How to Optimize Your Resume: Start with the Right Keywords

By: Fred Coon, Chairman, CEO

keyword [kee-wurd] n. 2. any significant word or phrase, esp a word used to describe the contents of a document.

In order to generate the maximum level of success in your resume development and utilization, no matter what level of the career spectrum you may be, you need to correctly utilize keyword optimization. Keyword optimization is one of the most important aspects of your resume. Without its correct usage, your resume may never get the notice it deserves.

It is important to learn and keep up with new and current human resources and recruiting technology regarding resumes. This includes applicant tracking systems (ATS). More than 50% of companies employ applicant tracking systems in order to identify and organize qualified resumes. It is a screening process that significantly reduces the time and cost of managing hundreds of resumes by utilizing filters and screening techniques.

The ATS detects certain words and phrases that pertain to the job objective. This process also significantly reduces the stress on the hiring manager or employer having to sort through hundreds of resumes that come in on a daily basis. Thus, through this process, the only resumes a human being will be analyzing are hopefully limited to a group of prescreened, qualified candidates.

<< Click the infographic to learn how an ATS reads your resume (image courtesy of Campus to Career).

However, no matter the level of significance these scanners and filters provide, human analyzing still prevails. However, these days your resume needs to pass the prescreening process prior to getting in the hands of the employer / hiring manager.

Resume databases utilize this system also. These databases including Monster and CareerBuilder initially ask for basic information to begin with such as your career spectrum level, education level, job category and contact information. However, if this initial information is not provided, the ATS will utilize its logic to detect this information itself. Therefore, if you leave this information off, the filter will overlook your resume.

Key Skills Section on Your Resume

When it comes to the applicant tracking system and your resume, you need to understand and properly utilize core keyword sections within your document. Most of these keywords that employers and recruiters search for are skills required for the job.

Core sections on your resume can include both hard and soft keywords. Hard keywords reflect required skills that address the job / career objective. The following are some samples of hard keywords appropriate to utilize for a management position:

  • Professional Training & Supervision
  • Staff Supervision
  • Team Leadership
  • Operations Management

Some samples of soft skill keywords appropriate for your resume are as follows:

  • Strong Attention to Detail
  • Time Management Skills
  • Solid Relationship Building Skills.

For a detailed list of 2014’s top resume keywords, read “Hiring Managers Rank Best and Worst Words to Use in a Résumé in New CareerBuilder Survey” by CareerBuilder’s Ryan Hunt.

The utilization of these keywords can be added to your resume in various ways. For example, keywords are quite often spread throughout your resume. They can include job / position titles. In this section, you can utilize variables in order to improve your place among candidates. You don’t just have to include one specific title.

For example, an executive position such as Sales Executive can also be entered as “Executive of Sales & Marketing” or “Sales Manager.” This type of variation in keywords throughout your resume will most definitely increase your ranking among all other candidates.

In addition to your main core competencies list on the front of the first page of your resume, you can add several other keyword listings that include your computer and technical skills, and keywords pertaining to your education and job skills and duties.

As a result of learning keyword optimization and other important aspects of your resume, you will be able to develop a resume that produces significant results and gains important interviews, and thus, significantly enhances your job search. Good luck!

For more about the important of keywords and 2 other factors when submitting your resume online, read “Chances Are, After The Online Job Application, No Human Eyes Will Ever See Your Resume” by guest author Dean Giles.