When writing your resume or LinkedIn profile to propel your career, you might be led to believe that keywords are the most important element or the key ingredient.
They are not. They are important, but not the most important element. They are like the crust for a cherry pie. You need the crust to hold it all together, but the most important part is the cherries. In this analogy, your value is the cherries.
I am not a foodie or food snob so I cannot get into the intricacies of pie crust. All I know is it cannot be too dry, too thick or too bland. It should enhance, not overtake or distract from, the pie filling.
The point of keywords is primarily to help you get found in a search. This is the easy to be found part. When they are forced into your profile or resume without purpose it makes you easy to forget.
The key to the perfect crust, or use of keywords, is the right blend of three things:
- Generic & Specific keywords
General and Specific Keywords
Do your due diligence before deciding on keywords. Research open positions, job descriptions, expectations and LinkedIn profiles of individuals in the role you desire. Leverage tools like TagCrowd.com to get a visual word cloud and take your own notes. If you are staying within the same industry or position, capitalize on your expertise to add words to that list.
Use acronyms if staying industry specific and expand the abbreviated form to cover any form of search criteria by the hiring organization for relevant keywords. Determine if there are acronyms that are not necessary to spell out.
For example, if I were writing my resume for my time in the financial industry, I would use both AML and Anti-Money Laundering within my resume. However, when detailing my licenses, I would simply write FINRA Series 7, 9, 10, 63, 65, 26, Life & Health, Property & Casualty and not spell out Financial Industry Regulatory Authority.
The case for general keywords is made for search purposes. When searching for a candidate, some searches are performed with a broader net of title or keywords and more selective of other categories to hone in on candidates. Others are performed with a specific title or set of keywords in mind.
For example, if looking for someone in sales, a recruiter may choose to use “Sales” instead of “Sales Representative” because any title with the word “Representative” would appear in their results. They can leverage other categories like location, years of experience and other factors to make a more robust, relevant list.
If your title is specific, for example Account Executive Northwest Territory you would want to use more general keywords in the description of your position to hit the keyword buttons. These might include account management, product development, business development, consultative sales, sales, sales cycle management, marketing, marketing management, analysis, channel or territory management.
Use a blend of generic and specific keywords to be found by any type of search performed.
It used to be when ATS (Applicant Tracking Systems) were first put into place they simply counted the number of times a specific word appeared within the resume. People got creative – they drowned their resume with those words, even using white font in the margins to bump up the numbers.
These systems are smarter today, they not only identify words, they can identify context. They can now tell the difference between performing a certain skill for six years and haven taken a class on this skill six years ago.
This is where context is important. If you leverage keywords naturally in demonstrating your value, they will appease both the computer ATS and the human eye that will read your resume next.
Use keywords to demonstrate.
This is how you will accomplish the not easy to forget part.
Your value is not your title or your job duties. No one cares what you were hired to do, they care what you did.
To communicate your value think about who you worked with, how you worked with them, what you did and how they benefited. Translate this to a bullet point interjecting keywords to elaborate and strengthen your story. Position your accomplishments around the keywords.
This is talking the talk to demonstrate you walked the walk.
You can overdo it with keywords. It will make your resume cumbersome and lacking direction. Your job is to demonstrate to the reader that you are the ideal candidate to solve their problem. Using a double crust will dilute the taste of the pie filling and be the center of attention instead of the cherries.
A long list of keywords without context is meaningless. It can communicate that you know the keywords but not the industry, position or value that you possess or is required.
My son played football, I spent years in the stands watching him and look forward to doing so again. Yet to this day I have no idea about positions, offense or defense strategies. I can throw out a boatload of football words but it does not mean that I can tell you if the team is running a man-to-man or zone defense.
Use keywords to enhance, not dilute, your message and value.
The purpose of keywords is twofold: to be found from a search and to demonstrate and support your value. Using the right keywords, in the right context in the right amount will accomplish both these goals.
As the Founder and Principle of Career Polish, Inc., a national career coaching and practice firm, I am an Executive Brand Strategist, Resume Writer and Career Coach. I work with individual clients, companies, leadership and teams to identify, strengthen and effectively communicate their brand, engagement, commitment and most importantly – their value – by learning and leveraging LinkedIn, resumes, networking, communication, relationship management, presence and influence.
I help people get from where they are in their jobs to where they want to be in their careers.
Click here – CareerPolish.com – to find out more about how we can help you.
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