If Resumes Were Only About Key Words


More and more people are coming to understand that constructing a winning resume; one that gets you invited in for an interview involves ensuring the key words and phrases from a job posting are included in their résumé.

If that was all employer’s were looking for, you’d think they’d be receiving an extremely high percentage of such resumes, giving them the luxury of having many highly qualified people to choose from. You’d also think that if it’s just a case of putting these keywords in a résumé, anyone could consider themselves an expert by doing so. That’s not the case though; resume writing is a craft like any other endeavour, and there are those who are better at it than others.

This being the case, that resume writing is a skill; what would make some people believe that they can write one as good as anyone else? Especially if writing a résumé is something they only do when out of work and looking for a job. No, there’s got to be more separating those who craft resumes – and there is.

Your résumé you may recall from earlier posts, is your personal marketing document. It should therefore, or rather it must therefore, communicate clearly to the employer that bringing you in for a conversation will be worth their while. And by this, I mean that as their time is valuable (as too is your own), they have to perceive some benefit to be derived from meeting with you as a potential employee. Think, “How does hiring you benefit us?” and you’ve got it.

Many resumes fail to communicate this to an employer however. No, many resumes send the message, “I want to work for you so that I benefit in the following ways”. This message doesn’t appeal to an employer at all. Organizations aren’t in the charitable business of giving people jobs just so they can grow and learn new skills. Businesses have to be profitable, their workforces efficient, and how will hiring you achieve profitability?

So pull out your résumé – go ahead I’ll wait. You’ll find this useful trust me.

Okay so looking at the document, have a look at your stated qualifications. I would hope that what you have in this area responds to the stated needs of the company you are applying to. If it does, that’s good but that’s not all you need. Does each line stop there? Is that all you included? For example, if the employer says the successful applicant must have the ability to work well in teams, it takes more than just saying, “Team player”.  Maybe you said, “Work well with others” or “Work well in team settings”. Ho-hum, boring and pretty standard for a lot of resumes. If this is on your résumé, you don’t really think you’re making the best impression you could do you? Unfortunately, the answer for many is that yes, that is exactly what they believe.

  • “Work cooperatively with co-workers; self-invested in working towards common organizational goals, achieving efficiencies and maximizing profitability”.

The above has a lot packed in to that single bullet. First it communicates how you work with others; in this case cooperatively. Don’t assume this is a given. There are many people who work with others grudgingly, and although it may seem to an observer there is a team of six people in a situation, it’s really 4 team players and 2 others standing next to them working in their own silos.

The term, “self-invested” is an interesting term that stresses how the person is committed and motivated internally, without needing an employer to be constantly monitoring their activity. Self-invested people are not just present, they are present and engaged in what they are doing, taking pride in what they do. The rest of the bullet is just as critical. It communicates that you understand that achieving maximum profitability requires finding efficiencies; streamlining processes, looking for ways to get more accomplished requiring, speed, fewer distractions, less waste, commitment and a unified approach – ie. the common organizational goals.

Now imagine if your entire resume took what the employer is looking for and better communicated how hiring you will fulfill their needs and realize their end goals, and not just plop down your qualifications.

Take two resumes for a Cleaning / Maintenance position. The employer’s posting states that the job requires mopping floors, cleaning office areas. One resume states:

  • Skilled at mopping floors and cleaning office spaces

An exact match for the employer’s needs, but compare that to the 2nd resume:

  •  Proven experience mopping and cleaning office areas, achieving full compliance with Ministry Health and Safety standards; ensure offices are welcoming for staff members daily

In this second bullet, not only does the applicant have the required experience, they are demonstrating that they know WHY they do what they do and HOW the work they do contributes to the overall productivity of the organization. They get the big picture. Staff who walk in to a clean office start feeling good and ready to go. Staff who walk into their office any other way are immediately distracted, waste time complaining or making a report. Meeting Health and Safety standards keeps the staff healthy and at work, and not needing time off for illness. In other words, both employees say they can clean but one did a better job communicating they understand the big picture and how their role fits.