Search Engine Optimization (SEO) experts make a ton of money teaching people how to achieve a higher ranking in search results. It doesn’t matter if the results are from a Google search or for a jobs database for a position to which you just applied. They all promise to help you move to the top of the list. The problem with such promises is that there is only one slot at the top of any list. We all can’t be on top, but we can definitely improve in our rankings.
For example, if you search my full name in Google, “Victor M. Font Jr.,” I come up in the 1st through 4th and 7th places. If you search a partial variant of my name (i.e. “Victor Font”), I come up in the 4th and 9th positions. That’s not too bad considering most people don’t read past the first or second page of Google search results. In both examples, I am on the first page.
In this time of high unemployment and stiff competition for open positions, if my name came up in a recruiter’s search like it does on Google, I’d be pretty pleased. And I’m confident that you would be just as pleased with rankings like that in a recruiter’s candidate search, wouldn’t you? Of course you would and so would I.
Since I’ve been seeking my next role, I’ve received more spam from SEO experts promising to help me move to the top of search lists using a technique called “keyword optimization.” All of them ask for money to teach the technique or perform the task themselves to optimize your resume with the right keywords. Whatever you do, don’t buy into this service. It’s a bunch of malarkey that optimizing your resume keywords one time for a fee will consistently bring you to the top positions in a search result. In fact, it’s a pet peeve of mine that so many out there are willing to take advantage of the unemployed to line their own pockets with green. So I’m going to teach you one technique, that I use myself in this article. Best of all, you’re learning this for free!
To understand keyword optimization, it’s first important to recognize how jobs are posted and recruiters search for candidates. I’ve spent the better part of my IT career supporting Human Resources and HR systems including job posting and recruiting applications. I’ve also hired a lot of people over the years and the process is simple. As the hiring manager, I write the job descriptions and send them over to the HR talent acquisition team. A job board administrator modifies my job description to add the requisite HR, benefits and legal information and then posts the position on Dice or Monster.com. Then I wait.
The job is assigned to a talent acquisition specialist who is an expert at picking top talent to invite for interviews. But with hundreds, if not thousands of resumes competing for the eyes of this one talent acquisition specialist for this one job, how do you move yourself to or near the top of the list, especially since the recruiter is searching for resumes that match the keywords found in the job description? The answer is keyword optimization. To be effective, keyword optimization needs to be done for every job to which you apply. This means slightly changing your resume for every job to which you apply. It takes work, but it can produce results!
I know! You’ve probably spent a long time getting your resume just right so it speaks of your accomplishments, what you did and what your results were. And it took hours of wordsmithing to say exactly what you mean in your objective or professional summary so you can market yourself effectively. But do you know what? The computer you enter your details into when you apply for a position doesn’t care a hill of beans about the hard work you put into your resume. All it cares about is mapping the resume’s keywords to the job description. And when the talent acquisition specialist searches for resumes based on the job description’s keywords, if your resume matches, you get on the list. If your resume doesn’t match, you’ll probably never hear from the company again.
When you look at a job description, you can probably pick out a lot of keywords, many of which may already be on your resume. But how do you know what the right keywords are? How do you know that you’ve chosen the right keywords for your resume that match the major keywords of the job description. This is where Word or Tag Cloud analysis can help you dramatically. I’m not going to tell you what tool to use, but if you do a search in Google for “word cloud tools,” you’ll find a lot of them, many of them free.
The first thing to do is analyze the job description. In the following example, I’ve created a Word Cloud for the job description for a “Systems Administrator Level – 3” position posted on Dice.com.
Now let’s do the analysis part. Looking at the word cloud, what keywords jump out at you? The words that jump out at me are “system,” “installation,” “experience,” “administration," etc.. Why? The more important the keyword to the context of the job description, the larger its size in the word cloud. In fact, if you look closely you’ll notice the word “administration” appears in the cloud twice, once with a lower case “a” and once with an uppercase “A.” What I should have done was convert the entire job description to either upper or lower case so the word cloud tool would have analyzed each word only once. It would have produced much more accurate results.
If you were applying for this position and you were to create a word cloud of your resume, would the same keywords jump out at you? If not, they won’t match a computer search either. You won’t be on the top of the heap and may not even be called for an interview even though you may be the most eminently qualified individual to have applied for the position. Computer searches are cold hearted and never take the person into account.
Before you apply for the position, modify your resume so the keywords of the job description stand out in your resume. Wordsmith your accomplishments or summary objective. Make sure the keywords sound natural in the context in which you are using them. But whatever you do, don’t resort to a just creating a list of keywords anywhere on your resume so a computer will pick up on it. This is lazy and the talent acquisition specialists will recognize this.