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Monday, August 29, 2011

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Sunday, November 15, 2009

Using Keywords to Make Your Resume Stand out Online

Thinking about posting your resume online? Find out how to make sure it gets noticed.

Companies are relying more and more on technology to sort their way through the stacks of resumes they receive. That doesn’t mean that the traditional paper resume is dead, but it does mean that in order to get noticed, you’ll need to get savvy about posting or submitting your resume online.

How Employers Use Keywords
Whether they’re searching personal Web pages, a job board’s resume database, or in their own databases of job applicants, employers retrieve online resumes via keyword searches.

When a recruiter does an electronic search for a candidate, the results are ranked by the number of times the keywords searched for are found in the resumes listed. You can make sure your name is at the top of a recruiter’s search results by anticipating the keywords he or she will use.

What Makes a Good Keyword Resume?

1. Keywords. In a traditional resume, your focus is on action verbs, and on explaining the positions you’ve held. Keyword resumes need to be searchable. To make sure yours is, use keywords—nouns and phrases that succinctly detail your skills and competencies. Recruiters also search for buzzwords or jargon that pertain to the position or industry, so be sure to include these.

Examples of keywords include: Microsoft, product management, SQL Server, HR, human resources, communications skills, MBA, technical writer, data delivery, administrative assistant, developing, creating.

2. Appropriate terminology. Most recruiters search for resumes using the terms listed in their ads.

Ask yourself, “What kinds of keywords are included in the job ad? How are they used in describing the qualifications [a company is] looking for?” Smith suggests comparing one ad to another to find similarities in the ways keywords are used. You’ll want to make sure your resume includes the most-used keywords.

3. A “skills” section. Place a “key skills” section at the top of your resume, and list all keywords, separated by commas or periods. Nouns should dominate your skills section. List all programs and software you know well, and highlight specific capabilities you have, such as communications skills, organizational skills, or management abilities. Keep your keyword summary to between 20 and 30 items.

Skills are a very important component of a resume, and oftentimes can get buried in the resume itself. Listing them at the top of the resume gives the reviewer a quick idea of what he/she can expect to find throughout the rest of your resume.

4. Using different keyword forms. If you used “coordination” in your skills summary, use “coordinate” in the body of your resume. In using different keyword forms, you’ll maximize the exposure your resume will receive.

5. Full keywords and acronyms. Utilize both complete-word keywords and acronyms. For example, your resume should include both “MBA” and “Masters in Business Administration,” or both “HR” and “Human Resources.” Try to cover all your bases.

Writing an Entry-Level Resume

Make the most of undergrad experiences when writing your resume.

If you’re about to graduate, you may find yourself worrying that you don’t have any worthwhile experience to list on your resume. Employers are often eager to see internships, volunteering, school activities, and other non-traditional work on entry-level resumes. Don’t sell yourself short by discounting your experience.

 Internships are the prize gem of the entry-level resume. If you interned while in college, list your experience prominently at the top of your resume—unless you have other, more relevant experiences to place ahead of it. Internships show that you are accustomed to a professional environment and that you've been actively exploring your career options.

Although many internships involve less-than challenging work, the key is to spin the mundane tasks to emphasize your transferable skills. For example, if you answered the phone all summer, you can say: “Assisted clients by responding to daily inquiries and directing calls.” Describing your experience this way indicates your customer service, communication, and organizational skills.

Volunteer Work
Don't hesitate to list unpaid volunteer work on your resume. It’s perfectly legitimate to list unpaid positions, so long as the titles are accurate. If a position title doesn’t suggest the nature of the work, consider adding the word “volunteer” in parentheses after it. For example, if your title was “Fundraiser,” say “Fundraiser (volunteer).”

Extracurricular Activities
Undergraduate extracurricular experiences can be valuable, particularly if you occupied a leadership position. If you list such activities, be sure to illustrate how your past responsibilities correspond to the skills the current job requires.

Consider the talents the following activities require:
  • Athletics: teamwork skills
  • Performing or fine arts: communication skills, creativity, and the ability to meet deadlines
  • Philanthropic work: leadership, organizational, and self-management skills
Courses and Academic Projects
List basic academic information—your college, major, and expected date of graduation—separate from your work experience. If you've completed courses or projects that are relevant to the position, you can list them in the experience section.

For example, if you’re applying for a job with a biotech company, you may want to list lab work or independent projects you completed for science courses. On the other hand, if you’re a political science major applying for a financial services job, your classroom work may be less relevant.

Formatting Your Resume
Many students distinguish paid from unpaid work; however, there is nothing wrong with listing various types of experience under one heading. For example, if you’re applying for a position as a Web designer, you may include both a paid Web design internship and a significant design project you completed for a course under your “Work Experience” heading.

You may also include extracurricular activities and volunteer work under your experience heading, but be certain to distinguish between those that are and are not relevant to your job search. For example, if you’re a member of the film club, but only attend the free monthly movies, you should confine your description to an “Activities” or “Interests” section.

Consider dividing your experiences into “Related Experience” and “Other Experience,” or be more specific in your divisions. For example, if you have a significant number of relevant academic experiences, you may want to include a section entitled, “Related Academic Experience.”

Whatever mix of experience you have, be flexible, creative, and don’t be afraid to highlight your most impressive qualifications. 

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