Discovering Resume Keywords

Job hunters frequently see openings that seem well-suited to their experience, but they're often left wondering what words or phrases to use on their resume.  While there is certainly an art to writing a resume, there's also a science too.

It's no accident that many resumes are screened-out by recruiters, human resource persons, and hiring managers.  The competition in the job market is fierce, and a company can receive hundreds of resumes for a single job opening.  Unfortunately, staffing departments don't have time to read through all the resumes received.

Scanning for Keywords and Phrases

Faced with this reality, there is only one option: scan the resumes, looking for certain key words or phrases that fit the job opening.  But the job applicant is on the other side of this equation.  They want their resume to be discovered; it needs to make it through the screening process.

The key to success is accurately predicting the keywords or phrases screeners are looking for in a resume.  This might sound difficult to accomplish, but it's actually very easy.

In fact, the hiring manager often provides hints as to the exact words and / or phrases to include on a resume.  How does someone know they are a good candidate for an opening?  They read through the job description and say "I can do that!"  They know they're a good job candidate because they are able to identify the keywords subconsciously from the job description.  The process of discovering key words merely involves moving that subconscious information to the written resume.

Keyword Examples

The next five examples are going to be used to illustrate how this process works.  The examples below are actual job descriptions that were posted on the Internet.  In each example, the keywords in the job description have been underlined.

Example 1:  Nurse Practitioner

Nurse Practitioner, Psychiatry.  Must have experience with a Medicaid population and be familiar with psychiatric medications.  This position requires that you evaluate patients and follow up with medication management.  Psychotherapy is referred out.   
The hours for this position are flexible, but will generally be during normal business hours.  No weekend or on-call schedule is required.  This may be a part-time or full-time position as an employee or contract worker status.

Anyone applying for this nurse practitioner position should include experience with Medicaid, psychiatric medications, evaluation of patients, and medication management.  This can be included as part of the prior work experience or in the skills section of the resume.

Example 2:  Electro-Mechanical Project Engineer

Major manufacturer of fire protection and control systems seeks an electro-mechanical engineer to lead its new product development activities.  Strong electro-mechanical experience, valves, solenoids, rotary and linear actuators product design background also required.  Position offers a leadership role and offers a very competitive salary and benefit program.

In this example, the job application would include key words describing experience related to product development and design.  Each of these two examples explicitly states that a particular skill or experience is required.  That's a strong indicator these keywords will be used to screen applicants.

Example 3:  Junior Accountant

Growing Headquarters of established industry leader seeks accountant with 0-5 year's experience:  Qualified individual provides financial information by maintaining and reconciling accounts; preparing reports.  Duties include: Maintains financial records for subsidiary companies by analyzing balance sheets and general ledger accounts.  Reconciles general and subsidiary bank accounts by gathering and balancing information.  Provides financial status information by preparing special reports; completing special projects.

Applying for this junior accountant position means including work experience preparing accounting reports, reconciling accounts, and analyzing the balance sheet.  Once again, omitting these key words from a resume means the job applicant is going to be screened out, and lose the opportunity to be offered a job interview.

Example 4:  Financial Manager

Reporting to the President, the Finance Manager will be a true business partner to the President and will positively affect all aspects of the business.  These areas include but are not limited to strategy, operations, information technology, productivity, and all major initiatives.  This position requires high levels of interaction with all other team members.

 More specifically, this position will be responsible for the hands-on management, administration, and coordination of all financial and accounting activities for the company.  These activities include financial reporting, cash management, accounts receivable, inventory control, accounts payable, cost accounting, budgeting, and financial planning and analysis.  This individual must establish strong cost, capital expenditures, and working capital controls.

This financial manager opening is full of keywords.  The activities indicate what the financial manager will be asked to do each day, and the types of reports they will need to prepare in this particular job.  More importantly, is the phrase "requires high levels of interaction with all other team members."  No doubt, the staffing department will be looking for team-building skills and work experience in a team setting.

Example 5:  Paralegal / Legal Secretary

Legal secretary with at least 2 years of experience needed for busy litigation law firm.  All applicants applying for U.S. job openings must be authorized to work in the United States. All applicants applying for Canadian job openings must be authorized to work in Canada.

Person must have 2 years of administrative experience, preferably 1 of which should be in a law firm. Typing speed MUST be at least 55WPM.

This particular firm is looking for someone that is authorized to work in a given geography.  They are also asking for a certain level of skill:  typing at 55 words per minute.  If someone applies for this job, and they type in excess of 55 WPM, putting this information directly on their resume will significantly increase the chance of being selected for an interview.

About the Author - Discovering Resume Keywords - Copyright © 2006 - 2016 (Last Reviewed on February 29, 2016)