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5 Tips to Improve Your Resume

5 Tips to Improve Your Resume Keywords
By Victor T. Madubuko

What is all the hype about Resume Keywords? We are told they are ‘essential to a job search. That we should use them in our resume and cover letters and use them when searching for job openings. But what are they really, and how do you know you’re using the right ones?

They are buzzwords that identify an industry or a profession. They’re also the currency of the modern job search. Keywords are specific words or phrases that job seekers use to search for jobs and employers use to find the right candidates. Keywords are used as search criteria in the same way you do research on the Internet.

Many companies use recruiting management software to screen candidates for job openings. Instead of a person reviewing your resume, the software screens resumes based on the terms included in the resume. Resume keywords are the words that those hiring managers search for when going through their database of resumes.

In today’s world of keywords and search engine technology, if your resume doesn’t contain the right mix of job-specific keywords, then your resume may stay buried in the digital dungeon that is a candidate database even if you’re fully qualified for the job. As a job seeker, using the right keywords on your resume is essential if you want your resume to leap out of a pile or be found in a database and land a job interview.

Below are common keyword types. In bold are example keywords an employer from the retail industry might use to select resumes:

  1.                      Job titles (sales assistant – retail)
  2.                      Business functions (sale order processing)
  3.                      Responsibilities (analyze sales order data)
  4.                      Required strengths (strong analytical skills)
  5.                      Degrees or diplomas (associate degree in business)

Computer applications (SAP Sales and Distribution module)

Here are 5 tips to improve your resume keywords:

1. Find the Keywords Unique to Your Field
A great place to get keyed into your resume keywords is to review 5 to 10 employment adverts with similar job titles in your field and see which words are repeatedly mentioned. Once you see a pattern, highlight and list the keywords employers mention and be sure to include them in your resume and cover letter

2.  Moderation Is Key
After making your keyword list and checking it twice, chances are you’ll have more than 8 keywords to boast about. Perfect! Just be sure not to make every other word in your resume a keyword – to much of a good thing is painful, and no one likes to read a resume riddled with buzzword bingo overkill – so start with 8 keywords and go from there!

3. Spell Out The Obvious
Many job seekers make a keyword mistake of omission: They assume the people who read their resumes will know what their job responsibilities comprise. It seems obvious, for example, that a litigation attorney has written briefs and legal memos, has done depositions and has handled discoveries, said Rahul D. Yodh, principal at Link Legal Search Group.

“Anybody who’s practiced law would know that,” Yodh said. But the hiring professionals on the front line who first see resumes tend to be generalists who may have little to no knowledge of a given job or duties, he said. And like human-resource generalists, Applicant Tracking System (ATS) don’t implicitly know by scanning a resume that a lawyer has had experience with briefs, depositions or discoveries. Every term needs to be spelled out. Every industry and function carries its own set of duties; make sure you unfold your job responsibilities to pull out those words that seem too obvious to mention.

4. Contextualize Keywords
Many resume writers use sections titled “Professional Summary” or “Skills” at the top of a resume as a kind of corral for keywords. While it’s fine to use keywords in such a section, it’s important to use them throughout the resume as well, in the context of job responsibilities.

To understand why, consider your own Google searches. Google returns Web pages that contain the correct search terms, but many of the results are irrelevant to what you’re searching for; the search terms are scattered throughout a given page and in the wrong context. The best search results show the search terms grouped together in the proper context.

5. Boolean And Location-Based Keywords
Employers often use Boolean searches to seek local professionals. For example, if a company wants to hire a project manager in Lagos area, it may conduct a search that looks like this:

” ‘project manager’ AND Lagos.”

The search will only return resumes that contain both terms “project manager” and “Dallas” and would reject any project managers who left out the “Dallas.” For this reason, I would recommends users include their town or region. “If you’re leery of putting down an address, leave out the street number and name, but put down the city and state

The more keywords you use, the more closely the job will match what you’re really looking for. Now you are on your way to using the right keywords to shows what you have accomplished in previous jobs and increase chances of to getting selected by the software and hiring managers who screen your resume.

Victor T. Madubuko is the Managing Partner at CareerNation.com