Submitted by: Robert Benway, EdD; MBA, CCC Volunteer Career Coach and Assistant Professor at National Lewis University

I had long heard that the average hiring director spends between 45 to 90 seconds reading an applicant’s resume before making a decision to interview or not interview, but didn’t believe it.  And then I had an experience that made me a believer, which I share with you below.

Years ago, while employed as the chief operating officer of a small healthcare organization, I was insanely busy with back-to-back meetings and appointments.  One day, after an appointment ended and another one was about to begin, I dashed to the restroom, but got stopped by the HR Director.  She shoved a resume in my face and said, “I need to find out now if you want to interview this person.”  I speed read the resume, said yes, and headed off to the restroom.  Later in the day, I asked myself how on earth I made the decision to interview the person in 45 seconds.  Then it hit me.  Several weeks earlier I preloaded my mind with images of the ideal candidate for the position, and translated those images into key words.  When I was confronted with the resume that day, I used my mind like a computer, searching for a match between those key words and the resume text.  Finding the match within 45 seconds, I said yes to the interview.

I share this story because it highlights the importance of using key words when writing your resume.  The first section of your resume should be a summary of your skills.  If it contains the key words you find in the job advertisement, and the job description if it’s available, you immediately put yourself in a good position to pass the first screening of applicants.  In fact, if you plaster your entire resume with key words that match your skill sets and experiences to the advertisements and job descriptions, you’ll strengthen your chances of moving to the next step, the interview.

But there’s more to your favor by using this approach.  When you include key words and phrases in your resume, they convey knowledge and experiences you’ve accumulated in your career.  The natural inclination of interviewers is then to ask you questions about that knowledge and those experiences, which gives you “home court advantage” because nobody is more familiar with those things than you.  That begins to put you in a sellers’ market position instead of a buyers’ market position.  Being in a sellers’ market position gives you the psychological edge of selling your expertise to the highest bidder.  But when you think of yourself as a buyer of a job, you’ve lost that psychological edge and seek to buy the position at the lowest possible price-your salary and benefits. 

There is one catch to this approach.  You have to be familiar with the occupations that you are targeting in order to identify key words and compare them to the job advertisements and job descriptions.  But even if you are in career transition into a new occupation, you can still develop an edge.  You’ll have to do your homework, by reading everything you can about the occupation and using your network to find out more about the occupation and how you penetrate opportunities.  And since your network will educate you on the intricacies of the occupation, you can also obtain additional advice and hopefully job leads.

All of these ideas are discussed in the Community Career Center Modules, which you really need to obtain and read carefully.  They’ll move you closer to landing your next career opportunity.  

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