Key Word Searches For Resumes

“I’m perfect for the position. So why didn’t you call me?” Have you ever thought or said something similar to this?

The answer to that question in my experience is that candidates rarely demonstrate in the resume they are the perfect fit. Most important word is, “demonstrate.”

So I decided to test this theory.

I circulated a search that I was working on for a VP Contract Manufacturing and Supply Chain. The total ad was about 6 sentences. In the ad, contract manufacturing appeared 7 times and supply chain appeared 6 times.

Just curious, what KEY WORDS do you think I’m looking for on your resume?

Only 2 of 188 resumes received made it a point to ensure these words would stand out on the resume. The 2 had accomplishments using these words, they had them in the heading, the words appeared in multiple positions and they also were in the cover letters/emails. The words were not highlighted in yellow or bold. They just appeared frequently on the resume.

Most of the other 186 simply sent me a generic, one size fits all resume. Some mentioned in the cover letter/email that they had this experience, but many didn’t even do that. Yet their email stated, “I think you will find my background a good fit for this position.” REALLY?

So who do you think got the call from the recruiter?

Another way to look at it is 186 candidates are wondering, ‘Why didn’t I get called for the position, I’m a perfect fit. Those recruiters never call me.”

There are three mistakes these 186 candidates made.

  1. Humans look for key words just like search engines. People reviewing resumes are looking for certain words to stand out on the resume. It is the only way to screen the volume of resumes. In this case, it couldn’t have been clearer what key words I would be searching for.
  2. One size fits all resumes don’t work in this market. Companies are looking for specific and very targeted candidates. It is the candidate’s responsibility, NOT THE READER OF THE RESUME, to ensure the right information is communicated.
  3. Cover letters/emails are not a substitute for the resume. Just because you state it on the cover letter/email doesn’t mean you can leave it off the resume. In fact, just the opposite is true. If you claim in your cover letter/email to have the right experiences, then the reader is going to expect to see it on the resume. Hopefully, under multiple positions.

Your resume is your marketing document. Like all marketing documents, it must get to the motivations of the reader. If it doesn’t motivate the reader then they will move on. The 186 did not get to the motivations of the reader.

You can download a free audio on, “Why Traditional Resumes are Worthless” from our website. CLICK HERE. It will point out some of the frustration recruiters and hiring managers encounter when reviewing resumes, but that isn’t the reason to listen to this. The real reason is that it will also help make sure YOUR resume stands out. THAT IS THE REAL BENEFIT.


About the Author

Brad Remillard is a founding Partner of IMPACT Hiring Solutions, co-author of "You're NOT the Person I Hired", and "This is NOT the Position I Accepted". Brad is an award-winning international speaker, retained executive recruiter, and expert on hiring and retaining top talent, and executive job search.

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