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Screen Shot 2013-03-03 at 11.03.02 PMIdentifying what employers want and making the case to show why you’re a fit is one of the most challenging things for job seekers. If you haven’t looked for a job in a while, it may seem like what employers want changed a lot since the last time you looked for work. You may need some tips to help you get a job now.

Years ago, everyone seemed to prefer to hire Jacks-of-all trades—in other words, people who could do a little of everything. The goal was to cross-train, and people who were generalists could expect to be in demand.

According to Kevin W. Grossman, author of the Tech Job Hunt Handbook, things changed dramatically with the recent recession. When employers eliminated jobs in the past few years, they were more likely to keep people who focused in a particular area. Grossman explains: “If you have specialized skills and are helping solve real-world problems, you are two steps ahead of everyone else when it comes to landing—and keeping—a job.”

In a competitive market, job seekers should consider honing in on their specialties and applying for positions where those targeted skills will be valued.

How to get a job now

Consider these tips to help make your business case:

Be specific. It’s not enough to be “hard working, experienced, and a strong team player.” Pretty much everyone who applies for a job claims these basic qualifications.

Think about the specifics that make you different. Focus first on what the employer needs from their employees; you can learn this via their job descriptions, by talking to knowledgeable people, and by reading information online from your target organizations.Then, write your application materials accordingly.

Fill in the gaps. Maybe you’ve never actually considered yourself a subject matter expert, or you don’t really have the expertise necessary to market yourself as one. Instead of sulking and reminiscing about the days when everyone wanted to hire generalists, focus on what skills you need to have under your belt to be more marketable.

Use social media. There’s no better way to showcase your expertise than via social media. If you want to prove you know a lot about a topic, you can create a blog and write about it, start a LinkedIn group focused on the subject and lead online conversations, and fill your Twitter, Google+, and Facebook streams with content that makes it clear you’re connected and an expert in a specific subject matter.

Read the full post on my U.S. News & World Report column.

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