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Hot Career Advice

Keywords that Work

Business writing

What Are Keywords?

Ten years ago, no one had even heard of keywords, yet they're nothing new. Previously known as buzzwords, keywords are words specific to a particular industry or profession and have two vital purposes in your job search:

A Single Keyword Communicates Multiple Skills and Qualifications.

When a prospective employer reads the keyword "sales," he or she will assume you have experience in new business development, product/service presentation, negotiations, sales closings, customer relationship management, new product introduction and more. Just one keyword can have tremendous power and deliver a huge message.

Keywords Are the Backbone for Resume Scanning Technology.

If a company is seeking a chief financial officer, it may do a keyword search through thousands of resumes to find candidates with experience in tax, treasury, cash management, currency hedging and foreign exchange. If you don't have those words in your resume, you will be passed over.

Typical keywords for the $100,000-plus executive include:

  • Strategic Planning
  • P&L Responsibility
  • Performance Optimization
  • New Business Development
  • Budgeting & Finance
  • Corporate Administration
  • World Class Organization
  • Crisis Management
  • Organizational Leadership
  • Profitability Improvement
  • Multi-Site Operations
  • Joint Ventures & Alliances
  • Consensus Building & Teaming
  • Decision-Making
  • Best Practices & Benchmarking

Although one might assume keywords are individual words, they can be phrases as demonstrated above.

How and Where Do You Use Keywords?

It's good form to use keywords in all your marketing communications, including resumes, cover letters, interview follow-up letters, executive profiles and more. Carefully integrate them into the text, when and where appropriate, to be sure you are communicating a complete message of who you are and what value/knowledge you bring to the organization.

Here are a few ideas for how and where to incorporate keywords into your resume:

  • In the Career Summary at the beginning of your resume: Summaries are the ideal section in which to highlight your most notable keywords, and you can do this either in a paragraph format or a listing of bulleted items. By doing so, you're quickly communicating your core qualifications for immediate impact.
  • In your job descriptions: Use keywords to write powerful action statements, project highlights, achievements and more.
  • In a separate section: Although optional, as noted above, you may choose to summarize your keywords in a separate section titled Professional Qualifications or Executive Qualifications.

Moving Forward

Get a copy of your resume and review it carefully. Have you incorporated all of the keywords most relevant to your profession and your industry (if your search is industry-specific)? If not, go back through and integrate the appropriate keywords so your resume clearly communicates, "This is who I am."

And remember, these same keywords will be the foundation for your interviews. Not only do you need to be able to write about your keywords, but you must be able to verbally communicate about them as well, in strong and powerful statements that highlight your successes, contributions and achievements.

If you've still having trouble writing a resume, consider having one professionally written for you.

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