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Power your resume with the right keywords

Power your resume with the right keywords

You have all the qualifications and skills detailed in the online job ad, but you still haven’t heard back about your application. You’re wondering, what went wrong?

Chances are, your resume is lost in cyberspace. Flooded by job applications, many companies are now using computer programmes known as applicant tracking systems (ATS) to check if your skill set makes you the right fit for the hiring position. If your resume doesn’t contain the right mix of job-specific keywords — words that describe skills and attributes industry insiders typically use to define themselves and others in the profession – it may remain buried in the database forever.

So how do you write a resume for a hiring market dominated by search engine technology? Follow these guidelines:

Identify the right keywords for the job
The best way to know which keywords will work for a particular job posting is to review a few similar posts. Some words are bound to be mentioned repeatedly – degrees/certifications, job titles, job-specific buzzwords, service types, technical terms, and industry jargon. Once you see a pattern, make sure you list the words repeated most often in your resume and cover letter.

For additional keywords, you can also refer to the company’s website. If the leaders focus on creativity or out-of-the-box ideas, you could incorporate related words even if the job listing doesn’t seem to warrant it. Also, look online for lists of keywords that are suitable for almost every job – there are certain skills and qualities that every employer wants in almost every candidate.

Create a master list
After doing your research, your list of keywords is likely to be long. It’s imperative that you narrow it down to between six and eight keywords. Any more could make it seem like a computer programme, and not a person wrote your resume.

Customise your resume
Lisa Quast, author of Secrets of a Hiring Manager Turned Career Coach: A Foolproof Guide to Getting the Job You Want. Every Time, says, “Depending on how a specific ATS works, the location, and frequency of keywords within your resume can be extremely important.”

Customise your CV for each individual job ad, sharing proof of qualification, skill or experience against every requirement listed. Use the same words that are used in the job description requirements while describing your eligibility if you want to achieve a higher keyword ranking in the ATS. Remember, it’s common practice for recruitment managers to begin reviewing applicants from the top of the ranking list.

Showcase your keywords
How you embed the keywords within your resume is also important. Experts suggest that you precede each one with an action verb and end the statement with specific facts and figures to best sell your skills to a potential employer. Try using words like “redesign”, “launched”, “optimised”, “solved” and “orchestrated” to shine a light on your skills, credentials, and competencies.

Prune, trim, edit
Last but definitely not least, word choice and sentence structure is extremely important. Master résumé writer Jacqui Barrett-Pointdexter believes it’s “not just about using the right words, it is equally about teasing out the nuances of your stories and then combining them in a way that is attractive to your target reader: recruiter, hiring manager, etc”.

Looking for more tips to land that dream job? Click here to advance your career.

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