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Executive Resumes and Keywords

Every year articles circulate on the topic of ‘the year’s most overused buzzwords’, cautioning job seekers on the most widely used keywords in resumes and LinkedIn profiles. However, not all buzzwords are bad.

Think about it – most buzzwords or keywords are born from employer’s requirements and subsequent job postings. If a company is seeking someone who is “effective, driven, or innovative” and you avoid these words in your career communications (resume & cover letter) you risk the chance of your application being completely overlooked.

Despite the urge to market yourself uniquely, keep in mind that the majority of major organizations use Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) to scan submitted applications. When you upload your resume to a company’s website there is a very good chance that your resume is being scanned by ATS for select keywords and key phrases. Although you will never know exactly what each ATS is programmed to search for, a good guess would be the keywords and key phrases from the job posting you are targeting (learn more about keywords in this recording).Without the proper application of keywords in your resume – it could be screened out by ATS – just like that.

Similarly, recruiters conduct keyword searches on LinkedIn to locate best-matched professionals.  If a recruiter is seeking a professional that is “creative, strategic, and dynamic” they don’t care if these words are deemed overused, so long as job seekers can support them. Note the word support here. Using buzzwords alone in your resumes adds little to no value, but supporting skill statements with notable achievements and results can boost the value of your resume.

Ultimately you must provide proof of skills to be taken seriously (metrics, impacts, cost-savings, revenue creation, bottom-line results). A good balance of buzzwords and skill demonstration (results) can increase your chances of getting found and raise your chances of being approached, interviewed, or offered a job. Avoiding buzzwords in your resume (or LinkedIn profile) is likely not possible, nor practical, but they should still be selected strategically.

Choose keywords that match your targeted industry and always back up skills with proof of results.

Finally, keep in mind: studies suggest that online job applications yield a much lower success rate compared to networking or referrals.  Take these recent stats and facts:Jobvite 2017

The 2017 JobVite Survey shares that:

“Job boards have a .4% effectiveness and employee referrals have 5.2% effectiveness. In other words, an applicant has over 13X a better chance of getting the job than applying through a job board.”

In addition, this Forbes‘ post reiterates the importance of social networking in the job search, ESPECIALLY for executives:

“The study found that the chances of a job being filled via our social networks rose by 2% for each dollar extra being paid to the successful candidate. In other words, someone being paid around $100,000 a year is 86% more likely to find that work via their social network than someone being paid $14,500 a year.”

So although many employers use ATS during the application process, and keywords are an absolute must this route, you should include networking as part of your job search to increase chances. With this in mind you need multiple versions of your resume ready.

Adrienne Tom

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