Use the right keywords and increase your chances of getting to the next phase of the selection process.
December 5, 2013
A resume peppered with words like abracadabra, alakazam, hocus pocus, presto-chango, and shazam probably won’t do much to help you make it on to the hiring manager’s shortlist. Even “please” – the magic word your mom probably prefers – isn’t guaranteed to do the trick.
But did you know there are some “magical” words you can use in your resume that are almost certain to make recruiters and HR personnel sit up and take notice? Whether they’re picked up by electronic scanning equipment or by the discerning eye of a human recruiter, judicious use of these keywords in your resume, cover letter, and other application materials are a great way to make sure you rise to the top in your quest for your dream job.
Most recruiters and hiring managers have to sift through a lot of ho-hum resumes. When you’re tasked with the responsibility of sorting through a few metric tons of paperwork each week, you tend to rely a few shortcuts to facilitate the process. Some firms actually use electronic scanners to sort through the piles of application materials they receive. These devices are configured to pick up on the presence of a number of pre-defined words and phrases.
Other firms train their HR personnel to identify and set aside the resumes that include certain keywords. According to Pat Kendall, professional resume writer and job search expert, you can exponentially increase your chances of making it to the next phase of the selection process if your resume includes the kind of keywords they’re looking for.
So how do you know which keywords your resume should include? With a bit of research and detective work, you can break the code and determine which keywords will most help your chances. Here are some tips to help you get started.
Your first task is to go over the help-wanted ad you’re responding to with a pencil, a highlighter, and a notepad close at hand. Circle every important word in the listing, whether it’s a specific skill, a value or personality attribute, or a key qualification. This is your single most reliable source of keyword information, so be sure to squeeze as many of these terms into your resume as possibly you can.
Once you’ve focused on the job listing, expand your keyword search to include similar job listings posted by other firms in the industry. Read relevant articles in industry publications and look at online resumes posted by other job seekers in your field. Keep track of important words and phrases that you notice popping up repeatedly, and add to your resume any that are applicable to the position you’re applying for.
You’ve already culled important keywords from the job posting itself, but now it’s time to expand your research on the company a bit further. Look at their website, paying particular attention to the values and goals they espouse in their mission statement or “About Us” description. Take a look at their brochures and recent press releases, too. This process will help you get a sense of the kind of values keywords that will be most likely to help your resume stand out.
Everyone who has ever put together a resume tries their hardest to make it a compelling, well-written document. But sometimes, the urge to showcase your writing skills can dilute the effectiveness of your resume keywords. Instead of reaching for the thesaurus, stick to standard industry terms when you’re describing your skills and experience. That way, your experience keywords won’t get lost in the shuffle.
Once you’ve cracked the code and reaped the benefits of this approach, chances are you’ll never revert back to generic, one-size-fits-all resumes. Happy hunting!
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