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SEO for Resumes: Using Keyword Optimization in Your Job Search

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As the hiring process gets more and more electronic, job seekers have to change their tactics to fit the automated way that employers conduct their candidate searches. You can almost guarantee that a large company is using an Applicant Tracking System and now even small businesses are relying on software to sort through piles of applications. This type of software can go through any applications you send by email or post online, your LinkedIn page, and any profile you fill out for a job board.

In order to get your application past these automated filtering systems and into human hands you’ll need to learn how to optimize your resume by using keywords; in other words, SEO for your resume. To get you started, here are our answers to the top three questions about keywords for resumes.

What kind of words make the best keywords for resumes?

If you’ve ever talked to a career counselor, you’ve probably been told to use action verbs in your resume like ‘motivated,’ ‘delegated,’ or ‘publicized’ etc. While this classic tip still holds true, it’s the job-specific nouns that are starting to take center stage. The reason is because these types of nouns make for more specific, searchable, and contextual keywords.

If you think about the way this type of software works, it makes sense. For example, let’s say you’re looking for a Communications Director to really take charge of your latest marketing campaign.

  • If you search for action verbs like ‘executed’ or ‘implemented’ your query would return some relevant comms professionals but might also find a recent grad that ‘implemented’ a new budget system for her sorority.
  • On the other hand, a relevant keyword or phrase like ‘media relations’ or ‘enterprise software’ could spit out the qualified candidate you were looking for.

How do I incorporate the right keywords into my resume?

Keywords are more often nouns than verbs so you should spend more time incorporating ‘what’ you accomplished and ‘what’ you used rather than ‘how’ you accomplished it.

For example, instead of typing out that you:

  • “Promoted, publicized, and executed a marketing campaign.”

You should reflect on how you:

In general, when choosing keywords for your resume, the more specific you get the better. Use language that’s unique to your profession including any industry buzzwords, technical terms and job-specific skills. A hiring manager might even search for the name of a certain software or technique if they’re looking for someone with specific proficiencies.

How can I find the best keywords for my resume?

  • You should start by going through the advertisement of the job you’re applying for. Make sure any technical skill, degree, or specific experience listed as a requirement is clearly stated on your resume.
  • Then, read through the entire ad and underline any keywords, phrases, or buzzwords that stand out to you.
  • Next, look up a few job descriptions for the same position at different companies and do the same. From this group of advertisements, pick the top phrases and words that are repeated consistently throughout and disperse these keywords within your resume content.

If this sounds too time-consuming, you can accomplish this in a more visual way by generating a word cloud for the job descriptions. Here’s an example we created on using the most recent PR Account Manager listings on Hoojobs:

PR Account Mgr SEO for Resumes: Using Keyword Optimization in Your Job Search

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