Standing out on the Big Boards: Learning How Keywords Can Help Your Resume Get Recognized

You’ve written a compelling resume and posted it on several job boards. Yet when you pull up the resumes in your job category, you see hundreds of people with your same level of experience and skill set.

How can you make your resume stand out from the pack?

Recruiters and hiring professionals use keyword searches to find candidates to match their needs. Resumes are actually ranked online by the number of keywords they contain, so it pays to think hard about how to include keywords in your CV.

Resumes have traditionally focused on action verbs, such as directed, managed, and delivered. A good keyword resume will focus on lots of frequently searched words, most of them nouns. For instance, a public relations company may be looking for communications skills, communicator, degree, public relations, marketing, write, strategy, buzz, buzzword, and communications. Don’t forget to use acronyms for keywords, such as PR, in your resume.

Also focus on keywords that describe your skills – marketing campaign, Microsoft, press release¸ and marketing collateral. Use buzzwords that are common to your industry.

The best way to write a keyword resume is to search for employment ads and appropriate crucial words they contain. You can also find relevant keywords at professional association Web sites, headhunter Web sites, and job boards.

If you want to work for a particular company, scour its Web site to find keywords describing its corporate culture. You can also find keywords in news stories about industries, trends, and companies.

It’s a good idea to look at resumes from other candidates and job ads to ensure that you’ve covered all of the possible descriptions of potential positions. Different companies may label the same job differently; you want to be certain that if an opportunity arises, you are considered for it.

Many recruiters recommend creating a “key skills” section at the top of your resume. Use this stand-alone component to list all keywords that you want your resume to include, separated by commas or periods. This section will help the keywords from getting lost in the text of the resume, and also aid hiring professionals by giving them an at-a-glance list of your qualifications. If the terms fit their needs, your resume will probably get a more careful inspection.

Be careful not to list too many keywords in your “key skills” section. At some point, too much is just too much.

Using keywords in resumes just makes sense. Job seekers are no longer confined to searching for jobs by perusing their local newspapers or employment guides. Because most employers are advertising for candidates online, candidates must be prepared to deal with potentially hundreds of rivals. Without keywords driving your CV to the top of the pack, you can pretty much rest assured that it’s not going to get seen by key decision makers.

Dave Saunders helps people stand out and “Be the Brand” as a personal branding and marketing specialist. Manage your career online: Create, Enhance and Share a better resume, free at

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