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On this page: Martin Yate shares how and where to include keywords in your resume to be most effective.

Keyword Secrets to Get Your Resume Noticed

No recruiter ever searches a resume database or reads resumes for the fun of it.

Job Listings
what
job title, keywords
where
city, state, zip
jobs by job search

Whenever they search for resumes, job titles and skill sets from the formal Job Description make up their primary search terms. Here are five secrets that will dramatically improve your resume’s results.

Rewards for Keyword Placement

As much as possible, front-load crucial keywords at the beginning of your resume.

Resume database search algorithms reward words near the top of a document, because they are seen to help determine a document’s relevance. This affects the discoverability of your resume.

It also affects the speed with which your resume communicates critical skills to a knowledgeable reader.

A recent retinal-scan study showed that once a resume has been pulled from a resume database, recruiters spend an average of 6 seconds on a first-time scan.

Consequently, we continue to recommend a Target Job Title followed by a Performance Summary of no more than six lines.

This Performance Summary focuses on the abilities you bring to the target job. In turn, this focused opening to your resume should be followed with a Professional Skills section that lists the skills required by your target job. This gives a recruiter plenty of time to see the skills you bring to the table in that first six-second scan.

Rewards for Keyword Frequency

A resume database search first finds all resumes with even just one of the requested keywords.

The search engine next prioritizes those key search terms based on their proximity to the top of the document and then on their frequency of use throughout the document.

A Professional Skills section near the top of your resume, as we recommend at KnockemDead.com, delivers this, though there are also other benefits.

Rewards for Keyword Prioritization

Ultimately, your resume will be read by a hiring manager who really knows what’s a “must have” and what’s a “nice to have” in this job.

The easiest way to explain this is with an example. Awhile back, we did a resume for a dental assistant (it’s a job that sadly we have both had exposure to) and she gave us a list of the important technical skills of her job.

We put her list of skills into three columns (for visual accessibility) and gave it a Professional Skills heading. Then something jumped out at me: her list started with “Teeth whitening” and ended with “Four-handed dentistry.”

What was so terrible about this? In the West, we read from left to right and top to bottom, so common sense says that the most important skills for a job should come before the less important skills. We immediately prioritized her skills based on their importance to the deliverables of the job; so that “Four-handed dentistry” came first and ‘Teeth whitening” came just about last.

By prioritizing skills you are subtly telling the hiring manager, that you have a firm grasp of the relative importance of the necessary skills of your work. This adds to the clear focus and power of the opening first half page of your resume that will show that:

Rewards of Recognizing the Six-Second Scan

The result of following these directions is that in the first half page of your resume, and well within the time constraints of a recruiter’s six second scan you have told a clear and concise story of your ability to do the job, and gone a long way towards earning your place on the short list of candidates who will be brought in for interview.

Rewards for Keyword Repetition in Context

The first half page of your resume is built to make your resume discoverable in database searches and pass the six-second scan test. The balance of your resume needs to support these claims and put them in context for a discerning hiring manager.

A step that most resume writers forget is to repeat the skills employers see as critical within the context of all the jobs in which you have applied them. Repeating your relevant professional skills like this helps you in two ways:

  1. It helps the hiring manager see those skills in context, and that helps her see a more complete picture of the professional you.
  2. It increases the frequency of keywords, and as a result the discoverability of the resume.

Get Inside Your Customer’s Head

Look into your work history from the POV of an employer who wants to fill a specific job. Build your resume around the skills you have to make you competitive for the position. And remember that where and how you place this information is relevant to both the computers and the people who will be evaluating it.


About this author...

Successful careers don't happen by accident. Professional resume writing expert Martin Yate CPC is a New York Times bestseller and the author of 15 Knock Em Dead career management books. As Dun & Bradstreet says, "He's about the best in the business." Join Martin on Google+.