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Are You Keyword Optimizing Your Resume?

Are You Keyword Optimizing Your Resume?

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"Keyword optimization? What's that?" Keyword optimization is the skill, and possibly the art, of choosing the best keywords to use in any piece of writing you plan on putting into the public sphere, online or otherwise. The purpose of keyword optimization is to create relevance within the scope of Internet search engines, drawing in the people you want to read your Web site -- or in this case, your resume.

That's right, keyword optimize isn't just for Web sites and articles. It is one of the most important things you can do to make your resume visible to employers, who more and more are using search-driven databases to pull up the resumes they're looking for. Unfortunately for some job seekers, keywords are one of the things they spend no or too little time thinking about.

Especially for job seekers who use Web sites such as Monster, CareerBuilder and Craig's List, keywords can help them optimize their online resumes, bringing them to the top of the stack when a recruiter or HR manager does a keyword search.

According to author Pinny Cohen in Are You Keyword Optimizing Your Resume?, job recruiters use keywords to search for job applicants using keywords:

"Most jobs or actions in the business world have more than one term, and sometimes that causes confusion over who has what experience.  For example, a digital planner and a media planner could be doing the exact same work, but there will likely be one searched for more often.  If you find out which term is better searched, you can make those changes on your bio or resume and ensure that you are located more easily."

Further, according to, the top 10 keywords recruiters search job sites for are:

  1. Sales
  2. Controller
  3. CPA
  4. Sap
  5. Project Manager
  6. CFO
  7. Tax
  8. Director
  9. Recruiter
  10. Human Resources

CareerPerfect advises that you add a keyword summary (Qualification Summary) at the beginning of a resume even if you've used keywords throughout the resume.

Pat Kendall of Advanced Resume Concepts provided two examples of keyword non-use and keyword use summaries:

Not using keywords:

Achievement-oriented with 15 years of successful experience and proven ability to meet objectives, communicate with clients, and quickly excel in new industries.

Using keywords:

Achievement-oriented sales professional with 15 years of success in international trade and global marketing. Skilled in developing marketing programs, coordinating new product introductions and providing customer support. Proven track record in cold calling, new business development and key account management.

The location of keywords within your resume is important. For example, if you use a keyword in the title of your resume, you will have a better chance of ranking higher than if it were only in the body of your resume / profile.

A great way to advertise your skills and experience is to create a personal resume Web page. A personal web page is inexpensive to register and can give you much better search engine positioning than a free site with complicated URLs or thousand of other resumes.

Building a Web site can be either simple and inexpensive or complicated and splashy. While a more completed Web site can get a tad expensive, it is often worth the initial investment to create a search-engine-friendly site that will grab attention. (TIP: Don't use a dark background with light-colored letters, as your resume may be printed by someone, and light letters on a dark background is a disastrous combination for most printers.)

Gaming The HR Scanning Process

Gaming the HR scanning process is a rarely used term for when job applicants try to get their resume into the hands of a human HR person by advancing the scanning process. A lot of personnel departments use scanning software to scan resumes, forwarding only the ones using the minimum amount of accepted keywords. Applicants who genuinely fit the requirements of the advertised position should be the only ones to game the scanning process. With that said...

Gaming the HR scanning process is a way to tailor your resume to the job description to which you're responding. Use the same words, find the sentence strings and phrases that seem to be important, and reiterate them exactly in your resume.

For example:

Advertised position: Must have knowledge of Microsoft Office 2007 and demonstrate software experience.

Your resume would read: I am experienced in Microsoft Office 2007 software.

The keyword phrase here is Microsoft Office 2007.

Create a Keyword Happy Resume

Consider the keywords to be used in job titles, skills, and education that would be most important to someone looking for the type of position you are seeking.

Take a highlighter to a printed version of your resume. Highlight all of the potential keywords that you find and look them up in a online keyword popularity Web site.

Look up the most popular keywords for the type of position you are seeking.

Use common industry acronyms that are used for the type of position you are seeking.

How a resume looks and reads is still very important - make sure your keywords fit in comfortably.

Review your resume and consider where you can add keywords such as job responsibilities, accomplishments and qualifications. Use different forms of keywords in different sections for maximum exposure.

Related Articles

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Chronological Resumes

Skills Resumes

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How to Answer "Tell Me About Yourself"



  1. Optimize Your Resume

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