This post is by Brenda Greene and Helen Cunningham, co-authors of “The Business Style Handbook, An A-to-Z Guide for Effective Writing on the Job.” Greene also manages Resume Synergy, a resume consulting business, and is the co-author of “The Web 2.0 Job Finder.”
Nowadays companies want prospective employees to fit the open position skill-for-skill. And keywords are the language the employer uses to find the perfect candidate. That’s why it’s imperative to parse the job posting – identifying all the keywords to determine whether you qualify for the job. If you do, then be sure those same words are on your resume.
In “The Web 2.0 Job Finder” Laura Terenzi Khaleel, a director of Talent Acquisition Strategies for Pitney Bowes, said keywords on your resume are “critical, critical, critical.”
Here are some guidelines for looking at job postings.
- Highlight every keyword in the job posting. What exactly are keywords? They are the words that describe skills, like schema migration for a software engineer or cycle counts for a financial analyst. Employers use keywords to search for you, so in today’s search-oriented job market, keywords need to be front and center on your resume.
- Match up skill-for-skill. Martin Cepeda, a senior university recruiter at a Fortune 500 healthcare company, said: “Your resume needs to be specific to the job that you are applying for. If you are applying for 10 jobs, I would suggest creating up to 10 different resumes that are keyword-specific to those jobs.” Also remember that job postings are a good way to see what new skills are required for the type of work you want to do in your next job. Say you want to transition into digital marketing. If you see the keywords Google analytics in the job posting – and you haven’t a clue what those keywords mean – you probably are not ready to apply for a job in digital marketing. While there is no such thing as a perfect match between prospective employee and employer, if you don’t have at least 85% of the skills and qualifications listed in the job posting, you may be spinning your wheels applying for that particular job.
- Speak the language of employers. You can work years in a job and not think of the work you do in the same way your employer does. As far as you’re concerned, you are a Web designer – plain and simple. Your employer, on the other hand, may have an extensive vocabulary – a unique language – to describe your work. Learn that language because it’s useful to speak the language of employers when creating your resume and looking for a job.
- Zero in on content. When writing a resume, spend more time on content and less time on format. Remember, in larger companies, your resume is often scanned for keywords so all those elaborate fonts and indents and special characters pale in comparison to the content of the resume – not to mention that elaborate formats may be garbled when the resume is sent electronically.
- Think of resumes as calling cards. If you are looking for a new job, crafting a resume that is highly searchable is just the first step in securing a job that fits you well. Spend 20% of your time writing a resume – and then spend the remaining time networking. Spruce up your LinkedIn profile (same keyword principle applies to the profile) and connect with hiring managers at targeted companies. Speak the employer’s language and you’ll get a better response.