Monday, June 21, 2010

What's the use of resume keywords?

When jobs are posted, incoming resumes and applictions are screened to create a subset of applicants that are somewhat, in general, qualified.

The Good Enough category is necessary to get to the Choice Candidate category.

The overwhelming method of screening is based on determining a list of screener, or key, words. These keywords are used to filter IN resumes and applications that are to be moved along in the process, and screen OUT, eliminate, those that do not have at least a predetermined minimum of these words.

For example, someone with the job title of "secretary" on their resume, although they might be fully capable of performing, and experienced with, the duties of a receptionist, would be screened OUT and not included with the resumes moved along in the recruiting process. Without the keyword "receptionist" on their resume, they would be eliminated from consideration.

Your resume and application must have a majority, if not close to 100%, of those keywords to be included with those not eliminated during the initial screen.

I advised a job seeker about this and he took my advice word for word. He copied and pasted the actual job posting at the top of his resume under his contact information, titled the pasted ad "Summary of Skills" and emailed his resume as such to the company. He did not even delete the phrase "Equal Employment Opportunity Employer" from what he copied onto his resume.

He was called in for an interview within a couple days and offered the job!

Also, if you have an overwhelming number of other keywords not related to the position, you might also be excluded. Since the majority of your experience appears to be in something else or elsewhere, you will likely not fit the profile of a qualified candidate.

Whether or not the process is automated, computerized or manual, it is basically the same.

A job description is created formally or informally and a posting may come from that or be cobbled together on its own.

But, regardless of how this process goes, keywords are the filters, the criteria upon which the search for qualified candidates is based. Especially given the ginormous number of resumes and applications submitted nowadays.

First, foremost and exclusively, the lesson here is to use keywords in your resumes and applications that are not just synonymous but are exactly the same as the keywords in the job descriptions and postings to which you apply. And limit or exclude keywords that are not related to the positions for which you wish to be considered.

Unlike vampires, you must present a personal image which mirrors the image of the target job in order to survive the screen.

And if you think that this process of screening using keywords does not make sense for an employer considering huge numbers of applicants, consider this quote.

"If you think the products don't match what you want from a product, don't buy it." Donald Norman

If you want your resume pre-screened for keywords, please email BOTH your resume and the posting to which you are applying. My email address is

And be sure to check out our calendars of upcoming group meetings, seminars and events at along with our job postings at

Remember, keywords are the key to get you past security and in the front door.