Title:Why Are Keywords so important in My Resume?
Author:Barbara Adams, CPRW, CEIP, MFRW, MMRW, MFCA-T
Next to accomplishments, keywords may be one of the most effective ways to optimize your resume. Why? Because the strategic use of keywords in your resume shows that you care about the results. You've actually read the job announcement and have comprehended the requirements of the position.
The job announcement is the first place you should look when assembling your list of keywords and beginning to write. The duties list is there for a reason — it tells you what you'll be doing in the position. After all, you'll want to know what the job requires and match your skills and experience with those duties.
The next item to peruse is the qualifications section of the job announcement. This will answer the "Am I really qualified for this job?" question. It will also talk about any technical requirements that you'll want to be aware of that you can use for keywords. For example, the Chief Scientific and Technical Advisor for Aircraft Computer Software at the Federal Aviation Administration on USAJOBS is chock full of technical requirements. Take a look:
TECHNICAL REQUIREMENT: Have you created aircraft software certification policies and criteria based on your experience in developing and applying software assurance techniques while participating on an RTCA Special Committee SC-205 or SC-167? If yes, your response must state your activities while serving on an RTCA Special Committee SC-205 or SC-167 creating DO-178B/C and how your experience in any formal methods, programming languages, verification techniques, software development and tools was used in creating certification policies and criteria.
This one little section has plenty of keyword potential you can use in your resume. Just be careful about overuse of acronyms, which can make your document confusing to the reader.
Now, let's talk about some things to think about as you thread the keywords into your document. Catherine Nolan, Monster Contributing Writer, nails three things you need to think about as you write your resume. Here they are in the order they appear in her article titled The 3 things every job seeker needs to know about keywords.
First, be specific. If you worked in the Marketing department in your last gig, don't just use the word "marketing." Talk about your specific role such as Marketing Manager, Marketing Director, or Digital Marketing Guru. This will set you apart from the pack — so be specific.
Another approach to specific terms is the use of variations. For instance, using the words "market," or "marketer," or even "marketable" (instead of just "marketing") is a great way to get specific with your terms and have them stand out in the selection process. This is especially important when an organization uses an automated tracking system. Just remember to provide context with these specific terms.
Context is crucial to the readability of your resume. When using your keywords, don't just list them arbitrarily on your document and then expect to get results. You need to use the words in the context of your qualifications and experience. Tell your story in a natural flow with the keywords plugged in where they make sense and where it doesn't sound awkward. The automated systems are starting to figure this out.
If you do use your keywords in a section of the resume, such as "key skills," that's okay — as long as the words make their appearance elsewhere. This establishes consistency in the relevance of the keyword. Even if you try to use the same keyword out of context in various sections, that can still draw a red flag, even in the automated systems.
The bottom line here is to take the time to identify your duties, skills, and responsibilities as you would if you were talking to someone about what you do. You wouldn't simply say the keywords, but rather have a conversation about your job. Always provide context.
The last tip on the list should be common sense — don't overdo it. If every other word you write is a keyword, then your tone will take a hit and it won't be understandable. Balance is critical when using keywords. If you have doubts about how it sounds, read it aloud and that will say a lot about readability.
In addition to reading it yourself, have a colleague read it and ask for feedback. Even better, have them read it aloud and see how that sounds. This will likely tell you everything you need to know about the balance of your keywords within the context of your experience.
There's no doubt the right keywords in the proper context with sincere balance is key to a well-written resume. However, if you need help with preparation of key career documents, don't hesitate to call on a professional. CareerPro Global is the leader in the career services industry; resume writing and career coaching at all levels. Contact a Master Federal Career Advisor today.