As we get deeper into the 21st century and the information age, the automated processing of resumes is becoming more and more the norm. As certified resume writers, we not only need to come up with a visual and navigational strategy that engages the human reader. We also need to ensure that applicant tracking systems (ATS) have something to hold on to. To say that you need to correct keywords in your resume is a bit of an understatement. Without the proper mix, there is a good chance that your resume will never even reach a human reviewer.
When conducting research to include keywords in your resume, always start with the target job descriptions themselves. Now, you’re not looking to duplicate the job description in your document. Your human reader won’t like the fact that you basically copied the job description word for word and tried to pass it off as your resume. Instead, look through the target descriptions, as well as others similar to the target position and seek out common high-grade hard skill terms that they have in common. A cross section of terms between 3 to 5 job descriptions should provide you with a good bit of keyword ammo to make your resume score well. Another good source for the strong and relevant keywords for your resume is the Occupational Outlook Handbook, which you can access through the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics website. And don’t forget trade magazines and online discussion groups to see where certain terms and concepts are repetitive.
Once you have identified the strongest keywords for your target position and profession, it is time to integrate them into the resume. The most important thing here is that you make the keyword inclusions as organic as possible. So don’t force words and terms where they don’t fit. Start with the job descriptions, including as many of the relevant keywords as possible. You can then integrate the rest into the executive summary and/or core competencies sections. This way, you get in the maximum number without making your resume a difficult and clumsy read. Don’t be afraid to duplicate the some of the strongest concepts using different terms and phrasing. This ensures you ping the databases with the concept, even if not phrased or structured as you would have if only used once.