Just a few short years ago, resume keywords meant EVERYTHING. If you didn’t have a host of well-chosen keywords embedded in your resume text, recruiters and hiring managers weren’t likely to conduct keyword searches that would pull your document out of an overfilled database. In those ancient days of 2009, jobs were scarce, resumes flowed in for each open position in a digital avalanche, and employer search technology wasn’t quite as sophisticated as it is now. The result: Pack your resume with keywords—even irrelevant ones—or else. Some candidates went so far as to put false claims in white text (like “I have a Ph.D. in astrophysics”) so scanners could see it, but human readers couldn’t.

These days, keywords are still important. But technology changes, and job-seeker strategies need to change too. Keep these modern-day tips in mind.

Recruiters are actually reading resumes again.

Instead of relying almost exclusively on keyword searches, recruiters are supplementing those searches with actual reviews of candidate profiles. Yes, you’re more likely to be found if your address falls in the target area and your search falls into the target industry. But you won’t get far if you can only offer keywords and nothing else.

Jobs are easier to find.

There’s plenty of debate about the nature of a “good” job market, and while the salaries and conditions of available jobs may not be skyrocketing, the general availability of those jobs does appear to be on the rise. More positions are available. That means fewer candidates for each role. That means your resume will reach a human reader after facing fewer hurdles. But it also means your resume will need to be polished, smart, appropriate for the job and tailored to the needs of the employer. Nonsense keywords are out of style. Well-chosen, highly aligned keywords that help your reader understand your background (instead of just throwing smoke) are in.

Which words are the right words?

Need help understanding which words to choose, and how to use those words in ways that can grab employer attention? Start by carefully reviewing the job post. Use words that mirror the exact language of the post, like “CPR certified” instead of “certified in CPR.” While you’re at it, use your careful review to assess which of the required qualifications and skills seem most important to these particular hiring managers. For additional hints, check out the company website. Get a feel for what the company does, how it works and who it targets.

For more on how to choose your keywords and edit your resume for success, turn to the job search pros at Extension.


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