Using Keywords To Get the Job

The Handshake

Have you heard the expression “Like two ships passing in the night”?  It’s describing two people briefly meeting and then moving on without having continued contact, like when two ships pass each other in the night, flash their lights at each other, and move on.  Sometimes that’s how the job application process feels.  You learn a little bit about a job, you shoot them your resume, and they send you a message thanking you for your interest.  So what happened?  How did you and this job pass by each other without interest?  There is any number of possible answers, but one common reason is that your resume or online application did not feature the keywords necessary for the job to know just how well you matched up.

Once upon a time, the resume was a test of your vocabulary, the number of syllables used to describe your skills was a key to getting the job.  That was a time when a person, not a computer program, read resumes.  An online application rarely goes directly to human resources, it goes into a system that parses the resume for the information an employer wants.  While stretching your verbs, nouns and adjectives seems like a great resume strategy, it can be counter-productive because computers are looking for the exact word on the job description.  The computers don’t parse for contextual clues.  The computer may not know that joint effort is another phrase for teamwork, and it’s not going to consult the dictionary.  It is going to award you no points for teamwork and move on.

Where do you find the exact words the company wants you to use?  The Job Description!  Let’s go to a random job description right now –

job description

What keywords did you find?

I’d start with a list of these –

  • professional
  • self-starter
  • team
  • self-motivated
  • leadership
  • Sales
  • Associate’s/Bachelor’s Degree if you have it.

Put these keywords into your job descriptions.  The first rule of the resume is do not lie, so don’t manufacture a sales history if you don’t have one.  This job description gives plenty of chances to talk about transferable skills like teamwork, leadership, and self-motivation.  Practically every job requires self-motivation, but the computer won’t give you credit for it until you use the word!  Search for these skills in every job description to get quick and easy points.

If you want to make an impression when you’re applying for a job, the best way to do so is to tell the company all of the ways that you’re exactly like the person they want.  Don’t be the ship in the night that is glanced over while moving in opposite directions, be the candidate that they want to know more about.

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