I am pleased to introduce you to Kelly Smith from CourseFinder who is a guest contributor to my blog. Kelly also provides career advice for students and job seekers, and is as a freelance writer. She has written a great article outlining tips on using keywords in both your resume and cover letter. Enjoy the reading …

Today’s overcrowded job market has significantly changed not only the way in which candidates look for jobs, but also the methods used by employers to search for potential workers. It’s common practice to use recruiting management systems to screen candidates for job vacancies. Sometimes, turning up in the results of the recruiter’s database search is a matter of luck – knowing how to word your resume and cover letter will significantly help you to pass the initial screening and land your dream job.

What Are Resume Keywords?

When looking for potential candidates to be invited to interviews, recruiters search their resume database for specific words – keywords. That’s why your resume needs to be tailored to fit your target job; otherwise, it might never get found. In general, keywords will refer to your qualifications, skills, relevant credentials, software and technology skills and, in some cases, previous employers.

The same goes for cover letters. By including certain, sought-after keywords, you’ll make sure that your cover letter pops up at the initial screening and you’ll have a better chance at getting selected for an interview.

Which Keywords Should You Use?

Keywords are usually concrete skills, industry-specific qualifications or terms that are characteristic for the sector. When listing your keywords, you should bear in mind the following general skills and qualifications: degrees, certificates, university or college names, job titles, product names, technical terms, company names, service types, software and hardware packages, industry jargon and computer terms.

The essential keywords depend on the job, sector and industry. One way to get an idea about what keywords could work for you is by analyzing some job postings that match your experience and background. What words are used to describe the requirements? Are any particular skills mentioned? Should you include competencies that you have, but never thought of writing them down in your resume or cover letter?

After you have found 5 to 10 job advertisements, print and compare them all. Once you spot a pattern and are able to say which words are always mentioned, make a list – by sector or by employer. If you’re eying a specific company, have a look at other job postings for related positions – has the wording changed? If not, you may proceed and write down all the keyword you found, in order of popularity.

Adding Keywords to Your Resume and Cover Letter

The next step is to incorporate those keywords and job-specific buzzwords to your cover letter and resume. Using all of them would be overkill – can you imagine a resume, where every other word is a keyword? Not really.

It’s simply not pleasant to read, especially when it comes to cover letters. Too many keywords in a cover letter will make it sound ridiculous. When writing a cover letter, remember not to use the exact same words you found in the job posting – paraphrasing them will render your work more genuine.

The right number of keywords can open the door to success and help you to get noticed, which in today’s extremely competitive job market is in itself a great accomplishment.

CourseFinder is an Australian online education resource helping you find the course that’s right for you; and specialise in bringing together online and distance education courses from the biggest and best Australian universities, TAFEs and private colleges.


Annie Cerone