Appropriate keyword use is a big deal for job seekers working on their resumes. Many employers now use some form of scanning software as an initial screener that helps them determine which candidates are obviously qualified for the job.
Even when your resume makes it past the screening process, if a hiring manager can’t glance at your resume and determine through your use of keywords that you mesh with the position you’re applying for, your resume will likely land in the decline stack.
The best way to ensure your resume will be taken seriously is to avoid the misuse of keywords.
What Are Keywords?
Keywords are words or phrases that employers use to find the right candidates for positions they’re offering. The concept is similar to that of looking up information in a search engine. The more keywords you use to conduct your search, the more closely the information you find will match what you’re looking for.
Employers look for candidates to incorporate similar keywords in their resumes that match the nature of the position they’re applying for. Keyword examples might include “press release” if you’re going for a public relations position, or “infrastructure development” if you’re in the IT field.
3 Common Misuses of Keywords
Because many job seekers don’t understand keywords and how they work, they often misuse them. Here are three common misuses of keywords:
1. Keyword Underuse
Many job seekers don’t know that keywords should be incorporated into their resume, so while they may be highly qualified, they don’t appear to be because of keyword underuse. A great remedy for underuse is to find a list of good keywords based on the field you’re in. Also, take a good look at job postings to find words that seem to define the role you want to assume.
2. Keyword Overuse
Another problem seekers run into is keyword overuse. Once they realize they need keywords, they jam too many into the resume, nearly spamming the document. Although you do want to include related keywords, you don’t want to ruin the integrity of your resume by saturating it with words that don’t fit the context of the sentences you write.
3. Unrelated Keywords
Some seekers also have a problem with adding too many keywords that are unrelated to the position they’re applying for. This could happen if you’ve added job history from an industry different from your current one. To fix this, think of ways that your former jobs in outside industries relate to the position you want, then switch your details and keywords to match.
As you can see, keywords can be your best friend or your worst enemy—depending on their use. Be sure to make them your friend as you work to create a dynamic resume that impresses any hiring manager who reads it.
It’s important to remember to brand your resume before applying to each new position for more information on branding check out my recent article 5 Key Areas to Target When Branding Your Resume. You can also get additional job search and career related advice by checking out our blog or following us on Twitter @GreatResume.
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About the author
Jessica Hernandez, President, CEO & Founder of Great Resumes Fast
Hi, I’m Jessica. I started this company back in 2008 after more than a decade directing hiring practices at Fortune 500 companies.
What started as a side hustle (before that was even a word!) helping friends of friends with their resumes has now grown into a company that serves hundreds of happy clients a year. But the personal touch? I’ve kept that.
You might have seen me featured as a resume expert in publications like Forbes, Fast Company, and Fortune. And in 2020, I was honored to be named as a LinkedIn Top Voice of the year!
I’m so glad you’re here, and I can’t wait to help you find your next perfect-fit position!
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