By Shawn McGowan
If you've ever submitted a resume online - either through a job board's resume database or by applying via an employer's Applicant Tracking System (ATS) - your resume has been entered into an elaborate electronic filing cabinet that can be searched by recruiters looking to hire.
Employers search these databases for candidates with exact specifications for a job. Even if you are qualified for a job, if your keywords don't match a potential employer's keywords, your resume may not appear in their search result. Your resume needs to show up highly in these searches to be read by the right person.
Resume Keywords 101
So, what keywords are we talking about? Basically, buzzwords and phrases used by recruiters and industry insiders that describe a position, the position you're trying to win! These words could be job titles, responsibilities, software knowledge, skills, certifications, location information and more.
Let's look at a few ways you can get started on optimizing your resume for keyword searches:
1. Identify Your Keyword List
- Find similar job postings to the one you are applying to and save a few examples. What are some recurring words and phrases that you could add to your resume? Make a list.
- What skills or knowledge do you possess that is most critical in performing a particular job successfully? Be sure to include words and phrases that tie directly to these job requirements.
- Search LinkedIn profiles for members who have similar jobs. What keywords are they using?
- Check out your professional associations' directories. What words do peers use to describe themselves?
2. Include These Words and Phrases in Your Resume
- Include keywords from your list throughout your resume as they make sense, in context.
- Don't just add a list of keywords at the end of your resume. Instead, include a "Specialties" or "Professional Summary" section in your resume, listing common, relevant phrases.
- Always include keywords regarding your location. You don't need to share your full address but including info like city, state and ZIP are essential.
- In addition to using abbreviations and acronyms, always spell out the entire word or phrase. For example: Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA). Recruiters or ATS criteria may be looking for any or all of those words in their search.
- Use keywords in your cover letter.
- See also: 12 Ways to Optimize Your Resume for Applicant Tracking Systems
3. Make Your Keywords a Part of Your Personal Brand
- Add keywords to social profile bios and taglines. Indicating strong keywords to build a unified, cohesive message across all your profiles helps create a personal brand that provides a frame of reference as to how you would like others to remember you.
- This is especially important on your LinkedIn profile, where more and more recruiters are searching for and screening candidates.
The more you become familiar with the buzzwords associated with your industry and career, the better you'll be able to include such language in your electronic resume, and the greater your chances of an employer finding you in the crowd.