Use Keywords With Care or Beware

Accessibility Cloud by Itjil on Flickr

Accessibility Cloud by Itjil on Flickr

Annemarie Walter, President of My Career Transitions, a local job search support group and valued LinkedIn connection, sent to me a LinkedIn post regarding 42 IT keywords to share with TPNG, the Technical Professional Networking Group, which I co-chair.

 

Before I passed it along, however, there were three important disclaimers about the author’s advice that I wanted to make sure were passed along with it based on my experience as an IT recruiter and my specialized experience in IT résumés and career management. I want to cover them all in detail, but want each to be equally important, so this is part 1 of 3 regarding this post. I thank the author, Greg Lachs, for his list, as I find it to be a very good resource for IT professionals who have been struggling trying to find suitable job opportunities by searching for a title online.

 

Part 1 – I want to make sure that no job seeker takes these keywords and “dumps” them into a résumé or LinkedIn profile in hopes of being found and qualified.

 

Part 2 – How to refer to yourself in your LinkedIn headline and your résumé headline when your title has many variations.

 

Part 3 – Keyword searching for opportunities should occupy less than 10% of the time allocated to your job search. So, what are you doing with 90% of your time?

 

(Follow me now so you know when Parts 2 and 3 come out – share this with an IT job seeker you know.)

 

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It is true that the keywords in this list are probably the same keywords that recruiters are using to identify and search for talent. However, since job boards became popular resources around the turn of the millennium, many tactics have been employed by job seekers to rise to the top of search results, including dumping keywords. Eventually, these tactics backfire.

 

For clarity, dumping means including long list of arbitrary skill sets with out putting them in the context of your actual experience and achievements. When I was an IT recruiter, there were even some sly job seekers who would include lists of keywords in white text so that they were not visible on the copy, but would be stored in a database. Upon searching the actual document for the keywords, however, if the only place I found a keyword was in a list, I considered that candidate under-qualified and moved on, and if it was hidden in this manner, I also deemed them sneaky and blacklisted them – YES, recruiters blacklist candidates. More on that in another post.

 

I could easily distinguish a professionally prepared résumé from an amateur resume. However, what frustrated me about many of the professionally written résumés was the focus on functional details or vague achievements that did not explain the scope of a project or job and lacked context around technical skills.

 

In order to present a candidate competitively against other candidates, I had to be able to substantiate the depth of the candidate’s experience with the technical requirements of the job. There were several ways to do this, including a table or skill summary, but the best way to do this was to include within the professional experience demonstrative details of how that candidate applied technologies to complete a project or perform their job. I often had to procure these details through a phone screen and then coax the client into including them within their résumé. This was challenging for most of them, so if they were presentable enough, I would take it on myself. I happened to enjoy it and was very good at it, hence was born my career as an IT résumé writer.

 

Here is my “secret recipe” for gathering all of the anecdotal evidence necessary to fully substantiate the value of technical skills, as well as soft skills.

 

> Situation – the conditions that existed that necessitated a change or some kind of action

> Challenge(s) – what made this an impressive feat

> People impacted and the impact – who was experiencing the conditions AND who was engaged to address it

> Decision made – and who made it

> Actions taken – and by whom (“we” is not specific enough.)

> Skills, talents applied – “hard” and “soft” skills

> Tools used – technical tools, as well as approaches and methodologies

> Results – what outcomes did the actions produce in as many measurable terms as possible. Think about the PROOF that the action was taken or that it was successful

> Impact – how that trickled down to other people

 

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How to put these details into succinct two-line bullets, well, that’s the REAL challenge. I find that techniques I’ve learned through nearly a decade of experience are much harder to teach, even to those with innate writing talents and highly developed writing skills. If you have an interest in learning, I’d be happy to evaluate adding you to my team, though most people writing this post would probably prefer letting someone else do it, because in the time it would take you to master it, you could have been earning a great salary doing what you are really good at.

 

Here is a hint, though: Start with an action verb conjugated in 1st person and refer first to the the result or impact in measurable terms

 

Stay tuned for Part 2: How to refer to yourself in your LinkedIn headline and your resume headline when your title has many variations.

 

Social tagging: > > > > > > > > > > > > > >

0 comments on “Use Keywords With Care or Beware

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