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Step Four: Keywords
In today's world of e-mailed and scannable resumes, make
sure you know the buzzwords of your industry and incorporate
them into the sentences you are about to write. Keywords are
the nouns or short phrases that describe your experience and
education that might be used to find your resume in a keyword
search of a resume database. They are the essential knowledge,
abilities, and skills required to do your job. They are concrete
descriptions like: C++, UNIX, fiber optic cable, network,
project management, etc. Even well-known company names (AT&T,
IBM, Hewlett-Packard, MCI) and universities (Harvard, Yale,
SMU, SUNY, USC, Stanford, Tulane, Thunderbird) are sometimes
used as keywords, especially when it is necessary to narrow
down an initial search that calls up hundreds of resumes from
a resume database.
Acronyms and abbreviations here can either hurt you or help
you, depending on how you use them. One example given to me
by an engineer at Resumix was the abbreviation "IN."
Think about it. "IN" could stand for intelligent
networks, Indiana, or the word in. It is better to spell out
the abbreviation if there could be any possible confusion.
However, if a series of initials is so well known that it
would be recognized by nearly everyone in your industry and
would not likely be confused with a real word, then the keyword
search will probably use those initials (i.e., IBM, CPA, UNIX).
When in doubt, always spell it out at least one time on your
resume. A computer only needs to see the combination one time
for it to be considered a "hit" in a keyword search.
Soft skills are often not included in search criteria, especially
for very technical positions, although I have interviewed
some companies that use them extensively for the initial selection
of resumes for management positions. For instance, "communicate
effectively," "self-motivated," "team
player," and so on, are great for describing your abilities
and are fine to include in your profile, but concentrate more
on your hard skills, especially if you are in a high-tech
At the end of the chapter, you will find more examples of
keywords for specific industries, although there is no such
thing as a comprehensive listing of keywords for any single
job. The computerized applicant tracking programs used by
most companies allow the recruiter or hiring manager to personalize
his or her list for each job opening, so it is an evolving
process. You will never know whether you have listed absolutely
every keyword possible, so focus instead on getting on paper
as many related skills as possible.
The job descriptions you found in step three are some of
the most important sources for keywords. You can also be certain
that nearly every noun and some adjectives in a job posting
or advertisement will be keywords, so make sure you use those
words somewhere in your resume, using synonyms wherever you
can. Make a list of the keywords you have determined are important
for your particular job search and then list synonyms for
those words. As you incorporate these words into the sentences
of your resume, check them off.
One caution. Always tell the truth. The minute a hiring manager
speaks with you on the telephone or begins an interview, any
exaggeration of the truth will become immediately apparent.
It is a bad idea to say, "I don't have experience with
MS Word computer software" just to get the words MS Word
or computer software on paper so your resume will pop up in
a keyword search. In a cover letter, it might be appropriate
to say that you "don't have five years of experience
in marketing but can add two years of university training
in the subject to three years of in-depth experience as a
marketing assistant with Hewlett-Packard." That is legitimate
reasoning, but anything more manipulative can be hazardous
to your job search.
Step Five: Your Jobs
Starting with your present position, list the title of every
job you have held on a separate sheet of paper, along with
the name of the company, the city and state, and the years
you worked there. You don't need to list addresses and zip
codes, although you will need to know that information when
it comes time to fill out an application.
You can list years only (1996-present) or months and years
(May 1996- present), depending on your personality. People
who are detail oriented are usually more comfortable with
a full accounting of their time. Listing years alone covers
some gaps if you have worked in a position for less than a
full year while the time period spans more than one calendar
year. For instance, if you worked from September 1996 through
May 1997, saying 1996-1997 certainly looks better.
From the perspective of recruiters and hiring managers, most
don't care whether you list the months and years or list the
years only. However, regardless of which method you choose,
be consistent throughout your resume, especially within sections.
For instance, don't use months some of the time and years
alone within the same section. Consistency of style is important
on a resume, since it is that consistency that makes your
resume neat, clean, and easy to read.
Step Six: Duties
Under each job, make a list of your duties, incorporating
phrases from the job descriptions wherever they apply. You
don't have to worry about making great sentences yet or narrowing
down your list.