Make Your Resume Do Its Best for You – Trade Clichés for Key Words

February 05th, 2011

A recent survey of 85 million on-line profiles found more people claim to have ‘extensive experience’ in their field than any other characteristic. Among the top ten overused clichés are: results oriented, dynamic, fast paced, innovative and motivated. I know that it’s human nature to try and sell yourself and emphasize your accomplishments but resist the temptation to overstate your skills – be very careful with descriptors/qualifiers (extensive, excellent, superior or good) and make sure you can defend the mastery level that you say you have. Clichés are not the same as ‘keywords’ – in fact ‘qualifiers’ don’t even enter into it.

It’s critical to construct and load your resume and cover letter with words that are key to your experience and your aspirations; that is, positions you’ve had and would like to have. While you can’t second guess how a keyword search is defined, you can think like a recruiter. Which words would you use to search a database for someone like you?

I can’t tell you how many resumes come to me from strong candidates with stable and progressive work histories but without any indication of the products or services with which they have been involved or the industry their employer is in. Make sure this does not describe yours!
Look at job postings to see what employers in your field are asking for – focus on the ‘want’ of the want ads. Isolate keywords which relate to your background, experience, skills, training, education and awards and compile them into groups of 4-6 words each. Use these groups to search for resumes on posting sites. If you find people like yourself, these words are good. If not, find better words.

Remember, not all acronyms are keywords so use only those which are ‘established’ and recognized as conventional acronyms (CHRP, MBA, CEO, 3D). Many are specific only to your former employers and mean nothing to others – they will not help in sorting or selecting your resume. If you are not sure, it is safest to spell out the full term followed by the acronym in parenthesis.

Finally, even though your resume may be sorted first by a ‘computer’, it should still be attractive and ‘reader friendly’ so don’t just take the easy way out by putting a huge block of keywords at the top of your resume in web page fashion. Content is important but humans read ‘contextually’ so build your keywords into the context of your resume – inside the descriptive body of the document.

Author: Dawn Longshaw, Managing Director Professional Recruitment

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