Job Hunting in the Early Stages: Why Resume Keywords Matter

By Corinne Bernstein  |  Posted 2012-10-11 Print this article Print

Popular keywords include "networks," "security" and software development  terms (such as "Java programming," "database management" and "project management"), Dice's Silver said, adding that for more senior-level positions, words like "managed," "led" and "created" are also important.

New keywords enter the job search lingo as technology evolves. The fastest-growing keywords, which reflect shifts toward mobile and cloud computing, for example, are "iPhone," "Android" and "HTML5."

"'iPad' and 'iOS' were not anywhere near the top just a few years ago," said Rich Pearson, chief marketing officer at Elance, an online marketplace for freelancers and hiring companies. "Old stalwarts, such as 'PHP,' are also popular. We also see 'Ajax,' 'Objective C' and other terms that are very specific to the role you might be working on."

The Importance of Being Honest

Although keywords are crucial, job seekers should avoid "gaming the system," Dice's Silver said. Keywords should be used accurately and honestly, he said, adding that candidates who lie or mislead will be eliminated eventually.

Using keywords to describe skills should not be a foreign concept to the recent college graduate who grew up using the Internet, employment experts say, and in the last 10 years the job market has been pretty Internet-dominated.

"Most people understand the concept of search," said Elance's Pearson. "Folks who have made a career change or job change know the importance of keywords, but it may be more of a learning experience for someone who has been with the same company for many years and looking for a job."

Not using keywords properly isn't the only thing that could lead to a resume being eliminated early on.

Resumes should be submitted in Word or PDF and not be encrypted, and information should not be included in the header, Elliott said, as ATSes have difficulty processing information that is encrypted or incorporated in a header.

ATSes will have difficulty "reading or understanding" images, graphics or white type, Abdel-Halim of wrote.

Resumes that are difficult to open or read or that require a swamped human resources professional to perform an extra step will likely be eliminated, said Elliott.

Also, resumes should be clearly written and contain enough detail to adequately explain a candidate's background, Elliott said. Spelling also counts, and although ATSes don't have spelling and grammar checking capabilities, they will in the not-too-distant future, he said.

If keywords open doors, then the resume is the password that lets the job seeker inside. Neither resumes nor keywords should be taken for granted, employment experts maintain.


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