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RESUME SCREENING: The Key to Including Winning Key Words

Written by Judith Hart, Employment Specialist with Next-Steps Employment Centre – Mississauga Meadowvale

Why should I optimize my Resume?

Whether your resume is first met by a human reviewer, or an electronic scanner, it is important to include key words so that it goes into the ‘YES’ pile.

If your resume encounters a scanner, or Applicant Tracking System, you need make sure it features at least 10-15 key words from the job posting in order to be forwarded to a human reviewer. When your resume is under review by a human reviewer, you want to impress them quickly: within the first 6-20 seconds – the general time devoted to resume sorting.

Next, applicants are sorted according to relevance and a ranking will be established. There is only one thing that is more powerful than optimizing your resume: via networking and private referral! More info and workshops available at Next-Steps Employment Centres.

You can learn and master the optimization task by signing up for Jobscan services that evaluate each and every resume. This feature is also available for your LinkedIn account!

Another tip that works is comparing 10-15 similar job postings and highlighting all skills needed in each posting. This practice will help you spot similar soft & hard skills that employers want, help you notice patterns, and allow you to compare your capabilities, and gauge your chances.

What are the best and worst key words recruiters look for in the resumes?

Employers are keen to see results. Therefore, it is helpful to rethink your statements and turn them into ‘accomplishment based statements’ to reflect actual data on your past accomplishments.

Align your key words with the job description. Fancy, generic words like ‘team-player’, ‘go-getter’ or ‘out of box thinker’ are not as powerful as providing examples of when your skills were used.  For example: “I improved sales targets by 20% within the first 8 months thus exceeding target benchmarks….” If you don’t have the data and can’t get it from former colleagues or managers, then try to describe it with terms such as: ‘greatly reduced losses’ or ‘significantly improved work conditions by redesigning work processes…’ etc.

Best Key Words: achieved, improved, trained/mentored, managed, resolved, created, influenced, increased/decreased, negotiated, ideas, launched, revenue/profits, won, under-budget.
Worst Key Words: go-getter, go-to-person, thought leadership, value add, results-driven, bottom-line, hard worker, track record, detail oriented, dynamic, self-motivated, strategic thinker.

For more information, job search assistance, workshops, resources, hiring events, and much more, visit


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