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Posted by on Mar 19, 2013

Resume Myths Series #4: Resume Keywords

Resume Myths Series #4: Resume Keywords

For the latest edition of our series on resume myths, we’ll be talking about keywords. There are two common myths regarding the approach a candidate should take with keywords in a resume.

You Don’t Need Keywords in a Resume

The first view is that you really don’t need keywords in a resume. This view is less common than the next one we’ll discuss, but is prevalent among many technical candidates. Since I work with technical candidates on a daily basis, this topic comes up often. The core issue here is one of value. Candidates that scoff at putting keywords into the resume tend to be the same ones that don’t esteem or value the contributions that HR makes to the recruiting and hiring process. Techies often possess an anti-authoritarian streak, and in their mind, there’s nothing more authoritarian at work than corporate HR. So they don’t want to include keywords in the resume out of principle. They want to be judged by the quality of their work, not their ability to trick a non-techie by flinging about some corporate jargon.

Fair enough. I get it. The problem is, many companies use automated systems (ATS) today that mine resumes for relevant keywords. If you go out of your way to avoid these terms, your resume won’t come up as a “match” in the system and will never get into the hands of the decision maker.

Load the Resume with Keywords

The opposite end of the spectrum is problematic too. I have seen resumes that are loaded with keywords everywhere. What I mean is that the resume has large blocks of text devoted to keywords. In fact, I’ve seen resumes that have the headers and footers filled with keywords in white font so that you can’t actually see them when you view or print the resume. But they’re there, and the candidate assumes that the ATS will “read” them and rank them better as a result.

Again, this is a fallacy. First of all, most automated systems strip out all headers and footers anyway, so loading keywords there won’t be helpful. Second, if the document makes it past the ATS, it will eventually be read by a human. Huge blocks of keywords is really unappealing because, out of context, they mean nothing.

What’s the Solution?

The trick is in finding the proper balance. Keywords are important to help you get through the ATS and HR reviews. However, for them to have any real impact, they have to be placed in the resume in context. Just because I list “server virtualization” 50 times in the resume, it doesn’t make me an expert at it. So be conscious of the keywords you use…and keep it real!

How do you incorporate key words?

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About Stephen Van Vreede

Transform your career trajectory and focus your brand with Stephen, the Solutions Architect at Combining multiple resume writing and social media branding/marketing certifications with an MBA and corporate operations leadership experience, Stephen works with technical and IT executives and professionals to position them authentically for a successful search in today's job market. Contact him today at

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