We get a lot of questions about keywords in resumes – how can you use keywords to get past applicant tracking systems, and what words are hiring managers going to respond to most? The answer is in the job posting.
When crafting your resume, use the job posting as your guide by copying some of the keywords into your resume strategically. Think about what the most important things a recruiter might filter for are and really hone in on those.
Start broad, using the job title in the posting. If you are applying for an assistant position, you'll want to have the words assistant or assist in your resume. Similarly, if you’re applying for a manager position, you probably want the words manager or manage in there. Most likely, you'll include these keywords in your past titles and chronology bullets, but if you need to get creative because of a career transition, you could fit these keywords into a professional summary or areas of expertise section. In some cases, you could even put the job title in your header.
Next, you'll want to look at the core skills in the posting. The qualifications listed toward the top of a posting tend to be most important, but keep an eye out for specific skills that might be a requirement. If you see that the company is looking for an Excel expert, spell that out, instead of just listing Microsoft Office. Or, if they need someone with excellent writing skills, make sure you have the word write. Be careful about intangible skills though – if the posting is asking for someone who is motivated, it’s unlikely that they’re going to use "motivated" as a search term. You’ll need to prove you’re motivated by showing how you took initiative on projects in your bullet points.
Additionally, you should only use keywords you can actually back up in an interview. You may not have all the qualifications or meet all the requirements listed in the posting, but don't be tempted to claim them just so your resume doesn't get filtered out! It's okay if you're not an exact match -- either the hiring manager is open to candidates who possess only a majority of the skills, or the position really requires specific knowledge that you won't be able to fake in an interview. You don't want to get caught having lied on your resume.
And remember that getting a resume into a real person’s hands is a far more reliable way to get an interview than by submitting through a job portal. So when using important keywords that you’ve pulled from the job posting, make sure they’ll pop out to a human and not only a machine. Lead your bullet points with the same strong action verbs that have been described, or call attention to them in core skills sections (it's worth repeating: only include tangible skills!). The right keywords are not going to get you the job, but they will help direct the eye of a hiring manager and encourage them to call you in for an interview.
Angela Silak & Cindy Kaplan
Adulting means you need a job! We were thrilled to offer advice to emerging professionals -- check out the guest blog we wrote for Adulting with Jane for 5 tips for writing a great resume and hear us recount some resume dos and don'ts on the How Did I Get This Far? poducast
If you work in entertainment, you’re a storyteller, in one way or another. And when you’re looking for jobs, those storytelling skills should be put to use when you write your resume. Every good resume tells a story – the story of your work history and why it makes sense for a specific employer to hire you. And every good story has a beginning, middle, and end. Keep this in mind as you start to craft your resume – it will help dictate the structure, format, and verbiage you use.
The beginning of your resume is where you introduce yourself. When you meet someone new, you typically shake hands and tell the person your name. You can’t shake hands on paper, but you can put your name across the top in big, bold letters. Announce yourself proudly – you’ve got a lot of great stuff to share! Additionally, an introductory conversation often begins with where you’re from – in a resume, that takes the form of contact info. This should all be in the resume header.
Whatever goes next on your resume is going to be the information that gives the hiring manager context for all the other stuff they’re about to read. The first section after the header varies from person to person, depending on what’s most important to get across. For recent grads, it should be education, and your story will read as “Hi, I’m a recent grad looking for an entry-level position. Look at all the impressive stuff I did while I was in college!” For many people, experience will lead the resume – “Hi, I’ve spent the past 5 years as a development executive at Comedy Central.”
Hopefully that first thing has a natural lead-in to whatever job you’re applying for. If it doesn’t, you may want to consider a professional summary that calls attention to your areas of expertise and specializations. A professional summary or list of core skills is also helpful for executives with a dense work history – if the hiring manager only read the professional summary or saw a few words called out in bold, they’d be able to get a sense of what the person brings to the table and can choose to read further if that person sounds like a fit. Think about how you want to frame yourself, and let that dictate however you start your story.
The rest of your resume should unfold naturally based on whatever information you’ve set up at the top. Typically, this takes the form of a timeline that shows your trajectory in reverse chronological order. A hiring manager should be able to see career progression and any key achievements that happened along the way. Within your resume bullet points, you provide supporting information to back up the argument that you’re right for the job, including the relevant skills you’ve acquired in each role.
And the end of your resume should be the “extras,” things that don’t need a whole lot of space, like computer skills, languages, and interests. Sometimes this is a spot to get in keywords for applicant tracking systems. But it’s also a place to share information that’s going to round you out as a person and make it seem like there’s more to you than the stuff you’ve done at work – like volunteer work, hobbies, and various achievements. Again, the details all depend on the specific person, but it’s a nice way to tag your story.
Keep in mind that your story may need to change slightly depending on the job you apply for; it all goes back to tailoring your resume to the job posting. There’s no way you can fit your entire biography into one or two pages, but by choosing the most relevant information selectively, you can build a profile that positions you for the position you’re interested in. Just remember that the story you need to tell is the one the hiring manager is looking for. Be authentic, but present information in the way they’ll be able to understand it.
Now that the job market has become more competitive than ever, it's important to make your resume stand out. Plenty of people have decent resumes, but what makes a resume great? The key is to make the reader understand exactly what you bring to the table that makes you perfect for the role and to get those points across in a way that requires the smallest amount of reading time. These five tips will help your resume stand out from the crowd:
1. Choose a simple format. As you try to make your resume to stand out, you might be considering a flashy design, eye-catching colors, or peppering in company logos and infographics. Stop! A showy resume isn't going to get you the job -- in fact, it may not even get you past the Applicant Tracking System (ATS). Choose a clean, black-and-white format that's easily scannable by a computer and a busy hiring manager. This will allow the reader to focus on the most important part of your resume -- the content.
2. Focus on relevant skills and show how you used them. As you write your resume, you'll want to match the verbiage to the job posting to get the proper keywords, but don't stop there! Hiring managers want to see that you're good at the work you do, not just that you've been hired to do it before. A great resume goes beyond reiterating the skills on a job posting; it shows how well the candidate performed them. So when crafting yours, add context or achievements to paint a clearer picture of how you excelled in the role. Did you win any awards? Is the show you developed the new network anchor? Did you implement a new workflow that saved the company time and/or money? Did you sign new clients or sell a project? Even if your role didn't lend itself to those kinds of achievements, consider what context you can add to showcase the breadth of your abilities. How many people did you manage (or as an assistant, support)? What range of budgets did you allocate? How many projects did you work on simultaneously? These details give hiring managers a sense of how you applied your skills.
3. Use strong action verbs to describe your abilities. When creating your resume bullet points, you should lead them with action verbs like innovated, spearheaded, liaised, ideated, developed, created, crafted, etc. These are the skills hiring managers want to see, and including them as the first word in each line helps call attention to them. A common mistake we see is leading a bullet point with "Responsible for." But that's not an action verb! Rather, it's a description of what you were tasked with and doesn't even indicate that you did anything. Action verbs, on the other hand, showcase specific skills and highlight what you brought to the table in your previous roles.
4. Take ownership of your skills. Once you've listed a skill or two that indicates working well with others, you don't need to bring teamwork into everything you did. If you're able to do something independently, you can own it on your resume. Hiring managers know that most people work with others on projects, but they want to see that you can initiate and not just tag along for the ride. Plus, it will allow you to vary up the action verbs you use to lead each bullet point!
5. Present your main strengths -- no more, no less. A great resume highlights the key strengths that will make you right for the job. But it can be hard to assess your own strengths. We often notice that candidates fail to recognize some of their top skills and/or put too much weight into skills or achievements that aren't particularly relevant. This is why it's always a good idea to get a second set of eyes on your resume. Not only will it help you catch typos or formatting errors, but an objective reader will be able to assess whether your story is coming across clearly and whether you're overselling or underselling yourself. Most job seekers are too close to their own experience to know what they need to articulate and how, so having an outside perspective can help remove biases and ensure clarity. This is a hugely important step -- so much so that when we work with clients, we have two sets of eyes reviewing their materials to make sure we're getting the perspective of a reader who's unfamiliar with the candidate.
Remember that your resume is a marketing document and the product you're selling is YOU. Lean in to the great work you've done, convey your story honestly and with pride, and let your qualifications speak for themselves.
Angela Silak & Cindy Kaplan