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Resume Keywords: How Many is Too Many?

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As more employers reach out to applicants via the internet, more resumes are submitted for each open position. Managers often manage this bounty by dropping submissions into a large database on receipt, and then sifting through that database using ATS systems and targeted keywords that apply to a specific open position.

This can help managers deal with a large volume of submissions, but what does it mean for candidates? If you’re looking for work, how can you pack your resume with the kinds of terms employers will use in a keyword search? Just as important, how can you stuff these words into your document without alienating human readers? Here are a few moves to keep in mind.

Read the post carefully.

As they choose keywords that can help them identify candidate matches, most employers will use the specific skills and cutoff credentials required by the job. And most of these will appear somewhere within the text of the job post. Read the text of the post with an eye for these must-have credentials, and if you have them, say so using the exact language used in the post. For example, if the post calls for “CPR certification”, use that wording. Not “certified in CPR.”

Think like a manager.

Put yourself into the shoes of the hiring manager for this job. What are your top priorities for this role? Which skill sets do you think will be harder to find? Which ones would you use to filter out the best possible matches? Start with those, and make sure they show up at least once in your document (as long as you actually have them.)

Don’t game the system.

Keep in mind that before you receive an offer (or even an interview invitation) your resume will almost certainly be reviewed by at least one pair of human eyes. So keep your keywords fluid and natural within your sentences and phrases. And by all means, don’t engage in obvious tricks, for example, using statements like “I may not have the CPR certification you require, but…” Another classic blunder might include listing skills you don’t actually have in white text so scanners can see them but human readers can’t. These tricky tactics can land you on a do-not-hire list.

Make the most of your skills section.

You may be able to offer some of the clinical or technical skills your managers need, but if you can’t seamlessly incorporate these into your education and work history sections, make sure you list them under “skills.” And again, use the wording and phrases that are mostly likely to be applied in a manager keyword search.

For more on how to create a standout resume and land the position you need, reach out to the Little Rock staffing and job search experts at CSS.

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