Once you’ve finalized your resume, start to get feedback on it. This is the “market research” portion of your job search to ensure that your resume effectively positions you to get interviews for jobs you really want.

Why do this research? Getting “market feedback” before finalizing your resume is a low-risk way to ensure you are presenting yourself effectively BEFORE you enter the job market. If you don’t do this preliminary research, you will still get market feedback. Only that feedback will be in the form of not getting interviews for jobs you want, or not getting good referrals from people with whom you network.

Here’s how to do this research:

STEP ONE: Create a “focus group”

Identify a few people you respect and with whom you’ve worked, who are somewhat objective – 4 to 5 is a manageable number. Preferably some of these people will be in your target field (aka “market”). These people will give you particularly relevant feedback because they know the structure of your field or industry and how people fit. If you have a specialized niche, find people in that niche.

It’s also good to talk to one or two people who know very little about your field. They can give you a great sense of whether your resume generally communicates well.

STEP TWO: Test your resume with your focus group

Ask each “focus group” member to read your resume with this specific question in mind: “What kind of position do you think is appropriate for a person with this resume?” Follow up questions are “Where would you place someone with this resume?” and “When you read this resume, what kind of positions start to come to your mind?” and “Can you summarize the candidate presented in this resume? Type of role? Strengths? Abilities? Value-added?”

It’s always wise to say you’re not interested right now in word-smithing – just the specific feedback about how they see you based on the resume.

Although I call it a “focus group,” don’t try to assemble a group. First, it will be next-to-impossible to arrange. Second, you’ll probably be more comfortable asking people one on one.

STEP THREE: Use the feedback to improve your resume’s effectiveness.

Since the resume is a marketing document, it needs to market you to the kind of opportunities you want. If it doesn’t, then you have work to do on reshaping the resume to better present you for the opportunities you’ve targeted.

Basically, ANY feedback they give you will be useful. If the feedback is that your resume positions you for exactly the jobs you want – terrific! You’ve created a great marketing document. If your group give you feedback that you don’t like, that’s great! You can use that information to fix your resume before you apply for jobs you really want.

So step back and detach yourself from your resume. Your resume is not YOU. It’s only a piece of paper. View it as a communication piece. Is it communicating what you want to communicate? If not, then you get to change it.