Have you heard about the trick? The one where job seekers put a mega listing of key words in white font at the end of their resume? It has been going on for years and I would love to know if anyone has gotten an interview because of it.
While this trick may result in your resume getting a hit, if those key words aren't in the content and used in context in your resume, I don't believe any employer would call for an interview.
The other ploy some job seekers use is to plug key words into the bullets in their summary. Great idea, but if they don't quickly demonstrate the use of those key words in the accomplishment bullets (under their job), then the reader has no evidence that those key words have any substance.
First, is anyone asking: "Where do I find key words?" I've heard that question a lot. There is no magic dictionary of key words. You find them in each separate job posting. Become an expert at reading job postings. Really reading and analyzing what it is the employer is asking for. Also, read a lot of job postings. Key words tend to be the ones that you see repeated over and over in different job postings. However, key words, in my opinion, are not:
- work well independently and as a team player
- Excellent verbal and written communication skills
or other generic/trite job requirements. These are minimum requirements for almost every job today. They are not key words that would distinguish you from other candidates. What would, you may be asking? Key words depend on the job and the company you are applying to. If you are applying for an accounting clerk position and both of those bullets above are in the job description, you will want to include demonstration of those skills in your accomplishments, unless there are already 40 other requirements that are more specific and important. If you are applying for an accounting clerk position, the skills they are mostly more concerned about are related to accounting. Focus on specific key words in those areas. They may include: accounts payable, accounts receivable, specific accounting software, generating reports, resolving discrepancies…the list probably goes on and on.
If you are in quality, you seldom will see a job that doesn't make reference to Six Sigma. If you have that knowledge and education, you need to use it. If not, you will want to acquire working knowledge and/or obtain the education.
Here's the other dilemma of job seekers. "If I don't have all the qualifications, should I still apply?" Of course you should. Before you do, however, do some sleuthing. Find out by speaking with people in that occupation or better yet, that company and find out what the biggest challenges are. Also, learn more about those skills you do not have. How important are they to doing the job? What are these missing skills similar to? What would it take for you to acquire those missing skills? What non-traditional means could you use to speak intelligently about those skills? Don't ignore what you don't have, learn to speak around it or demonstrate the use of similar/related skills.
Almost all resumes will be sent through resume screening software. You have to make sure the key words are in your resume if you want to be found. You have to make sure you have demonstrated their use in your resume to be called for a screening interview. You have to know how to use these words when you speak about what you do and did to make it to the next level of interviewing.
The moral of the story is: adapt each resume for each job you are applying for!
Hannah Morgan speaks and writes about job search and career strategies. She founded CareerSherpa.net to educate professionals on how to maneuver through today’s job search process. Hannah was nominated as a LinkedIn Top Voice in Job Search and Careers and is a regular contributor to US News & World Report. She has been quoted by media outlets, including Forbes, USA Today, Money Magazine, Huffington Post, as well as many other publications. She is also author of The Infographic Resume and co-author of Social Networking for Business Success.