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Optimize Your Resume to Be Found by Recruiters

By Susan P. Joyce

When you aren't customizing your resume for a specific opportunity (highly recommended!), you should design your resume to meet the needs of the web and job board search engines. Recruiters DO search the web and job boards for resumes.

They also search through social media (like LinkedIn), employer applicant tracking systems, and even their own email accounts. So, being find-able is very important.

When webmasters design a web site to be found by the search engines, they call the process (science? art? skill?) "search engine optimization," also known as "SEO." Appropriate placement of the "right" words is critical to search engine placement. Those words are called "keywords." They are the words searchers type into search engines to find want they want.

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Research the Keywords Employers Are Using

When searching for candidates qualified for their job openings, recruiters and employers typically search with the same categories of terms.

Understand what they are looking for, so you can include those terms in your resume, as appropriate for you and your goals. Misrepresenting yourself is a big mistake, so be honest.

When you enclude the terms being searched, your resume is more likely to be found.

1.  Job Titles 

It's most effective to use the terms that employers are using, and you can find those by examining job postings for the kind of job you want next. 

For example, assume a job seeker currently holds a job as a "Staff Assistant" for a large employer, and she decides that she wants a new job.

When she does some research, she discovers that the rest of the world calls her job "Administrative Assistant" (or, even, "Admin Assistant").  So, no one, except her current employer might be searching on the term "Staff Assistant" because they don't know or use the term.  They are searching for administrative assistants.

She went to Craigslist.org (Indeed.com or LinkedIn) to do some research, and she discovered this:

Administrative Assistant – 334 job postings
Admin Assistant – 72 job postings
Admin Asst – 5 job postings
Admin Assist – 2 job postings
Staff Assistant - 0 job postings

So she replaced her employer's version of her job title (Staff Assistant) with what the rest of the world used most often (Administrative Assistant).  And she found a place on her resume to add the Term "Admin Assistant" since that was also used a significant number of times.

She should use this same strategy on her LinkedIn Profile, too!

2.  Skills or Tools

Analyze how employers use different terms on their job postings so that you can use the most appropriate ones for you.

Continuing with our Administrative Assistant example, let's assume that our job seeker is very experienced in using all the current (and older) versions of Microsoft Office products.  She could simply list "Microsoft Office" on her resume.  But that might not be enough.

Doing some research into what employers are using in their job descriptions, our job seeker finds some interesting things.  She searched through administrative assistant jobs for the following terms, and this is what she found:

Microsoft Office - 122 job postings
Microsoft Word - 217 job postings
Microsoft Excel - 158 job postings
Microsoft Outlook - 286 job postings 

So, if she had listed only Microsoft Office on her resume, she would have missed out on the majority of the job postings.  Notice that, since she was searching through those Administrative Assistant postings, most of them included more than one of the terms, and several of them included all 4.

When employers search through an applicant tracking system or resume database, these tools can analyze both your resume and the job posting you are applying for. They can also analyze the jobs you are targeting with your social media presence. These are currently the most useful:

Again, this same strategy works for her LinkedIn Profile, too! 

3.  Locations

This can be an important set of keywords, as well.  Employers will often search on a job seeker's location because they want someone who is local, someone who won't need to move (or expect the employer to pay for a relocation).  For example, assuming our job seeker wants a job in Massachusetts, some research would be very useful.  A quick check of job postings for jobs in Boston, showed the following usage:

Massachusetts - 1 job posting
Mass - 588 job postings
MA - 1,000+ job postings

Use the word "Massachusetts," the abbreviation "Mass" and the postal code "MA" on your resume. They are each a different way to type the same state name. A recruiter could type any of those variations into his/her search to find someone for a job in Massachusetts.

Again, another effective strategy for her LinkedIn Profile, too! 

[Read The Top 25 Keywords for Your Job Search for even more keyword options for both social media and resumes.]

More about Keywords:

More about Resumes:


About the author...

Online job search expert Susan P. Joyce has been observing the online job search world and teaching online job search skills since 1995. A veteran of the United States Marine Corps and a recent Visiting Scholar at the MIT Sloan School of Management, Susan is a two-time layoff “graduate” who has worked in human resources at Harvard University and in a compensation consulting firm. Since 1998, Susan has been editor and publisher of Job-Hunt.org. Follow Susan on Twitter at @jobhuntorg and on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Google+.


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