying to keep your options open on your resume almost always backfires.

Again, remember hiring folks take mere seconds to scan your resume.

However, don't use the hopelessly outdated objective as your resume should focus on what you can do for the employer vs. what you want from them.

Objectives typically read something like this: Challenging position where I can use my skills and experience and have room for growth.

These are meaningless statements and could apply to anyone from a janitor to a CFO.

So we want to create a clear focus to make it instantly clear who you are and what you do.

How you can do this: If you're staying in the same field, simply bold your title (or variation thereof) at the top of your resume. Global Marketing Specialist, Senior Finance Director, Executive Assistant, Health Care Administrator.

Or: Global Marketing Specialist with 15 years' experience in consumer industries.

If you want to pursue different types of positions in different industries, make sure to tweak your resume so you have multiple versions.

Just remember an unfocused resume is an ineffective resume. It may feel counter-intuitive to you if you're not sure what you want to do or if you want to keep your options open, but focusing your resume is vital.

3. Show proof of your statements.

In other words: back up your brand and brand statement with specifics.

How you can do this: In your resume's top section, create a summary of a few lines max - don't go overboard - and weave in either quantifiable achievements or mention one or two representative successes that show some context (where you did this and with whom).

This part is often called the summary, or profile. It doesn't matter what you call it, and you certainly don't need to label it on your resume. People will get what it's about.

Stay away from flowery fluff such as, goal-oriented people person with track record of building relationships... This is too vague and makes it look like everyone else's resume. These statements used to work, but they don't anymore.

Next, make sure to quantify your achievements throughout your resume when describing your achievements. Provide some context for them by comparing your accomplishments to industry or company averages, or to those of your peers or your predecessor.

This way, your resume does not read like a job description. Instead, it will give readers a very clear picture of what unique things you have done and what sets you apart from John Doe with a similar background.

As a parting thought: Always make sure everything on your resume is there for a reason and is relevant to your target. Your resume need not be all-inclusive. Anything that's not relevant distracts from your core message.

There you have it! With these tips, you'll be well on your way to creating a resume that will get you noticed in any economy, no matter how crowded the market place!

Keep an eye out for the second part of this article: how to pick the most effective job search strategies to make sure your resume actually gets into the hands of the right people!

The photo in this article is provided by Shutterstock.