Are You Innovative? Think Twice About That Keyword

I live in a world dripping with keywords and phrases.

Actually, we all do. Think the billboard you drive by every morning isn’t precisely written? That Google search you just performed isn’t engineered within an inch of its life?

Everyone knows that advertising and marketing has been turned on its ear in little more than a decade.

Bye bye subscription rates, content is king.

Findability and click-through rates (CTR) long ago hijacked the quest for eyeballs.

The same has become true for résumés, particularly résumés that are first taken for a spin through a company’s applicant tracking system (ATS) before ever being seen by a human being.

Without the right mix of keywords, the résumé may never be seen by anyone.

And don’t forget LinkedIn. Without carefully chosen keywords and phrases, you risk being missed in a sea of 150 million users.

But in my practice, I regularly see confusion around keywords.

For example, I regularly ask my clients for the top 8-12 keywords and phrases they think we should build copy around. We use job descriptions to help make the decision, and we revisit the notion throughout the engagement. Clarity comes with revision after revision.

Oddly, no matter the client’s background — no matter his or her skill or seniority — they inevitably come back with first-round words like this:

  • innovative
  • leader
  • experienced
  • seasoned

(The funny thing about using the word “innovative” is that its use is anything but … but that’s a topic for another blog post!)

Any recruiter or résumé writer who’s been in the business very long knows that these are overused words.

Just look at résumé samples from ten years ago for proof. This isn’t the first time to the party for any of the words on that list.

No, what we need to carefully write and build copy around is the set of keywords and phrases that others will literally type into LinkedIn’s search bar. Or the keywords programmed into an employer’s applicant tracking system (ATs) to find the closest matching résumés.

Words and phrases that tell who you are:

  • product developer
  • information technology executive
  • failure analysis scientist
  • chief operating officer
  • project manager

Words and phrases that plainly tell your skill set:

  • product development
  • enterprise software sales
  • global aerospace business development
  • regional account management
  • medical device sales

These are but a few.

Words like “innovative” and “leader” are often cited in job description jargon, but they don’t increase your searchability. Also, while job descriptions mention them, recruiters see them so much they become tiresome. (Writing better job descriptions is another blog post. Heck it’s a book! But let me stay on topic.)

The other thing about words like “innovative” and “leader” are that they are highly focused on you, the candidate, rather than on what you bring to the company.

Focus your energy on clarifying and defining who you are as a professional. What do you tell someone when you first meet? (Because who we are is so often tied to our professions, right?)

I can’t imagine a time when I might say, “Hi, I’m Jared, I’m innovative.” Haha!

Nope, I say, “Hi, I’m Jared. I’m an executive résumé writer.”

Who are you? What are your skills?

What are the 8-12 keywords that define you? This is what needs to go into the list of 8-12 keywords you and your writer should build around. (If you write down “leader,” I will come through your screen and haunt you.)

Until next time!

Jared Redick
Visit: The Resume
Follow: @TheResumeStudio
Call: 415-397-6640

Postscript: Still wondering what to do with the words “innovation,” “leader,” and the like? Don’t say it, show it. Recount accomplishments that point to innovation and leadership, and all will be right in the world.

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