Because everyone should dig their job

Keywords and Your Job Search

By Louise Kursmark

The past few weeks I’ve been awash in keywords as I’ve been working on the second edition of a best-selling book on that very topic: The Best Keywords for Resumes, Letters, and Interviews.

When Wendy Enelow (my frequent writing partner) wrote the first edition of the book, keywords were an emerging concept. More than a decade later, keywords are well accepted and just as important, if not more so. Thus, it seemed the right time for us to update a classic to today’s standards!

Why are keywords so critical?

  • In your RESUME, they are essential for passing automated resume scans (Applicant Tracking Systems). Just as importantly, they resonate with human readers, too, because they indicate you have the specific skills, qualities, experiences, and accomplishments that an employer is looking for.

  • In your COVER LETTERS and E-NOTES, they reinforce the message of your resume, match the terms used in a job posting, and concisely convey your expertise.

  • In INTERVIEWS, your use of keywords shows that you understand the job, the industry, the culture, and how your experiences meet the needs of that particular employer for that specific job.

  • In your LINKEDIN PROFILE, keywords are a must if you want to be found by recruiters and employers. And just as in all of your other career documents, your use of the right keywords shows that you know what’s important in your line of work.

Here’s a quick formula for finding and using keywords in your career documents:

  1. Identify your keywords. The best place to find them (in addition to our book) is in job postings that are an ideal fit for your qualifications and your current career goals.

  2. Write your documents. You can’t simply cram a keyword list into a resume or letter. You need to integrate the appropriate keywords into the stories of your career.

  3. Review and cross-check. Did you use as many of the key terms as is possible and reasonable?

  4. Substitute related keywords to boost your keyword total and diversify the language of your documents for a more interesting and sophisticated read.

The need to include ample keywords can sometimes clash with today’s trend for shorter, tighter writing—writing that’s easy to skim on paper and on screen. But that’s another whole article!—how to write tight, lean, clean documents that say just what’s essential and no more.