One of the most common questions a resume writer gets asked is: “Do you know how to work with keywords?” Usually, the questioner thinks that keywords are some arcane combinations of words that magically ensure that their resume will receive favourable consideration. There are even software programs that analyze job ads and come up with long lists of thirty or more keywords. According to the programmers, behind these programs, inserting as many keywords as possible into your resume will be the make-or-break factor in its effectiveness.

Don’t panic. The reality is more prosaic — and far easier to manage.

Surveys show managers don’t search for every keyword that the keyword search programs turn out. Instead, almost 70% of managers will only look for three or four keywords and most of the remaining managers will stop keyword searching after five or six keywords.

Which keywords will the managers search for?

Here’s the second bit of good news. The keywords that managers will be searching for are probably on your resume already. Or they can be discovered by looking at the ads for the jobs you want. These keywords include position titles, significant technical terms, location data, industry names or niches, well-known employers, degrees, certificates, soft (communications and people) skills, universities attended, conferences and trade shows participated in, relevant business, computer and tech skills, and location data.

I can hear someone ask: “So if I just copy your list, is that all I must do to address the keywords issue?”

The answer is: not exactly. While listing some items appropriately (e.g., position titles, employers, universities attended, location data) is enough, you can’t afford to list any skills without providing additional support for your claims.

The best way to support a claimed skill is to recount an incident where you used that skill effectively to help your employer achieve business or organizational goals. If you are a safety systems entrepreneur, did you conceptualize and drive the development of an online software tool that took the market by storm? If you are an airport project manager, do you have an unbroken record of delivering your projects within deadlines and budgets? Whatever your skills, showing how you used them to achieve business goals is the best possible way to make your resume stand out from others.

Do that, and you’ll never have to worry about keywords.

To your success!
Tim Cunningham, Principal Writer
Fast & Focused Resume Service
Your Vancuver Resume Writer