Keywords and Resumes: What’s the Big Deal?

Posted on March 20, 2009. Filed under: Resumes, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , |

Working with scores of job seekers, the question about the importance of resume keywords often comes up. The answer, of course, is yes, but you must be strategic in how you go about incorporating them into the document and you must be selective in terms of the keywords you chose to include.

Why is this even an Issue?

Some of you may be wondering why this is a concern, as it is obvious to you that keywords must be used in a resume. However, many candidates feel that these buzzwords don’t mean anything and that the hiring manager will say “so what” when reading their information. They are concerned that anyone can put a list of buzzwords together, especially if they do so in a separate competencies section in which they don’t have to support the inclusion of those terms with any detail.

If this describes you, remember that the hiring manager is not the only one that will be reviewing your resume. In fact, they won’t be the first to view it, as resumes must successfully pass through the HR screening process in most organizations. It is for this audience, the HR representative, that the keyword list is so essential. They will generally only spend between five and twenty seconds scanning each resume to determine whether a candidate should get passed along to the hiring manager. In that short window, they will not be able to read the resume, so they look at how your keywords match up with some of the requirements and preferences listed on the job posting.

Where Do I Place the Keywords?

Although having the keywords spread throughout your resume will generate hits on database searches, the HR folks won’t have enough time to locate them in that manner. Instead, add a separate keywords section after your profile summary so that HR representatives can easily spot them and quickly scan through them.

What Keywords Do I Use?

Selecting your keywords appropriately is important. The best strategy is to review the content of the job posting to identify some of the language used, which will clue you in on the types of terms that the HR folks will be looking for on each candidate’s resume. Also, consider the position you are pursuing and some of the most important attributes of a candidate in that type of job. Even if they are not included in the job posting, it may be beneficial to include them in your resume. One word of caution, however. Don’t overdo it. Too many keywords will possibly turn off a prospective employer. Try to limit your number of buzzwords to about three or four lines of text, which may equate to between nine and sixteen terms.

If you have not been receiving calls from employers with your current resume, start by reviewing the keywords you have included in conjunction with the job descriptions you have posted for.

To learn more about conducting a successful job search or to better understand the role the resume and recruiters play in the job hunt, please check out my site with Job Search Tips and Advice. What about me should make you go any further? I am a Certified Professional Resume Writer (CPRW) with an MBA. I have more than 6 years of experience as a career services professional and job search coach in addition to 8 years of experience in high-level corporate leadership positions.

In February 2009, I launched a new group job hunting networking site: It is absolutely FREE to join, and you have access to everything on the site. Come check it out at NoddlePlace. You can also follow me on Twitter.

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