Just How Do Keywords Work In a Resume?


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So many people are put off by the idea of writing a resume, and ignore doing it until the absolute last possible minute, many times when it is too late. Using a resume that is written properly will save you a lot of heartache in the end, though—and is worth the time investment. Taking advantage of keywords to write a resume is an excellent idea, particularly if it is done well.

One of the main reasons keywords is such a hot topic is because of company scanning machines. Employers use scanning machines to search for keywords in a candidates resume that match their requirements, weeding out everyone else whose resumes don’t match that.

In the last decade or so, it has become the norm for resumes to be sent out over the internet through search engines—particularly the job hunting search engines. Employers will take advantage of these particular search engines, and feed in the required information for each job posting, and a set of tags. In other words, the tags are the keywords that they are looking for in resumes. These tags not only help the companies, but they help you by permitting you to select categories that you feel fit your skill level better. By knowing what category you picked the job from—operations, finance, sales and marketing—you can re-word your resume using relevant keywords to fit the job description (posting) you are interested in. So, how do you know what keywords to add in a resume?

Make a rough list of what you need to add to your resume. Consider the jobs that are on your resume already. What things do they have in common? Start to think about what words you could conveniently place to attract prospective employers’ attention throughout your resume—words that are part of your past experiences–and relevant to the next position. Previous experience managing a manufacturing company can be turned into a keyword, or two—manufacturing operations or operations executive.

Place the keywords appropriately in your resume. Make the sentence or title that they are in seem natural, yet the placement of the keyword will gain attention, especially in the search engines. Consider a bulleted keyword list under your career summary.  Grabbing the attention of human resource managers or the hiring person is easier if you have a keyword list.

Now that you know how keywords work in a resume, take the time to rework your resume. A little bit of extra effort quite often pays off in the long run—especially when you’re looking for the job of your dreams.

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Written by Erin Kennedy, MCD, CMRW, CPRW - Visit the website to hire executive resume writer Erin Kennedy, CERW, CPRW

Erin is an internationally renowned certified resume writer specializing in professional and executive level resumes and career services.

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4 Responses to “Just How Do Keywords Work In a Resume?”
  1. Daniel Rose says:

    This is so true. It’s also one of the reason that most people recruit the wrong people to the job. Keywords can’t provide an accurate picture, at best they preclude people based on the recruiters concept of what is relevant. It’s a poor way to develop a recruitment pool, but that’s the way they do it, so if you’re looking for a job – you’d better be aware.
    .-= Daniel Rose´s last blog ..Metrics for metrics sake =-.

  2. Exactly, Daniel.

    I don’t like the way they do it either… but in the same breath, I can see why they (recruiters) do it this way. If they are getting in hundreds (thousands even?) for a certain position, they are going to need a little help.


  3. Daniel Rose says:

    Very true, Erin. With the volume, it’s really likely that some type of filtering is needed. Perhaps there’s a better way? I wonder if we can better describe positions in advertising, or even fill them more effectively through new social media communications or word of mouth…
    .-= Daniel Rose´s last blog ..Publicly Owned to Publicly Traded — Queensland Rail =-.

  4. Ron Leyba says:

    This is really how recruitment team of other companies do things online. I agree with you Daniel that, this practice makes no perfect sense since it can’t provide an accurate skill or picture of the applicant. What if the non targeted-non suitable for the job applicant spam their resume with keywords for the job they are applying for? Then inaccurate resumes will be sent to the recruiters right?

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