Resume Keywords: The Key to Getting Noticed!

As the job market tightens and there are an ever-increasing number of applicants for each job opening, standing out from the crowd is becoming a matter of survival of the fittest.

Or in the case of résumés, survival of the ‘key-wordiest’.

Human resource and hiring managers have employed a variety of tools to help ‘weed out’ lesser or non-qualified applicants in the form of software that scans or ‘reads’ your résumé. Those résumés that score below a certain number of keyword hits go directly to the electronic round-file, while those who score high end up being viewed by a live human being.

So what’s the trick to getting into the coveted interview pile? Keywords, keywords, keywords. Is it sinking in yet? Good. Now, your next question should be, “Where do I find keywords?” Excellent query! Here’s how to find those words that are going to get your résumé to the next level in the application process:

The first place you should look for specific job-related keywords is the actual job posting itself. That alone is the first resource that hiring managers go to in order to make sure everything matches. You’ve heard of the ‘apples to apples’ comparison? This is in full effect – so sit down, pull out a separate sheet of paper, pore through the job posting and identify key required skills and duties to figure out what are those key words.

Secondly, review other related job postings that can be found posted on online job boards or websites, such as monster.com. Review each of those related postings and you’ll start to see a list of words that pop out and match the ones you’ve already reviewed.

Another good source for key words can be found by reviewing industry news or articles – oftentimes, key industry buzz words are repeated in these publications, and specific trends are identified, so this can also be a research bonanza for future interviews!

Industry trade associations are also a wealth of knowledge. Specific industries usually have their own trade association representing them at a local, state and federal level, and each organization has loads of information, articles, job listings and trends that are also a good fountain of industry-specific knowledge.

By talking to people in the industry, a lot of key skill information and definition of the types of duties can be gleaned from informational interviews. Seventy (70%) percent of all applicants find jobs through networking, and by making connections in an area that you are pursuing can be very helpful. Getting a good understanding of what kinds of skills and duties are required in a particular position are things that usually come out in informational interviews. Having first-hand, real-time background on that job from someone currently employed there is incredibly valuable.

Finally, there are some aggregate online keyword sources out there that you can research to find out specific industry or job-related keywords:

Good luck and happy researching!

About the Author: Dawn Rasmussen, CMP, is the president of Pathfinder Writing and Career Services, where she provides results-oriented résumé, cover letter, and job search coaching services. She is the official “Get the Job” columnist for One+ Magazine distributed to over 26,000 meeting professionals worldwide, and Talentzoo.com, a job resource site for creative and marketing professionals.

Dawn is also a recognized career expert on Careerealism.com – a top 10 world-ranked career advice blog – and a regular contributor to TalentCulture.com’s weekly meeting #tchat on Twitter.

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  • http://twitter.com/fit4thabo Thabo Hermanus

    Sad but true! Lack of those keywords will get you binned. SEO on your CV effectively is what you are saying here. I am glad you are encouraging applicants to read the full job spec as that in itself is an issue given people just see the Job Title and apply, with no thought process as to whether they are suitably qualified or not.

  • Anonymous

    Networking, research, and informational interviews before customizing a resume are keys to integrating a wide range of sufficient keywords. Job seekers still struggle with the due diligence process and diminish the level of competition for jobs.

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  • http://twitter.com/LoriSullivanADP Lori Sullivan

    Thanks for the article!  Good information.  I will post on my “Entry Level Jobs in the Midwest” group on LI.

    • http://www.youtern.com Mark Babbitt

      Thank you, Lori… we appreciate your support!