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How to Use Keywords to Make a Resume Recruiters Notice

Updated on
July 1, 2019
How to Use Keywords to Make a Resume Recruiters Notice

Do you tailor your resume to match the job you’re applying for? There are some compelling reasons that you should. You already tailor other things you write to a specific audience, (e.g., emails, term papers, brochures). Why should your resume be any different?

Tips for Writing a Great Resume

Here are a few simple tips on how to write a resume and tailor it to a job description.

Know Your Skills

A good place to start is by making a master list of your skills. But why make a master list if you’re just going to take keywords from the job listing?

The list helps you identify what kinds of job listings to target. Also, it will help you prioritize the skill keywords you will take from the job listing.

So, think back on all of the jobs you’ve had and the skills you’ve learned over the years. As you add them to your list, put the ones you feel strongest about at the top.

By putting your strongest skills at the top, you can see how close you are to being the perfect candidate when you select different job listings. For example, when your strongest skills line up with the skills the recruiter emphasizes in the job listing, there’s a better chance you’ll get called in for an interview.

If you’re worried about whether a skill is relevant, add it anyhow. It’s best to get it all on paper and save the cherry-picking for later.

Mine the Job Listing for Skills Keywords

Carefully read the job listing and highlight any skills the employer mentions.

These are keywords. When a hiring manager first looks at your resume, she will scan it for these keywords. And she will only spend an average of six seconds trying to find them.

That means that you need to put the most important keywords at the top of your resume. Make other keywords eye-catching with embellishments like numbers and accomplishments.

For example, let’s say one of the requirements in the job listing is “excellent customer service skills.” You’ve decided to add it to your experience section as a key responsibility from your last job.

But don’t just write

Responsible for handling customer service.

Add some value.

Spearheaded a customer service initiative that saved the company over $50,000 and resulted in a 10% decrease in returns.

Now the recruiter knows how excellent you are at customer service—$50,000 worth!

Here’s a tip: If you’ve ever cut costs or increased revenue, add that information. If you’re not sure by how much, estimate. Just be sure that you can back up your estimation with proof.

Identify Vital Skills

Try to find two to three other job listings similar to the one featuring the job you’re applying for. Read through them and mark the skills listed. If you find skills that are common across these listings, there’s a good chance they’re either mandatory or highly desirable for the job you’re targeting.

Next, take a trip over to LinkedIn and look at other professionals’ profiles. What skills do they list? How are they similar? If you see a pattern, you’ve figured out which skills are most likely relevant keywords for your resume.

Categorize the Remaining Skills for Perspective

The rest of the keyword skills should fall into one of three categories:

  • Job-related
  • Transferable
  • Adaptive

Job-related skills are necessary for you to do the work at hand. They include things like knowing Java and Python or having the ability to operate a forklift. Chances are if you don’t have most of the job-related skills, you can’t do the work.

Make sure these skills go in prominent places on your resume, like the summary or leading bullet points in your experience section. You want the hiring manager to check them off his must-have list as quickly as possible.

Transferable skills are less important than the other types. They are basic skills that most people have because they carry them from one job to another. They include things like knowing how to create pivot tables in Microsoft Excel. Hiring managers welcome them on resumes but don’t treat them as unique or extraordinary. What they can do for you is flesh out your resume and give you extra value. So, feature them in your skills section.

Here’s a tip: Don’t just write Microsoft Excel.

Add the detail about the pivot tables: Microsoft Excel, pivot tables

Adaptive skills are the most elusive. They are skills like dependability and assertiveness. Usually, they are self-taught survival skills that help us thrive in society.

The very nature of these skills makes them difficult to measure and demonstrate. If possible, pair the ones you feel strongest about with accomplishments that illustrate them. Scatter them throughout your resume where appropriate.

Find Out if You Did a Good Job With Keywords

Dropping your tailored resume into a word generator like Wordle allows you to see which words you used the most. Cloud generators make words bigger when they are used more often in a piece of text. Ignore small words like “at” or “the” and focus on the dominance of your keywords.

If the most prominent words are not your keywords, you may want to rewrite your resume to increase the frequency with which you use those words. Adding more keywords will also improve the chances that your resume will pass an applicant tracking system (ATS) scan. If you need certain keywords to show up more frequently, add them to your skills or experience section.

Tailored Resumes Get You Hired

In an age where we are constantly bombarded and overwhelmed with information, you can’t expect a hiring manager to pick up a generic resume and find it relevant.

It is necessary to customize your resume to match both the job listing and a hiring manager’s expectations. Otherwise, you might just miss that golden opportunity.

About the author: Natalie Severt is a writer at Zety. She writes about how to create successful resumes to help job seekers land their dream jobs. When she isn’t writing, she eats tacos and reads complicated novels. You can find her on Twitter.

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