I recently read an article that listed 10 words employers don't want to see on a resume. After each word, the article listed a percentage of employers that did not like a given word. None of the words had more than 20% rating, which means that most respondents didn't care about a given word. Worse still, many of the words listed in the article are often featured in job posts. My take away from this article is that we should worry much more about showing why we are qualified to do a job than worry about one word a hiring manager or HR manager might not like. Anyone who rejects a resume based on one word must have a great pool of talent. My advice is to find words that show your strengths and qualifications. That is what employers want to see.
Many clients despair that they cannot find key words for their occupation. In fact, they are easy to find if you look in the right places.
1. Start with job posts. For key word research, I recommend using 8-10 posts. Note what words are repeated from post to post, especially for hard skills and technology. For example, terms like cost analysis, budgeting, MS Excel, accounts payable are the kind of words that employers will look for when scanning resume.
2. Perform a similar review on any LinkedIn contacts who are in similar professions. Pay careful attention to the skills section in each profile.
3. Research any job descriptions for the function you perform. These documents can be very detailed, so be careful about selecting key words that match the job function you want to perform.
4. Some websites post key words. The problem is that these lists often cover all types of a profession from entry level to executive. You need to identify those words that fit the level of experience for the kind of you want to pursue.
It’s important to have the right key words in your resume and LinkedIn profile. To find them, study what your potential employer is looking for and how similar professionals describe themselves. That’s the model for key word success.
This is the only question that matters when you’re writing a resume or interviewing for a job.
Too often, job seekers talk about what they did on their last job. They use the language of that company and discuss their duties in specific details that only apply to that job/company. Prospective employers do not care about all of this information. It is not relevant to their business problem. Your challenge is to show how your previous experience and education will be a benefit to your next employer, not the last one.
I recommend that you start your job search by studying job posts for the positions that interest you most. Review 5-10 job posts. Identify common requirements and repeated “key” words. If you build your resume and prepare for interviews by focusing on what employers need, you will find that you have more interviews and faster job offers. It’s not about what you did in the past. It’s all about what you have to offer you next employer.
A client was recently reviewing a resume with me. She asked if we could edit the document to make it more specific. Her request would seem to make sense. Listing achievements would seem to be a good way to impress an employer. There’s one problem with that kind of thinking: job posts.
Read the description and requirement sections of any job post. Employers request information that is general. They want to know that an applicant meets the minimum standards needed to perform day-to-day tasks. General descriptions address those points. They also feature the keywords that scanning software uses to identify qualified candidates.
Should you included achievements that list specific facts? Absolutely. A good list of achievements sets one candidate apart from another and can be the starting point for a good interview. Effective resumes blend both general statements that show qualifications and specific examples of accomplishments that demonstrate how you have gone above and beyond in your previous jobs.
I’m very happy with my job. However, one thing that does frustrate me is the occasional client who has ideas about the job search or resume writing that make no sense. These people frequently say things such as: “I’ve heard,” “Somebody told me,” or “I read somewhere.” This type of phrase indicates a total lack of critical thinking. I don’t mind discussing any issue with someone who has thought about what they are saying or has evidence to support their claims. People who follow superficial ideas are more likely to be doing things that will hurt their job search and make it harder to find a new job.
One of the great things about the Internet is that we can quickly research anything we hear or read. Instead, too many people grab onto the simplest solutions, never questioning if the claim is true. For example, at least one client a week tells me she is worried about having her resume screened by a computer program. These clients are also worried about having the right key words. This fear is legitimate only if it’s not thought through. I screened resumes some years ago while I filled several other duties at a small company. I’m sure I missed details because I was “multitasking.” The computer will actually give a job applicant a consistent review. As far as key words go, it’s impossible to know for sure what a company is using as its key words, but it’s common sense to think that job postings would be based on what the company wants to see.
My advice to clients is to challenge anything they read or hear, including advice they get from me. Ask why the claim is true. If someone can’t give you a reason beyond “that’s the way it is” or “those are the rules,” don’t be too concerned about that “expert.” The job search is always a difficult process. Don’t waste your time following bad advice. When in doubt, think critically.