Today’s candidate wrote me asking if I could help him identify more key words to put in his resume. Kendell was concerned that his resume did not contain the right key words and that’s why he was not getting invited to interviews. He shared a few postings representative of his target job. Honestly, he had his key words covered. That was not his biggest issue. The key words that he integrated were great. The issue was that Kendell was not backing up his key words with examples of accomplishments.
Key words are important if an employer is using an ATS (Applicant Tracking Software) system to scan resumes and identify potential candidates based on key words. Key words should be integrated organically. (No, I don’t mean without pesticides.) The words should appear naturally as you describe the scope of your responsibilities and as you highlight your chief accomplishments. It also helps to showcase your top areas of expertise in an “Areas of Expertise” or “Core Competencies” section.
Kendell could take his resume from bush league to the majors by backing up his key words with concrete examples of accomplishments. Here are a couple of examples straight from Kendell’s resume:
- Before: “Responsible for application support for a large number of applications. Accountable for 40 team members.”
- After: “Led team of 40 to provide 24/7 chat, telephone, and email support to 268 employees. Trained team to support 18 software applications, ranging from MS Word to highly-complex engineering computational applications.”
- Before: “Responsible for major application upgrade.”
- After: “Planned and directed $1.4 million project to upgrade all engineering field offices to Xenix 6.0. Delivered project on-time and $126,150 under budget, completing with zero downtime to field staff.”
You’ll notice that the numbers are impactful and the numbers bring gravitas to the candidate. This is a serious candidate who has proven his value through examples of past success.
The other issue with Kendell’s resume is the opening summary. He speaks in very general terms and uses a lot of fluffy language. I recommended that he eliminate the fluff and give some specific examples of the value he offers. As someone who has read thousands of resumes over the years, there are many days that I say, “If I see the phrases ‘self-motivated’ and ‘results-driven’ one more time, I will scream!” These overused, vague cliches are a turn-off for many readers.
Kendell is a bright and accomplishment project manager. As Kendell and I continue to work together, he will have a resume that will earn him many interviews. If you are struggling with your resume, contact me. Whether you are looking for a complimentary critique or seeking to hire a professional resume writer, I am happy to help.