College Financing and Career Guide 2007
career
Making a resume more search-friendly

It's not easy for job seekers to get noticed online. Unless you know the right words.

The keywords.

Keywords are buzzwords that are common to professions and that recruiters look for on resumes. Well-chosen keywords will increase the likelihood that your resume makes it through the first round of screening. They link your professional background to specific job requirements. When recruiters scour resume databases, not to mention first-time applicants, they won't have to ponder if you really had the right sales experience or customer service skills.

The right keywords coincide with the very terms they use to advertise their job openings. Some software systems automatically notify recruiters when a resume comes in with all the right keywords. Keywords also make it easier for recruiters to find appropriate candidates via resume search engines.

Keywords include job titles common to the industry or position that you're seeking, skills, certifications, licenses, geographic regions, academic degrees and high-profile products or employers. A Fortune 500 company or distinguished university can light up an application. A regional reference can stamp you as someone whom a local company can bring in easily for an interview. If you're a techie, your good friends will be specific software programs and systems. Let companies know you're the Java wizard they're craving.

At least four in five resumes are searched by keyword, say resume experts. Missing keywords or poorly chosen ones can sabotage your chances even if you have the right credentials.

In a previous column I instructed you to brag about yourself; now I'm saying brag with precision.

That said, bragging doesn't mean fabricating. If you haven't done, won or earned something, don't mention it. Untruths can quickly turn you into candidate non grata.

Put keywords at beginning

Keywords can be effective anywhere in a resume. Search engines don't care if you mentioned your part-time sales position at the beginning or end. "Even if you were to bury keywords at the bottom of a resume, the computer would still find them," writes Susan Britton Whitcomb in the book "Resume Magic," a leading tome on the topic.

Los Angeles-based James Peter Rubin has written about employment and management issues for many publications, including The Wall Street Journal and The Economist.

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