The power of keywords goes far beyond your resume. Keywords provide information about your skills, qualifications, experience and accomplishments. Since most resumes are first scanned by applicant tracking systems (ATS), your keywords are often the reason your resume either will or will not be read by the recruiter. However, there are many other places to insert keywords to make an impact during your job search. Here are a few:
NETWORKING: Often the people you meet while networking will provide the pathway to your next job. That is why it is so critical to understand which keywords can best describe your experience and skills and include those words in your conversation. You only have about 30 seconds to make an impression on a new acquaintance. Practice using keywords that describe you before your next networking event. Words that express skills such as collaboration, communication and motivation will make an impact on your audience.
LINKEDIN PROFILES: LinkedIn is the number one resource for recruiters to find qualified candidates. They find candidates with keyword searches. Therefore, when you create your profile remember to include keywords in your profile summary, job descriptions and education section. It is important to also include volunteer activities, board positions, professional affiliations as well as honors and awards.
RESUMES: Use keywords in your summary, list of achievements, job responsibilities and education sections. These keywords should include both hard skills such as programming proficiency or data entry speed and soft skills such as initiative, innovation and team leadership. Be prepared to expand on these skills during your interview.
COVER LETTERS: I am often asked if cover letters are still being used. The answer is… absolutely! Recruiters read cover letters to determine if you will be a good fit for their organization. They will look for proper grammar, writing skills and keywords that fit the job posting. I recommend keeping the cover letter short and using bullet points to highlight the skills that will interest the recruiter for the position you desire.
INTERVIEWS: Once you design your resume with keywords it will be easy to include them in your interview as well. Listen carefully to the questions and respond in a thoughtful manner. A simple keyword or phrase can communicate your experience in a way that will differentiate yourself from the competition.
THANK YOU EMAILS: When hiring managers are deciding between two equally qualified candidates, they may use your follow up skills to make a hiring decision. So be sure to follow up with a well-crafted email to show your interest and be sure to include the keywords that were discussed at your interview.
If you know how to use keywords you will be able to showcase your experience and advance your career in a meaningful way.