While it’s advisable to use industry and job-specific keywords in your resume to help it stand out, it’s important to understand the difference between keywords that relate to the job you are applying for and meaningless buzzwords.
The problem with using the same buzzwords that everyone else uses is that rather than making you stand out, they make your resume seem generic.
According to LinkedIn’s annual list of overused buzzwords, Aussie job seekers tend to favour the following ten clichéd phrases:
- 4Extensive Experience
- 5Track Record
- 9Communication Skills
The problem with these buzzwords is not so much that the words themselves are bad, but that many job seekers use them as:
It is a fact that many employers use these very same buzzwords in job postings and even screen resumes with automated tracking systems to pick out the ones that contain the right keywords.
So the trick here is not to eliminate all buzzwords and keywords from your resume, but to work them into your job descriptions and personal statement or professional summary in such a way that they actually add value.
For instance, it would be fine to say that you are creative or have good communication skills, but without any examples of why this is the case, these words are meaningless.
Also, if the buzzwords you want to include describe basic skills or traits that any job would require, it’s best to leave them out.
For example, “responsible” might be a word that accurately describes you, but being responsible is a very basic job requirement, so it’s already implied that you are. What else would you be? Irresponsible?
Hank Boyer, an experienced recruiter and CEO of Boyer Management Group, believes that when used properly, keywords and specific examples can help a job seeker stand head and shoulders above his or her competition.
“The resume must be customised for the specific position,” Boyer says.
“Most employers are using some form of analytics that compare the match of keywords pertaining to the position, to a candidate's resumes and online applications.
“Only the top dozen or so highest-matching resumes will be seen by human eyes,” he explains.
“The resumes most likely to be acted on for an interview are those that quantify the accomplishments listed under education and experience.”
But how exactly does one go about quantifying their accomplishments? Boyer shares the following example.
An office manager candidate might say on their resume, “Handled a busy office of eight realtors, answering the phone and correspondence with light research,” but this comes across as somewhat boring.
Instead, they could put it in a bulleted list and say something like:
Realty World's busiest office in the state with eight realtors, three of whom are ranked in Realty World's Top 10.
Successfully handled an average of 400 incoming calls and 300 client, homeowner, and prospect emails and letters per month.
Performed homeowner and prospect research that led to higher close rate, customer satisfaction, and repeat business.
In short, including keywords and buzzwords in your resume can be helpful, but only when you use them correctly. To do this, keep the following three tips in mind.
1. Identify what the employer is looking for
Before sending off your resume, it’s always best to identify exactly which skills and qualifications an employer is looking for. This gives you a chance to highlight those particular skills or accomplishments by using specific keywords.
2. Choose keywords that match the job
Read through the job posting carefully and scan the company website. Are there any words or phrases that stand out or are mentioned more than once? These are likely to be the keywords that an employer will search for when short listing resumes for consideration.
3. Use your chosen keywords and phrases thoughtfully
Once you have chosen your keywords, take the time to work them into your descriptions and summary in a clear and descriptive way, as opposed to just adding in a list of keywords you saw in the job posting.
If you can’t think of a way to work a keyword into any of your descriptions, it’s probably best not to use it. Whatever you do, don’t try to cram in too many keywords: your descriptions still have to read naturally and make sense.