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Importance of Keywords

by Darrell Gurney, CPC, JCTC

Keyword searchability is critical to resume submission success in today's computer-driven workplace. It is the degree to which your information lends itself to electronic combing for certain "key" words and phrases that could single you out for an interested recruiter or employer. Virtually the entire working world now utilizes keyword searchable (KWS) databases for managing the mounds of information required in the employment/hiring process. This means that, for the most part, the likelihood of your resume being found among the masses depends less on an eye-and-hand movement as a chip-driven scan movement. So how do you prepare your materials to get noticed under such hi-tech scrutiny? By "loading" often, and well.

To "load" your resume and cover letter means to chock them full of all key words and phrases necessary to stand out in a database search for someone with your experience, skills, certifications, background, accomplishments, location, and even desires. Resumes held completely intact and searched word-for-word by today's resume management systems WILL NOT show up in a search unless they contain the exact words or phrases that the recruiter/company is searching for.

What areas should you focus on for "loading?" Consider these:

. Titles, main responsibilities carried out in that function. For example, in the world of sales, an oft-used hiring criteria for certain positions is the ability to "cold-call," "canvass" or "prospect" for new accounts. So, a sales representative with these skills seeking to utilize them in his next position, would most certainly include them: they are KWS. Another example: you are a financial analyst and your past experience does not include work in Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) or 10K reporting, but you do want to move into this area. In the "Objective" on your resume and in your cover letter, be sure to state these skills as areas of interest.

Example: Objective: To secure a growth-oriented position as a Senior Financial Analyst with a focus on SEC and 10K reporting

The point is to leave no stone unturned in ensuring that all words key to your primary functions and duties, or desired functions and duties, are included in the body of your resume and cover letter.

Often there are words and phrases specific to a particular field. To the depth that a headhunter's client requires her to go in search of the "perfect candidate," these words and phrases can become KWS targets. For instance, one of my clients seeking to fill 3 Human Resource Manager positions around the country required that a candidate have hands-on experience dealing with "cultural change" and "change management." Therefore, these phrases became search criteria and, to my amazement when conducting a keyword search, many candidates had those specific phrases in the body of their resume.

Another example would be a salesperson with "business-to-business" and/or "one-call close" sales experience. These phrases could also be targets for a keyword search. In technical fields, it is vitally important that every technical term, process, certification, or knowledge be stated specifically. Interestingly, technical candidates, be they engineering-, programming-, or systems-related, are often the best at spelling out these KWS targets. One caution, however, when abbreviating technical terms or phrases: a good rule of thumb is to both spell out and abbreviate those that you have seen spelled out before. If you have never seen an acronym or abbreviation spelled out, then just include the acronym or abbreviation without spelling it out.

Example: For professionals in manufacturing, JIT is a process for "just-in-time" delivery of raw materials. This phrase is seen both abbreviated and spelled out, so do both in your resume. However, the acronym OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) is hardly ever spelled out, so neither would you.

As mentioned above, often I see resumes from seemingly strong candidates with stable work histories but without indication of the products or services with which they have been involved. Most recruiters' clients want candidates who already have experience with similar products or services. Therefore, this is an important KWS criteria in conducting a database search.

Often, especially in a "functional" resume, specific areas of responsibility or duties are outlined for 90% of a person's resume, leaving only a few lines to state dates and places of employment. Beware: most company names say nothing about their particular line of work. "XYZ Company" does not tell me whether they produce or sell widgets or wigs. So, it is vitally important to spell out the types of products or services your employers and you, specifically, have dealt with. Be careful not to assume that the reader understands anything not stated.

Example: Though "Gerber Foods" conjures up an immediate association of baby food on my child's face, the floor, and my shirt, my childless computer can't assume anything. State "baby food" clearly on your resume.

. The computer also can't distinguish which field you are in by the name of your employer. "Sony Pictures" does not say you are in the "entertainment" industry, and a specific industry is always a KWS target. Also, if your past employers have been "manufacturing" companies or you have been involved in "industrial" or "international" sales, then you want those KWS words to be in the body of your resume.

These are only a few main areas to be specific about. Other KWS targets would be degrees, certifications, geographic locations, and even awards. Remember, though your resume and cover letter will be seen initially by recruiters to determine whether or not you should go into the database, the only way they will see it again is if it's fully loaded with all the words and phrases that point the way to the perfect position for you.


Excerpted from Headhunters Revealed! Career Secrets for Choosing and Using Professional Recruiters. No portion of this material may be reproduced in any manner whatsoever without prior written consent from Hunter Arts Publishing. and without prior consent of the author. Darrell W. Gurney, Certified Personnel Consultant (CPC), Certified Jobs and Transition Coach (JCTC), and Licensed Spiritual Counselor (RScP) is Principal of A Permanent Success National Career/Search Partners ( and author of Headhunters Revealed! Career Secrets for Choosing and Using Professional Recruiters ($14.95, Softcover), available online at or by calling 1-877-4-HEADHUNT. Headhunters Revealed! received the Clarion Award for Best Book by the Association for Women in Communications, has been reviewed in Publishers Weekly and the American Library Association's Booklist, and has been featured in nationally syndicated career columnist Joyce Lain Kennedy's "Careers Now." Sign up for a FREE monthly subscription to The Career Secrets™ Newsletter at © Hunter Arts Publishing.

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