Imagine there was a way to encode your resume with magical words that would virtually ensure that employers would be interested in interviewing you. But the catch is that there’s a different set of magic words for every job, and you have no way of knowing what the words are.
Such is more or less the situation in job-hunting today, which increasingly revolves around the mysterious world of keywords. Employers’ use and eventual dependence on keywords to find the job candidates they want to interview has come about in recent years because of technology. Inundated by resumes from job-seekers, employers have increasingly relied on digitizing job-seeker resumes, placing those resumes in keyword-searchable databases, and using software to search those databases for specific keywords that relate to job vacancies. Most Fortune 1000 companies, in fact, and many smaller companies now use these technologies. In addition, many employers search the databases of third-party job-posting and resume-posting boards on the Internet. Pat Kendall, president of the National Resume Writers’ Association, notes that more than 80 percent of resumes are searched for job-specific keywords.
The bottom line is that if you apply for a job with a company that searches databases for keywords, and your resume doesn’t have the keywords the company seeks for the person who fills that job, you are pretty much dead in the water.
Now, we suggested that job-seekers have no way of knowing what the words are that employers are looking for when they search resume databases. That’s true to some extent. But job-seekers have information and a number of tools at their disposal that can help them make educated guesses as to which keywords the employer is looking for. This article and its sidebars describe some of those tools and tell you how and where to use the keywords you come up with on your resume and beyond.
So, how can we figure out what the magic words are?
First, we know that in the vast majority of cases, they are nouns. Job-seekers have long been taught to emphasize action verbs in their job-search correspondence, and that advice is still valid. But the “what” that you performed the action in relation to is now just as important. In the following examples, the underlined nouns are the keywords that relate to the action indicated by the verbs: