Keywords Can Make or Break Your Resume By Erika Malzberg, for LiveCareer
As many as 80% of employers use keywords to decide which resumes are worth a look. Using the right resume keywords can get you noticed and earn you an interview. Here’s how:
What are keywords?
Keywords are used in job descriptions to describe critical job qualifications. They can be degrees, programming languages or other specialized skills. Essential keywords are usually positioned higher up in a job description, appear most frequently and are listed as required rather than preferred skills.
How keywords can get you a job
To illustrate how keywords can get you the job, let’s meet Sarah, a recruiter who works with several Fortune 500 companies. Her highest priority is to find an Executive Assistant for one of her best clients in San Francisco.
Sarah’s first step is to turn to her internal ATS â€“ Applicant Tracking System. Like most recruiters, Sarah uses an ATS to search her recruiting company’s resume database. In Sarahâ€™s case, this database holds 700,000+ resumes.
The best way for Sarah to target the top candidates for this position is to search the database by keywords. So she enters the “must haves:” Executive Assistant, San Francisco, Microsoft Excel, Outlook, Travel Arrangements.
Sarah’s search yields 60 resumes with 90% match or better. She gives the first few resumes the 10-second scan, looking for more detailed qualifications. Sarah decides to call four candidates for a phone interview. Two pass the phone screen and are invited for an in-person interview. One lands the job.
If you were applying for this job and your resume didn’t have the right keywords â€“ even if you had all the necessary qualifications â€“ you wouldn’t have had a chance.
How to use keywords effectively
Step 1: Create your keyword list
Look at 3 job descriptions for the position you’re seeking and note the “must haves.” From this list, identify the qualifications that you possess. Choose at least 8 skills that you have and that are most sought after by employers.
Step 2: Add a Summary of Skills to Your Resume
Add the keywords from your list to a Summary of Skills section at the top of your resume.
Here’s an example for an Executive Assistant:
Summary of Skills
- Advanced Microsoft Office Skills including MS Word, MS Excel, MS Outlook, MS Power Point.
- 3+ years experience as an executive assistant for Fortune 500 executive.
- Extensive experience in making travel arrangements, expense reporting and scheduling.
Step 3: Weave Keywords throughout your Resume
Also work the top keywords into the body of your resume, where relevant. For example, degree requirements would appear in your education section. Donâ€™t worry about repeating the same keywords more than once. In fact, keyword frequency counts in many ATS’s so this can work in your favor.
When possible, use different forms of the same keyword to account for different search terms, including abbreviations and synonyms. So, if you reference your MBA also include the phrase Masters of Business Administration.
Adding the right keywords, will get you over the first hurdle of the job search and help you land the job that you want.