the Right Keywords To Get
Your Resume Noticed
You've probably heard the advice
from a friend, a career counselor, or maybe you read it
online: "Make sure your resume has strong keywords." In a
world where resumes are often scanned by computers hunting
for certain words phrases, the right keyword has the
potential to land your resume at the top a recruiter's pile.
But how, exactly, is one to know just which keywords to use?
Read on for some tips.
1. Use the job posting to your advantage.
The advertisement for the position you're interested in is
an excellent place to find keywords, says Jay Block, an
executive career coach in West Palm Beach, Fla., and
co-author of "2500 Keywords To Get You Hired" (McGraw-Hill,
2002). If the ad says candidates need to have a bachelor's
degree, "bachelor's degree" had better show up somewhere in
Mr. Block also recommends that job hunters look at ads for
similar jobs at other companies. He says that each industry
has its own jargon, and becoming familiar with a wide range
of ads will help you see which keywords are showing up in
ads over and over again.
2. Some keywords are golden.
Although many keywords are industry specific, Mr. Block
says, certain phrases are important to almost all companies.
They include "communication skills," "problem-solving,"
"team work," "leadership," "resource optimization," and
"image and reputation management." "Business development"
might be one of the most important of all, he says. "I've
interviewed many, many companies that will tell me,
'Everybody from the floor sweeper to the national sales
manager had better be involved in business development in
some way,' " says Mr. Block.
He also recommends older job seekers prominently list
"computer" or "IT" skills on their resumes if they have
these skills, because some employers may make an assumption
that older applicants are not as tech savvy as their younger
3. Use words that demonstrate your value.
The problem with many resumes is that they read like
biographies, says Mr. Block. Companies don't really care
about your life story, they want to know if hiring you will
be valuable to them, he says. That's where keywords come in.
"Keywords are words that have got to show one can produce
results," he says.
Mr. Block recommends that job hunters present key phrases
like "driving gross" or "increased efficiency" in a
prominent way, so that they stand out when the resume gets
past the computer and is viewed by human eyes. He says a
prospective employer wants to be able to determine within 10
seconds what value you bring to the table. Leo Gillespie, a
hotel operator in West Palm Beach who's consulted with Mr.
Block, says he now thinks of the top of the first page of
his resume as a billboard, painted with keywords designed to
draw attention. "You need to highlight the work skills that
qualify you specifically for the job that you're targeting,"
he says. Mr. Gillespie is applying for a position in which
he will compete with hundreds of other applicants, but he's
confident the right keywords, backed by 20 years' experience
in the hospitality business, will earn his resume the
attention it deserves.
4. Action verbs still matter.
The keywords that will get you noticed by a computer search
are usually nouns, but the verbs you use are still
important, says Jim Lanzalotto, vice president of strategy
and marketing at Yoh Services LLC, a professional staffing
firm in Philadelphia. "You need to communicate the things
that you do in a positive, active way," he says. Using
strong phrases like "led a team" or "built a team" instead
of "worked with a team" can make a subtle but important
distinction to a recruiter. Mr. Gillespie is one job hunter
who has embraced using active verbs. His resume includes
phrases such as "igniting revenues" and "motivating and
leading a dynamic staff."
5. Don't go overboard.
As important as keywords are for getting noticed, littering
your resume with buzzwords that don't accurately reflect
your work experience may work against you, says Mr.
Lanzalotto."Too often, what happens, candidates will muck up
a resume by just putting keywords in it, whether they have
the skill sets or not," he says. This trick might get you
noticed initially by a computer scanning a resume database,
but an experienced recruiter will see through it. Chuck
Schaldenbrand, co-owner of RESUMate Inc. in Saline, Mich.,
which designs professional recruiting software, compared
using bogus resume keywords to putting superfluous words on
a Web site in order to get it ranked highly by a search
engine. "If you create your Web site for the purpose of a
Google ranking, but you destroy the readability of your
site, you've shot yourself in the foot," he says.
6. Go with a text file.
The keywords you use in your resume won't help if the resume
you submit can't be read by scanning software. Short of
submitting a hardcopy resume on an usual color of paper,
there's not much a job hunter can do to foil a resume
scanner, says Mr. Schaldenbrand. However, when job hunters
are asked to submit a resume electronically, they often have
a choice of whether to submit a text file or an HTML file.
Mr. Schaldenbrand says HTML files can be formatted to look
more aesthetically pleasing, but he recommends a text
format. "HTML is easier to read, but the truth is recruiters
who use database software request resumes in text form,
because databases do better with text than they do with
HTML," he says.
-- Mr. Flesher is a free-lance
writer in Central New Jersey.
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