Using Resume Keywords
an important strategy for your resume
Many employers use database technology to store and search the resumes that are sent to them by potential employees. Employers and recruiters search these databases using industry-specific keywords. Keywords are nouns and phrases that highlight technical and professional areas of expertise, industry-related jargon, achievements, projects, task forces, job titles, etc.
IF your resume does not contain at least some of the keywords that the employer is using, then your resume will be skipped by the computer, even if you have all of the experience and skills required by the job.
Some experienced job seekers may enhance their resume by including many of these keywords in a "Summary of Qualifications" near the top of their resume. This section may also be called a "Professional Summary" or, where appropriate, simply "Skills." And while most graduating seniors' resumes do not benefit from such a summary, it is still imperative to include the appropriate keywords in the text of your resume..
Here a few basic principles for using keywords in your resume:
- The best source of keywords is the actual job listing, which is likely to contain many, if not all, of the keywords that an employer will use to search the resume database.
- Include plenty of keyword nouns and noun phrases throughout your resume. If you have a "Summary of Qualifications" section at the beginning of your resume, try not to repeat verbatim the contents of this section.
- If you are applying for technical positions, you can list your skills, separating each noun or phrase by a comma.
- In some fields, a simple list of skills does not sufficiently describe the job seeker's background. Where appropriate, include accomplishments, as well, but be sure to include enough keywords to satisfy the computer searches.
Here are two examples, taken from Job Searching Online for Dummies, by Pam Dixon:
|Keyword summary, example 1||PROFESSIONAL SUMMARY: Award-winning corporate controller with more than ten years' experience in two $500 million corporations. Impressive record in implementing financial record database architecture that saved over $2 million annually. Proficient in Oracle, Prism, Red Brick, and SAP systems, as well as MS Project, Excel, Word, PowerPoint, and FrontPage."|
|Keyword summary, example 2||SKILLS|
Languages: C, SQL, C++, Assembler, Pascal
Software: Oracle Developer 2000, Informix NewEra, FoxPro
OS: UNIX, Windows NT/95/3.11, MS-DOS
RDBMS: Oracle7, Informix 7
There are several ways to determine what keywords are appropriate for your industry and job.
- Look through recent job ads online. Certain words will reappear consistently. Those are your "key" words.
- Make sure your resume contains the key words and concepts used in the particular job listing you are applying to.
- Talk to people in the career field you are targeting, and ask them what keywords are appropriate to the positions you are applying to. (You can start this networking with the BC Career Advisory Network.)
- Visit professional association Web sites, and read the content carefully. Many of these are loaded with industry-related jargon which may be appropriate for your resume.
- Galenet - Association search
IMPORTANT NOTE: be sure to unclick the ALL box, and click on "National Associations," THEN enter a career field in the "Description of Purpose and Activities" or "Subject Descriptor" lines.
- Try the Occupational Outlook Handbook, an excellent resource produced by the U.S. Dept. of Labor.
Other important ideas:
- If you're still in college, try to get at least one internship in the career field you're targeting. Even if you're internship lasts only a few weeks, you will significantly increase your keyword count.
- You should have a minimum of 4 industry- or job-specific keywords. The ideal is to have at least 12 keywords.
- Choose both general and specific keywords: For example, general = psychology; therapist; psychologist. Specific = addiction; behavioral therapy.