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Hayrides and Haystacks Print
Written by Abby Kohut   

Remember the time your parents first took you on a hayride? Round and round you went watching the horse drawn carriage with glee as you looked forward to picking out the perfect pumpkin for carving. Haystacks are fun – except when it's your resume that's hidden in the stack. Using the right keywords will ensure that you get noticed.

Most of you know that recruiters search resume databases such as Monster and CareerBuilder in hopes of finding the perfect candidate. Many companies also have their own applicant tracking systems that they use for similar purposes. Even companies who are still accepting faxed or e-mailed resumes nowadays are scanning them in to their applicant tracking system.

Once a resume ends up in electronic form, it becomes a needle in the company's haystack of resumes. While you may think it's a recruiter's job to find you, you MUST realize that it's actually YOUR job to try to be found. The more you help the recruiter, the faster they will find you and stop searching for your less than perfect competitors. How can you make your resume jump right out of the haystack? You guessed it – it's those pesky keywords! Do not underestimate how important they are. They can make you and they can definitely break you. Be sure to spell them correctly and avoid abbreviations of words that you want to be searchable.

For example: If you are "proficient in Word and Excel", say that you are "proficient in Microsoft Word & Microsoft Excel". The same goes for Office vs. Microsoft Office. A recruiter cannot search on the words "office", "word" or "excel" because they are too common on a resume – people excel at their jobs, work in an office, and type 40 words a minute. They will have to add the word Microsoft to make the search useful.

A career coach once recommended to that adding a bunch of extra keywords on your resume in a white font so that they appear to be invisible was a good idea. My opinion is that if you can't figure out where they belong on your resume, they should be invisible, literally, and shouldn't be on your resume. Also, if your resume gets scanned into an applicant tracking system, those sneaky keywords will re-appear on the bottom of your resume and will no longer be invisible. Once a recruiter figures out that you were trying to be deceptive, you'll have at least one strike against you. You don't need any extra strikes against you in this job market.

A creative way to figure out the most important keywords is to pretend you are a recruiter who is searching for you. Without looking at your resume, take 5 minutes to brainstorm and write down the 20-40 keywords that you think should be included. Review your resume and highlight the keywords you find while you cross each off your list. Then find a way to weave any leftover keywords into your resume. Try the same brainstorming session with a friend who is in the same industry or who has the same kind of job - you'll end up with twice as many keywords in addition to a new job search buddy.

Absolutely Abby’s Advice:
Keywords are key!  By cleverly weaving appropriate keywords into your resume, you can gain an edge over other candidates.  Just don't overdo it and compromise any appropriate rules of grammar. And please re-proofread you resume for any new spelling mistakes you may have introduced.
 
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Drawn from my 18 years of experience and research in recruiting and Human Resources, my blog posts are intended to provide insight into what corporate recruiters and Human Resource professionals look for when they are evaluating your qualifications. Simply reading these blogs will not guarantee you success. However, consistently applying the strategies mentioned, as well as developing your own personal interview style, will greatly enhance your chances of victory amidst the competition. I wish you the best of luck with your search as you begin to take charge of your career!