At one of my networking events not too long ago, a recruiter advised the audience of job seekers in attendance that the most important element of resume preparation was to ensure all the right keywords were contained somewhere in the document so that the resume would come up in a relevant database or applicant tracking system search.
One of the audience members then raised their hand, in innocent fashion, and asked “So how do I know which keywords to include in my materials?” The recruiter’s response was bracing: “Why would you need me to tell you this? Aren’t you an expert in your field? Don’t you know the terminology being used in your own profession?”
This little exchange sums up a curious aspect of job hunting that continues to be challenging for many professionals out there. The notion of keywords and the constant fear that you might have overlooked one, or more, that could be important to your success. Without question, saturating your materials with relevant terminology is a critical ingredient in finding work today, given that we live in an information-rich world today where recruiters, employers, and job seekers alike all rely heavily on technology to find one another. Demonstrating fluency in the right keywords and jargon also goes a long way toward underscoring your credibility. If an employer sees you comfortably throwing around the latest-and-greatest language in your field, it suggests (rightly or wrongly) that you’re plugged in and pretty up to date in what you do — and haven’t let your skills lapse.
In fact, I often find competency keywords to be MORE reliable than job titles today in turning up relevant opportunities for people. Let’s say I’m working with somebody who is skilled in the area of business intelligence. While companies might slap all kinds of crazy labels such as “Systems Analyst” or “Business Analyst 3” or “Data Architect – Warts & Bunions Group” on a given position, at the end of the day, they all share a common denominator. Search on the simple phrase “business intelligence” and each one of these jobs pops right up, awaiting further investigation.
So in consideration of the above recruiter’s point, here are some sources that you can potentially use to ensure you haven’t missed a single acronym, buzzword, or snippet of jargon that might help you improve your career prospects:
• Go on LinkedIn, search for people in professions similar to your own, and study the language they’ve used throughout their profile; if they come up high in the search rankings, that usually means they did a really good job of saturating their profile with the right language and there may numerous terms you can, ahem, borrow from them
• Do the same thing in the free resume database you’ll find on Indeed.com; review a dozen or two resumes of similar folks in your field and see if they contain any useful language you might have overlooked; you might even go down to the free “trends” tool at the bottom of Indeed to see which keywords are gaining steam faster than others
• Scan a sampling of published advertisements in your field to see what employers are asking for in terms of requirements and qualifications; right or wrong, they get to call the shots about the skill sets they feel are important to them, so make sure you match your resume closely to the exact vocabulary employers/recruiters use in their ad solicitations
• Engage in a regular reading regimen of books, blogs, and trade publications related to your field or profession, keeping your eyes peeled for new language or emerging terminology that might be making its way onto the scene
• Lastly, premium LinkedIn users can now take advantage of a new feature you can read about here where the system will examine your profile and suggest certain terms it thinks you might have missed in putting your materials together (free users, don’t fret; you can accomplish the same result by using the four tips I’ve already highlighted, above!)
At the end of the day, keywords are such an easy thing to overlook, but it’s a piece of cake to pin them down if you just do a little research. You never know when you might have overlooked a term that could have significant consequences to your success rate. For example, I know one professional who was actively searching for jobs involving merger and acquisition planning, but didn’t recognize the phrase “corporate development” when I mentioned it, even though I told him that this is essentially the term every company (other than their current one, apparently) uses to describe folks who focus on M&A activity. I also had a client from Microsoft confess never having heard the term “DevOps” even though that term describes her job goals to a tee. So again, pay attention, and don’t take anything for granted. Do a little homework!
As for the latest and greatest buzzwords being born? Well there’s sure a lot of talk these days about sales readiness, sales enablement, and data science. I’ve also had several people use the phrase “sales motion” in my offices lately, which is one I haven’t heard before. Always interesting to see which of these terms will catch on, going forward…
P.S. Love words, in general, like I do? You might check out a site called FavoriteWords.com that evangelizes the power of individual word choices in far greater detail than I’ve done here — to a degree that’s either extremely silly or utterly brilliant!