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4 Tips on Identifying Keywords to Use in your Resume

I have worked with several clients this week who haven’t had to look for a job in 10 years or more. While they had heard about the importance of keywords, they were lost as to the best approach to finding the right ones to include in their resume for the jobs they were seeking. These folks are not alone in their confusion, so here are a few quick tips for all those job seekers not sure what to look for or where to find keywords.

To start, understand this is a bit of a guessing game and we use the best clues we can to identify the keywords employers / recruiters will enter into their application tracking system (ATS) to manage and select resumes for their open positions. The best clues are in the job postings.

So, my first suggestion is to find 3 job postings of interest for the primary type of job you are seeking. Analyze each posting, focusing on the qualifications / requirements section, typically found at the bottom of the posting. (Usually job postings will state a company overview, then the job responsibilities, and finally the qualifications / requirements.)

Make sure you keep a master resume that you will use as your base while applying for jobs. You will then tweak this master resume to match up with each specific position you apply for.

Analyzing the Posting:

  1. See what skills are stated in the qualifications section for each of the 3 positions and pay attention to the specific words used, primarily the nouns.  Underline and make a list of those words from each of the 3 postings. Then see which words are common to at least 2 of your postings. These common words are the most important, so check your resume to see if those are already in there. If not, insert those missing words into appropriate sections of your master copy of the resume.
  2. Now, review your keyword list again for the remaining words, those that are specific to only one of your 3 job postings. Make sure you know which job each of these words apply to and tweak a copy of your master resume to include them to create a customized version for each job posting.
  3. Let me provide an example, if you are seeking a sales leadership role and the requirements mention “Experience in territory management” the skill is territory management and that is what you want to make sure you include in your custom resume.
  4. If the next job posting you apply for says “Experience in sales management”, rather than territory management, then change your resume for this second posting to include sales management. Make sure these various keywords are scattered throughout all sections of the resume. Even if you are pursuing only one particular type of job, each company may have the qualifications stated differently than other companies. You want to state the skill exactly as they do. It goes without saying that you should only include the skills you actually have. And, while you don’t need to include every skill, the more you include the more chance of being selected. Hope this helps. It can definitely take time, but it can make all the difference.

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