Blog, Resumes

Long before many people reading this were actively seeking work, the process of applying was much simpler. One résumé and a cover letter were enough to land you where you wanted to be — or at least get you through the door. The digital age requires a lot more from job seekers.

One of the keys to getting your application even noticed by an employer is to master the use of keywords in your résumé and cover letter. Thanks to Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS), job candidates are often screened through software before a human being gets involved.

Keywords are phrases or terms related to the position that any human resources officer would likely look for. Without certain keywords in your job application, you might be screened out early.

Types of Keywords

The first set of keywords that should always be included is a list of required skills, experience, and previous employers they are looking for. Some of these may come to you naturally.

Candidates for a marketing position should always include words like “marketing,” “brand management,” and “public relations.” A customer service position should include “customer service” and “computer skills.”

How to Find Keywords

Finding the right keywords may take some guesswork, though there are easy signals and light research that can guide you. Your first option is to review the job posting as well as similar postings to find repeated phrases and incorporate them into your application.

The company’s website may also be useful in finding the right keywords. Particularly in your cover letter, using words to describe yourself that match those on the company profile may sound too on the nose, but AI favours preciseness over ambiguity.

Your final guide in the search for the correct keywords is Google. The internet is overloaded with helpful lists of ATS keywords. It should be stressed, however, that the first two methods should be attempted first. Companies are unique, and the words they look for may not always be what you expect.

How to Use Them

Be Exact: Always be precise with your keywords to ensure that they are as closely tied to the specific position as possible. Being focused in your language not only makes the writing punchier but also improves your chances of being seen as a good match.

Use as Many as Possible: Once you have figured out what keywords would be appropriate, be sure to use them all at some point. Some keywords may not apply to your level of experience or skill, so you obviously can’t include them.

Mix It Up: It’s always wise to deploy different kinds of keywords in your résumé. Your skills should always be there, but you can differentiate between soft and hard skills required for the position. Look for multiple versions of different terms in postings and on a company’s website. If they used “real estate agent” and “real estate broker” on both, you should too.

The more keywords for the position, the more likely you’ll land an interview.  

Kenny Hedges | Contributing Writer


Blog, Resumes

It can be exceptionally hard for some people to talk about themselves during a job interview. Conversely, being a braggart doesn’t exactly do you any favours either — after all, you’re walking a fine line between modesty and underselling. 

When the potential employer inevitably asks you to talk about your greatest strengths and assets, though, you can’t exactly sit there and stare blankly. A little bragging is almost required, but it matters most what you brag about. 

Here are the best ways to talk yourself up during a job interview. 

Know What They’re Looking For

If you’re being interviewed, chances are you’re not the first or last of the day. There’s a reason the questions are so uniform: they help the interviewer cross off certain mental checklists. 

As such, there are some keywords you might want to include. Often, the job posting includes what you need — words like creativity, trustworthiness, discipline, patience, and dedication.

People, however, are not search engines. You may benefit from not actually saying the words but demonstrating them. 

Show, Don’t Tell

The principles of storytelling apply just as well to job interviews as they do screenplays and novels. This can be a little complicated for those who aren’t natural-born storytellers, but it helps to think in those terms. If your life was a movie or book, what character arc would you use to explain your goals?

This can help you avoid using keywords that make you sound a little too practiced. Instead of saying you’re dedicated, try telling an anecdote that exemplifies your dedication. 

Remember that it’s important how you brag about your work. The stories you tell at a job interview should always have a purpose. In this case, it helps not to bury the lede. An example may be:

”I’d say one of my greatest strengths is bringing order to hectic environments. At my last job, I [anecdote about leadership].”

Keep It Brief

Just as important as what you brag about is how long you think a potential employer is willing to listen to you drone on about yourself. Have some consideration for the interviewer — they likely have a lot of meetings to get through. 

Particularly when it comes to any questions related to personal past accomplishments or pride, you want to limit yourself to no more than 90 seconds. Any longer and you may notice the interviewer make notes in their margins you would probably not want to read. 

Be Memorable

Making an impression while keeping things short sounds like a contradiction, but there’s a fine art to such answers. Fortunately, being memorable doesn’t require you to tell any jokes, though many try anyway. 

Typically, joking is not recommended. Even if you have a previous relationship with the interviewer, it could go wrong in many ways.

A better way to be memorable is to focus on a skill or asset that’s rarely covered in job interviews, something genuinely unique about you that they may have never heard before. 

Kenny Hedges | Contributing Writer