If you're worried about losing your job as the economy weakens, it's time to update your résumé in case you need to hunt for new...

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NEW YORK — If you’re worried about losing your job as the economy weakens, it’s time to update your résumé in case you need to hunt for new employment.

Your goal should be making your résumé stand out from the hundreds of others employers receive.

It used to be that a résumé started with a “statement of purpose,” something akin to “I’m seeking a challenging position that offers professional growth.” But that doesn’t make the job seeker distinctive from the competition.

“You really need to highlight your last five years of experience and concrete accomplishments,” said John A. Challenger, CEO of the Challenger, Gray & Christmas outplacement firm in Chicago. “That’s what makes you stand out.”

Challenger said, for example, that “saying you are a marketing executive with experience in brand management” doesn’t make you stand out because most marketing executives have those skills.

But “saying that you are a marketing executive who developed the concept and designed the materials for an advertising campaign for a new brand” reveals much more, he said.

Job applicants also have to realize they’re applying to work for very busy people, so they have to keep the key items in their résumés brief and to the point, he added.

It should go without saying that all résumés have some things in common:

• They’re attractive to look at, whether mailed or e-mailed;

• The content has been checked for typos and grammatical errors;

• The contact information is correct.

Kate Wendleton, president of the Five O’Clock Club, a career coaching and outplacement firm in New York, said job seekers should have a cover letter.

In brief, it should say you’ve been following the company’s activities, that you have a number of years of experience in the relevant field, that your most important accomplishments are X and Y, and that you’d appreciate 20 minutes of the would-be employer’s time to discuss the job.

Workers — especially those changing fields — need to make sure their résumés use the right vocabulary to describe their skills, said Wendleton, author of “Packaging Yourself: The Targeted Résumé.”

“We had a person with banking experience, an executive who specialized in check processing, who came in to work with us,” she said. “Now he wanted to work in hospitals, but they don’t do check processing. So he had to get the word ‘check’ off his résumé and emphasize transaction processing, which hospitals do.”

Those who have done a lot of job hopping — which could make a worker look unreliable — can make it less obvious in the way they organize their résumés, she said.

Say someone has worked at three companies in the past seven years. Wendleton recommends that instead of listing each job separately, the job seeker should create a single category like “research management, 2000 to present” and incorporate the three companies below that with emphasis on accomplishments over the stated period of time.

Both Challenger and Wendleton emphasized that finding the right person to send the résumé to is very important. The best choice is not the head of the human-resources department but the person who eventually could be your supervisor.