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Tips to Strengthen Your Resume

Utilize Keywords

Keywords are nouns, phrases, industry “buzz words,” or acronyms used within a particular field, job description, or list of employer requirements. The keywords in a resume give important information about the job seeker. Things like: technical expertise, management skills, industry know-how, education and training, home location, and/or work history. Employers use resume screening software to identify skilled and qualified candidates. If your resume includes job-specific keywords it is more likely to be selected.

What Are the Right Keywords?

No set list of keywords works for all jobs. The list varies from one job opening to the next, depending on the job requirements. Job postings are great for identifying important keywords and will tell you exactly what employers want. You can even print out a posting, highlight keywords, and use it as a checklist of keywords for your resume.

Placement of Keywords in your Resume

Incorporate keywords into the statements/descriptions in your resume. For example, you could talk about your management skills in one of your summary statements (“skilled at project management, conflict resolution, and internal communications”). Also, look for ways to make lists of your keywords under logical headings. For example, you could put all of your computer applications under a “Computer Skills” heading.

Resume Keyword List by Functional Area

Integrate the “right” keywords so your resume will get selected during a keyword search. It’s important to note that although there are some common keywords for all of these professions, there are also specific keywords depending on the area of specialization. Be certain to include the right keywords for your career. Click here to view just a few general keywords and keyword phrases that you may want to include (if appropriate to your experience and education).

POWER VERBS: Strengthen Your Resume

When writing your resume, use power verbs to begin each of your bulleted statements. Use present tense verbs for current positions and past tense verbs for previous positions.  For a list of categorized power verbs, click here.

Use Accomplishment Statements

Accomplishment statements help to create a more powerful resume. They highlight achievements, quantify results, and show impact. Each of the job, internship, or student club/involvement descriptions on your resume should include at least one impactful accomplishment statement. For example, the accomplishment statement could be:

  • Financial: help the organization to save money or increase profit, reduce expenses/inventory, loss/employee turnover.
  • Enhancements to the workplace: increase productivity, efficiency, profitability, safety, employee morale, or client satisfaction.  

Think about the following when writing accomplishment statements: What skill am I trying to illustrate? What were my results? What did I achieve? What impact did this have? How did the employer benefit? Can I quantify for additional impact? What was the purpose of my task? The key elements of an effective accomplishment statement are actions and results:

  • Actions: Describe the specific actions you took to achieve an objective or solve a problem using power verbs. Focus on transferable skills and technical skills that directly relate to your intended field. Include keywords from the industry.
  • Results: Describe the results of your efforts. Quantify whenever possible, using percentages, dollars, or volume. Accomplishment statements may begin with the action or the result. However, leading off with the result has a greater impact. Consider the examples below:     
    • GOOD: Provided customer support and conducted product demonstrations for clients.     
    • BETTER: Conducted 10 customer support and product demonstration programs for 20 client organizations.     
    • BEST: Reduced customer complaints by 20% in a six-month period by conducting 10 customer support and product demonstration programs for 20 client organizations.

P.A.R. Approach

Use the P.A.R. Approach to highlight keywords, accomplishment statements, transferable skills, and to quantify your achievements:

  • P—Problem/Situation: What is a situation, issue, or problem that you or the organization faced? How did the situation develop? For example: assisted in troubleshooting customer service problems in a high profile department store to address a 30% decrease in business and 50% increase in unresolved customer complaints.
  • A—Action: What did you or your team do? What actions did you take? How did you do it? Use power verbs to describe your actions. For example: Analyzed the entire customer service process and identified all service deficiencies; OR—Created, designed, and implemented an efficient customer tracking and information system for over 1,000 client accounts using Microsoft Excel.
  • R—Result/Benefit: What was the positive result/benefit of your action for the organization? Quantify, if possible, and describe any benefits. For example, increased business by 20% in a six-month period via targeted digital marketing campaign on Instagram and Facebook. Reduced customer service inquiries by 35% and only 10% of the inquiries were outstanding after 60 days.

If you are unable to quantify using specific statistics, consider detailing the purpose of your work and how it is used to assist the organization or other individuals. For example: Conducted 15 psychosocial intake assessments per day to evaluate mental health status, ensure patient safety, and provide an accurate referral to therapeutic resources.