The Keyword Connection: How to Use Keywords to Get Your Resume Noticed / Careers / Last Modified: February 22, 2017

By peppering the right words throughout your resume, you can ensure that it will get past any initial computer screening software.

Have you ever spent the whole day with a jingle stuck in your head? 

Marketing jingles and ad campaigns can be tough to shake. That’s good for the companies that spend tireless hours coming up with new tunes to help sell their products because those messages will stay in our minds long after the commercial is over.

Why are jingles so powerful? They create small memories that repeat over and over. For example, say you hear a jingle for a brand of soda. The next time you’re thirsty, your brain retrieves the memory of the jingle and goes for the beverage you’ve been humming subconsciously.

How does this relate to your resume? The answer lies in keywords. Every position is defined by a set of specific, necessary functions. Recruiters study these job descriptions and listen to the needs of hiring managers.

After a while, the repetition of certain keywords creates a “jingle” that sticks in their mind. Just as a jingle would, the presence of those keywords on a resume they’re reviewing triggers their “green light” to give the go-ahead to that particular candidate. Here are some helpful suggestions to hone in on this natural human tendency and to land the job you want.

Related Article: Quick Tips to Improve Your Résumé in Just 5 Minutes

Bust Out the Boomerang

When a company posts for a position, the description of the job has almost everything you need to include on your resume. They’re throwing the keywords right at you, so go ahead and toss them back, boomerang-style! If an advertisement for a role is looking for “global project management experience” and you’ve got it, make sure you use that exact phrase in your resume.

It may sound like a lazy move, but think of it like this: If you go to a restaurant and order filet mignon, medium well, do you want your server to return to your table and say, “Here’s your meat, cooked to the temperature you requested?” No—you want confirmation that you’re receiving exactly what you asked for. 

Use Nouns, Not Verbs

All too often, we’re told that actions speak louder than words. However, the recruiters (or software) that scan your resume are not looking for the actions you performed, but the skills, educational qualifications and experience you have.

“Managing a team of 50” may be an impressive feat, but consider writing “Senior Manager,” “Organizational Leadership” or even “Team Developer” instead. Use the titles or skills that reflect what you can bring to the table, not just what you’ve done. Save the actions for the interview, and couple them along with the skills you describe in your resume.

Related Article: A Career Coach Reveals: What's Wrong With Your Résumé?

Avoid the Buzz

As you think about which keywords to include in your resume, try to avoid common buzzwords or jargon. While an applicant tracking system may scan over these, a resume that’s too convoluted or packed with clichés can be a turn-off to recruiters.

Be wary of words that may come off more comical than effective, such as “synergy” or “seasoned,” and steer clear of vague, overused words like “strategic,” “detail-oriented,” “team player” and “results-driven.” Stick to clear language that puts the focus on showing how you meet the specifics mentioned in the job ad.

According to Forbes, you have about 6.25 seconds to leave your mark with the recruiter who’s reviewing your resume—if you’re that lucky. As a job seeker, you need to be your own marketing agency and make a lasting impression quickly.

Make sure you do your homework: read the job ad carefully and study the company’s website. There’s no mystery to the type of person a company is looking for—most of the time, they’ve already stated that in their job posting. If you have the required skills, double-check that the words in your resume will strike all the right chords with the recruiters. The “jingle” you create in their minds today could turn into a jingle in your pocket tomorrow.

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