Best keywords for resumes cover letters and interviews

It should satisfy the hiring team's questions about whether you're qualified and leave them interested to learn more about you. Your resume, also called a curriculum vitae or CV, is a more formal summary of you as a candidate, typically written with bullet points and fragments.

The purpose of a resume is to highlight your most applicable and impressive experiences that are relevant to the open position. It is not a complete history of every job and responsibility you've ever had. The number one thing to know is that the hiring committee reads your cover letter and resume more than once and in different ways. The first time, they skim it looking for keywords.

11 Tips for Better Resumes and Cover Letters

Skimming can be done by a human being or an automated system. Applicant tracking systems can scan your resume looking for keywords to determine whether you meet the requirements for the position. If you don't, you could be rejected on the spot. In other words, not only must you have the qualifications, but your cover letter and resume have to also show them in a way that a computer can read or a person will pick up when skimming.

The second time a hiring manager or committee reads your materials, they might pay attention to what you've written and how you've phrased it.

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Spelling, grammar, punctuation, consistency, and the degree of formality count. The right level of formality depends on the industry and company culture. Or, they might still be skimming, depending on how busy they are. So, plan for people to read closely in case they do, but set yourself up for success if they skim.

Use clear headings, succinct bullet points, and short declarative statements.

2 Things Recruiters HATE To Read On Cover Letters

You're not writing a novel. You're creating documents that qualify you for an interview. These tips will increase your chances that someone sees your resume and cover letter and that you get an interview.

Make Resume Keywords Work for You

If any advice about resumes and cover letters violates the customs of your industry, throw it away. For example, you'll hear that it's perfectly acceptable to change the job titles you've held if changing them makes them more accurate and understandable. However, that is not at all the case for people who work for the US federal government or the military. They have precise job titles and rankings that they cannot alter. If you're unsure, ask a mentor or experienced people in your industry.

Key Points

A resume is one page. A cover letter is a few short paragraphs. Three paragraphs, or around words, is ideal. Four paragraphs might work, but remember that your reader is busy! They want to know do you qualify for an interview or not. Tell them that, and show them how. Get to the point. The next tip has some explicit guidance on how to do it. Given the rule of thumb that you have one page for a resume and three paragraphs for a cover letter, every word must count.

Here's a huge secret about job applications: They come with a cheat sheet. The cheat sheet is the job description. It gives you all the keywords you need. Comb through the job description and look for required skills and attributes of the ideal candidate. Put these words in bold.

Top 7 Tips for Writing a Kick-Ass Cover Letter

Identify all the bolded words that truly apply to you and your experiences no fudging the truth here. Highlight them. Write a few short, declarative, and accurate statements that use those keywords to describe your qualities, talents, and past work. For example, "I have a bachelor of arts in computer science. These statements become the foundation of your cover letter. From there, write a concise introduction and conclusion they might also use some of your sentences from step four , and smooth out the transitions between the statements.

If you ever struggle to write a transition, just start a new paragraph. Keep the cover letter short, about words. Get to the point, hit the key ideas, show that you qualify, and conclude quickly. Don't worry about writing anything unique in your conclusion. Use something standard: "I appreciate your time and hope we can discuss the opportunity more in an interview. For the resume, focus again on including the words you highlighted.

Use them throughout your resume. If the job description repeats certain words, make sure they also appear more than once in your materials.

See a Problem?

Cover letters and resumes qualify you for an interview, but dozens of other candidates might also qualify. What can you do to separate your application from others? Showing passion for the company, industry, or position certainly helps, and you can do it in the cover letter. How do you squeeze that in when you're already maximizing every word to prove that you're an eligible candidate? Your opening line may be the single best place to express passion. In one sentence, can you say something about yourself and why you want the job? Be careful, as there's a fine line between passion and fandom, and a fan doesn't necessarily make a great employee.

It's also really hard to not sound hokey. Another option is to put a section on your resume that shows an independent pursuit of something related to the job, such as recreational classes or personal projects. Whether an automated system or a human being scans your resume, the language pops when it's clear and universally understood.

It's okay to take a job title that's unclear such as "lead marketing coordinator" and turn it into one that's more universally understood like "marketing manager". Resume writing can feel repetitive, especially in the verbs you use for bullet points.

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Change them up when it makes sense, but don't worry too much about repeating verbs. The substance is more important. You are a whole person with many talents and experiences.

The hiring team doesn't need to know about them all when they review your resume and cover letter, however. They only want to know about the ones that show you're qualified for the job. Let's say you had a job where you were the writer, editor, and producer of content. Now, you're applying for jobs as an editor. On your resume, the bullet points about your previous job should emphasize the editing portion of that job. Yes, you did write and produce content, but that's not what's most relevant.

About the Author

Error rating book. Refresh and try again. Open Preview See a Problem? Details if other :. Thanks for telling us about the problem. Return to Book Page. Words are the currency of a successful job search. And keywords are the basis for developing a powerful job search centring on articulating skills and accomplishments on resumes and cover letters and in interviews. Here is the first book to identify hundreds of keywords job seekers should incorporate at critical stages in their job search. Organised as a dictionary with ex Words are the currency of a successful job search. Organised as a dictionary with examples of sentences, CVs, letters, and dialogues using each keyword, this unique book includes over 1, of the most important keywords that should appear on today's CVs and cover letters as well as extended into the critical job interview.

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