Keywords and Audience: Conveying Your Strengths without Sacrificing Clarity
By Dan Franklin Senior Writer
Each profession speaks a language of its own, and job seekers undoubtedly must show fluency with that language to potential employers. I am sometimes amused at the preponderance of war imagery as I review resumes, though ("strategy," "initiative," "strategic initiatives"). I also cringe at the tendency to transmute verbs to nouns, and vice versa ("career pathing," "teamerize." Okay, I made that one up). Sometimes I find it difficult to understand what an individual does at all. As I've seen a lot of resumes, I must assume that others (Human Resource Managers, Executives -- the people who will decide whether to hire you or not) will find it just as difficult.
We're all familiar with the acronym which instructs us to "Keep It Simple," then admonishes us as unwise with one more word for not doing so previously. As resumes become more extensive and indispensable, though, job seekers become increasingly anxious regarding what they say and how they say it. You may have heard that key words are often searched for in resumes, and that the greater frequency of them determines a job seeker's likelihood of being contacted. I have encountered significant confusion, though, among job seekers regarding what those key words are and what they aren't. One individual passed on to me that he'd heard key words change about four times a year!
If I were to use a search engine, I would enter terms that would give me the most effective results. Employers, likewise, might use "project management" or "budget preparation" to find candidates experienced in
these areas. So again, it is the terms relevant to a particular industry. It isn't some nebulous, ever-changing set of power words to which only the select few have access. The effect of viewing it as such can seem to readers as a data dump, which can get in the way of your primary goal. A resume is well written if it clearly shows the scope of what you have done and how you have excelled in doing those things. It should also work like
a newspaper article--showing a reader almost immediately the big picture, and then filling in the details throughout the document.
In short, good writing is good writing. Think of it like a college paper: you make your main point and you support it with evidence. It is true that there are certain "buzz words"; which refer to cutting-edge practices within a particular field. Those should be included. As to jargon, though, you must consider the entirety of your audience. If it would take
only someone who does exactly what you do to understand your resume, then
it is too specific. Your resume writer's task is, in large part at least, to
unpack your experience and present it as completely and persuasively for
the broad readership who might encounter it. In a collaborative relationship, hiring a resume writer can give you the benefit of experience, objectivity and the confidence you need for the job search.
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