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Keywords - The SEO of Resumes

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Is Your Resume Optimized for Keywords?

SEO (Search Engine Optimization) strategies are used to achieve high placement on sites like Google. Keywords are the SEO of resumes.

As a rule, resumes are first found through electronic searches before being viewed by an actual human. Recruiters and hiring managers use search terms those search terms are your resume keywords.

No resume is immune. The concept applies to job sights, such as Monster; social sites such as LinkedIn or Facebook; emailed resumes; and even snail mailed resumes that are OCRd.

Just like SEO, there is logic to how keywords effect ranking. The mere inclusion of a keyword may not be enough. Relevance, placement and density can be important. Fortunately, optimizing for these factors can make your resume more interesting to both machines and humans.

Use keywords frequently, including in headlines, profiles and accomplishments (PARs and SARs). Try to use them towards the beginning of each section, job and accomplishment.

For responses to an ad
Mirror the words in the ad and go heavy on the two or three most important keywords.

For resumes posted as bait - those resumes posted so that you can be found The keywords should focus on both the job functions and industry. Consider posting variations of the same resume to accommodate synonyms. For example, it would make sense to include these terms in the same search:

  • Sales and/or Salesman
  • Account Management and/or Account Manager
  • Business Development
  • CRM and/or Customer Relationship Management.

That's seven variations on what could be the same concept! However, most recruiters and hiring managers do not search for all terms. Use all of the terms in a resume, but also post multiple resumes to increase density for each term. SEO works the same way. A good site has different pages targeted at different search terms and synonyms.

What about cover letters? Include keywords, but they are usually not as important as they are in a resume. Since cover letters tend to be targeted at companies or specific jobs, be sure the language and keywords reflects the listing and the company's internal use of language. Read more on cover letters here.

This whole article is based on the concept that your resume will be searched. Your design should also take that into consideration. Graphics, fancy fonts, too many fonts or variations on the same font, and even lines have the potential to reduce OCR scannability. Simple, clean and easy to read also works best for humans. Click here to read more about resume design considerations.

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