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Keywords On Your Résumé: Context Matters

by Lorraine Rise M.S., CPRW

Having the right keywords on your résumé and in your LinkedIn profile is the hottest trend right now for job hunters. There are a plethora of free articles online telling you that your résumé will be tossed in the trash if you don't have the right industry-specific buzzwords. The same advice goes for your LinkedIn profile and having enough skills listed to boost its SEO performance.

Yes, it's true that many applicant tracking systems are scanning and parsing your résumé for essential keywords that are found in the job description. "Keyword stuffing," as it’s called, is the practice of having a long list of keywords at the top of your résumé. This will help you get past the applicant tracking system and get your résumé to show up as a strong match. However, that's all it will do.

Once a human looks at your résumé, if they see keyword stuffing with no context, it will end there.

You must add context and examples of how you've used those skills throughout the résumé. Otherwise, you are making a claim with no proof. This is what I mean when I tell clients to write their résumé for a computer system AND a human. If you want to make it past the résumé screening and actually be called for an interview, you will need to demonstrate your accomplishments and give context to the skills that you claim to have.

My favorite way to write accomplishment statements is with the CAR formula (Challenge, Action, Result). This gives the reader everything that they need to know in one or two concise sentences. There is a wealth of information and examples of online. Simply do a search for “CAR statements on a résumé.”

Here’s an example of how to list a skill and show the context. If you have Project Management listed at the top of your résumé as a skill, then make sure that you have at least one example (if not more) of specific projects that you’ve worked on or led. Also, make sure that your first bullet point under each job is your strongest. By “strongest,” I mean the most specific and most relevant to the targeted job.

Specific accomplishments are the only thing that you have to differentiate yourself from other candidates with the same experience. Unless of course, you were able to get a referral in your job search from your networking efforts. In that case, your résumé will matter even less because you networked your way into the job. This is the ideal scenario!