How important are keywords in a resume?

by Darlene Zambruski | June 5, 2012

Keywords are probably one of the most important elements of your resume. That’s especially true in today’s poor job market.

A recent article in the Wall Street Journal ( details the use of software to screen out applicants for jobs.

This screening software isn’t new. In large and most medium-sized companies, a human won’t even look at a resume unless it passes the screening test. What employers are looking for is a good-to-perfect fit between the job requirements and the candidate. With hundreds of resumes coming in for each opening, no one has the time to sort through all that paper. It’s now left up to a computer – at least during the first phase of the hiring process.

Another disadvantage to getting a job, right?

Not exactly. For savvy candidates it’s a way to tailor their resumes to prove they’re the ideal candidate for the position. That’s where keywords come in.

Keywords are nouns or noun phrases that describe what the position requires. For an accountant that may be knowledge and/or skill in accounts payable, accounts receivables, reconciliations, tax returns, etc.

Peppering your resume with keywords that are unique to your industry and are found in the job posting is one sure way to get a human to look at your background.

But heed this warning: although you should dovetail what you can do to the requirements in the position opening, don’t make the mistake of repeating it word for word in your resume. Scanning software is set up to find that kind of repetition and to reject an applicant because of it.

To make certain your resume will meet with the software’s approval and eventually the hiring manager’s, follow these guidelines:

1. Use keywords unique to your industry and those found in the job posting. The ones in the posting are the most important.

2. Don’t repeat anything verbatim from the posting. Revise until the words are yours. Otherwise, you’ll be rejected by the system.

3. Make certain your keywords appear early in the resume – the opening summary is ideal. Don’t wait to include them in the last job listing on page two. The sooner the software finds the matches, the more certain a hiring manager will actually look at your resume.


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