Job Search Success: The Right Resume Keywords Make All the Difference

right resume keywordsIn today’s ultra-competitive job market, using the right resume keywords to identify yourself is more important than you know.

But before we get into what makes a “right” keyword, let me tell you what you, from a keyword perspective, are not.

  • You are not “outgoing, driven and dedicated”
  • In no way can you work “independently” and simultaneously as a “team player”
  • And further, you are not a “natural born leader” (not by a long shot)

Why are you none of those attributes? Because each one is a trait or quality. None of them is a skill. And in the crowded world of online job applications, your skill set matters above all.

The Right Resume Keywords are Your Skills

“But Danny…being ‘driven’ isn’t a skill?”

No. It’s not. And here are two great reasons why.

  1. Being “driven” is a way you operate or how others perceive you. It’s a trait – the same as if co-workers view you as lazy or incompetent. Some people might pride themselves on being lazy, but it’s not a skill.
  2. More and more, companies use applicant tracking systems (ATS) to sift through a mountain of job applications to find the best candidates. What do the robots want to find? SKILLS.

Do you think the robots search for “natural born leader” or, rather, hands-on skills/certifications (ex: HTML)? Way too many people claim to be “leaders.” A select few can write computer code. Employers need the skills.

Telling Your Story

Yes, employers also want people with a great deal of character. That’s why I encourage my career coaching students to tell a story of professional success as the intro paragraph to their cover letter. When the employer can understand how you overcome stressful situations, attributes like “driven” and “dedicated” jump off the page through a memorable story.

A stellar “storytelling” cover letter coupled with a resume full of actual skills make you dynamite job applicant.

The Difference the Right Resume Keywords Make

Here’s a resume I helped a young man revise. He wanted a job in civil engineering (and now has a great one).

When he first came to me, this was the Skills area of his resume.

  • Strong Leadership Qualities
  • Passion For Success
  • Planning and Scheduling Skills
  • Business Management Experience
  • Excellent Communication Skills
  • Steady Work Ethic

I know the young man had the best of intentions, but think about it: are job app robots looking for someone with “strong leadership qualities”? A “passion for success” (whatever that is)? Not a chance.

So I asked him, “What software and tools do you know how to use as they relate to engineering?” He responded, “Oh, actually I know how to do a lot.” After a five-minute conversation, the skills section of his resume looked a bit different – err, better. So much better:

  • Strong knowledge of AutoCad and Bim Autodesk modeling
  • Can operate Deere/Cat/Hitatchi Excavator, Bobcat/Cat Dozer Loaders, Cat backhoe
  • Editing & mark up skills using Bluebeam Revu and Brava Desktop 7.2.0
  • Gantt chart scheduler using Wrike, Smartsheet and Primavera P6
  • Confident on Apple Mac OS X and Microsoft Windows

See a difference? Now HERE is a person with skills.

Give Them What They’re Looking For

Imagine if the employer, when he made the job posting, said, “I need someone who can use Brava Desktop 7.2.0. It’s too expensive and time-consuming to teach someone. Robot, go find me people who are proficient with ‘Brava Desktop 7.2.0.’”

And that’s how you land a job interview while the “natural born leaders” sit at home and wonder why the phone won’t ring.

To Recap…

You are no longer “John Doe, energetic and enthusiastic job seeker.” You are “John Doe, Brava Desktop 7.2.0 specialist.”

So on your resume, lead with your skills. They are the right resume keywords.

After all, somewhere out there, a robot is waiting to call your name.


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Danny_RubinAbout the Author: Danny Rubin is a communications expert and author of the new book, Wait, How Do I Write This Email?, a collection of 100+ templates for networking, the job search and LinkedIn. For more of Danny’s insights and sample chapters from the book, visit his blog, The Template, which highlights the career advice in the latest headlines. Follow him on Twitter.



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