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Be Found to Be Hired: The 20 Best Keywords for Your Job Search

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Having the right keywords in your social profile, particularly in LinkedIn and Google Plus, is critical to making yourself visible to recruiters and hiring managers who are often searching through them for qualified job candidates. With the right keywords in your social profile, your profile will appear in search results, and appearing in search results is the way you are found by employers and recruiters.

Without the right keywords, your profiles (and you) are invisible, regardless of how well-qualified you might be for the job you want, because your resume may never be seen by a recruiter.

So, What Are Key Words?

The words we type into the search box on a search engine are "keywords." Recruiters and employers use keywords when searching through search engines and social networks, like LinkedIn, as well as employer applicant tracking systems ("ATS") and resume databases.

What Are Keywords for Job Search?

Think of keywords as the jargon or "buzzwords" used by insiders in a profession or industry. It's how insiders describe themselves and others in their profession. These are the terms they give to the people writing job descriptions as the job requirements. The keywords most relevant to your job search are the words and phrases a recruiter would use to describe your next job (and, sometimes, your current and past jobs, too).

Developing Your Keywords

Search for the job you want next on a mega-job site like Indeed.com or your target employers' websites, and note what unique, job-specific words are used in those job descriptions, in addition to Indeed's JobTrends, next. Check the job requirements, too, to be sure that you have chosen the right job for you.

My favorite tool for determining the best keywords to use -- or to avoid -- is Indeed.com's Job Trends page. Go to Indeed.com/jobtrends, and type a couple of versions of keywords you are considering into the search box. Then, click on "Find Trends," and Indeed will show you which keyword or keyword phrase is being used most frequently today as well as the trend in the usage (up or down) since 2006.

For example, assume that you hold the Project Management Professional (PMP) certification. You can present your certification several different ways: PMP, PMP certified, certified PMP, certified Project Management Professional, etc. To determine which is used most often by employers in their job descriptions, simply type the terms, separated with commas, into the JobTrends search box. Then, Indeed will analyze millions of job descriptions to show you what the relative and absolute trends are for those terms so you can choose the best version to use in your profiles.

If possible, find a way to add the top two versions of the term, so you are found when either of those two terms are used. If you can only use one version of the term, use the one that JobTrends shows you is the most often used and/or trending upward.

Top 20 Categories of Keywords:

  1. Your professional name

    This is a relatively unique version of your name that you use consistently in your professional communications, including social profiles, publications, blogs, resumes, networking cards, and other visibility. Consistently using a professional name is particularly important when a recruiter or employer is verifying the "facts" on your resume by comparing it with your LinkedIn Profile.

  2. Your target job title

    The title for the job that you want next, preferably the version(s) used by your target employers is a very important set of keywords. When in doubt about exactly which job title to use, become a slash person - "Project Manager/Senior Project Lead" or "Senior Administrative Assistant/ Executive Assistant" as appropriate for you.

  3. Current and previous job titles

    Your current and former job titles are also important keywords. Again, focus on the standard job titles that are used now by your target employers, particularly if current (or former) employer(s) used non-standard titles, like "sales star" for a sales rep position. Substitute "sales rep/sales representative" to replace the non-standard term. Again, become a slash person when necessary.

  4. Your current or your target city, state, and Zip code

    Use city, state, and Zip code in your profiles so your profile is in the search results for any of those terms. This enables you to be found in very specific searches as well as "radius" searches around a city or a zip code.

  5. Your current or your target region's name

    Use local regional terms for a geographic area like East Bay Area or Brooklyn, as appropriate for you, for those searchers who use those terms rather than city, state, and Zip.

  6. Your skills

    Preferably the skills most in demand for the job you want next (e.g., managing a P&L, using Microsoft Word and Excel, driving an 18-wheeler, leading a project team, etc.) need to be included -- even if they are not the skills you used primarily for your most current job. Use searches on target employer websites or Indeed's JobTrends to figure out which skills are most in demand.

  7. Job-specific, profession-specific, and industry-specific tools and techniques

    Add the relevant tools and techniques that you use or are qualified to use because of training, education, and/or experience (e.g. MRI, Mastercam, Six Sigma, LEED, etc.).

  8. Software relevant to your job or profession

    Include the software required for your target job that you use or have been trained to use, particularly if it's unique to your job, industry, or profession (e.g. SAP, WP, etc.). If widely-used software like the Microsoft Office set of products are sometimes mentioned in job descriptions for the job you want, be sure to include those keywords, too. Don't assume that they are so widely used that they don't need to be mentioned.

  9. Hardware relevant to your job or profession

    Add any specific hardware that may be required for your target job if you have experience using it or have been trained to use it, particularly if it is unique to your job, industry, or profession (e.g. heart monitors, scanners, even different versions of smart phones if they are relevant to the job).

  10. Internet tools and apps relevant to your job or profession

    Include Internet tools and apps that you use or are qualified to use because of training, education, and/or experience (e.g. Facebook, LinkedIn, Hootsuite, Google Analytics, etc.).

  11. Awards and recognition

    If you've been employee of the month, salesperson of the year, or received other recognition from your employer, a customer or client, or your profession or industry, be sure to include it (or the most current or relevant recognition) in your social profiles.

  12. Relevant industry and professional organizations

    Include the industry and professional organizations or societies that you have joined (plus committee membership and current or former officer titles) particularly when you find the organization named in job descriptions.

  13. Professional and/or technical acronyms

    Usually, the more acronyms; the better, as long as they are appropriate to your experience and education. Be sure to include what the acronyms represent too, just in case someone searches on the complete term rather than only the acronym. This does not include texting shortcuts like LOL!

  14. Certifications, licenses, or other proof of professional or industry knowledge

    Include all proof of professional knowledge or achievement, particularly focusing on those that are current (not expired or out-of-date).

  15. Categories of employers

    Mention those groups of employers which are your target employers or most often need your services, like "national specialty retailers" or "general medical" for example.

  16. Applicable education

    Include job-specific education you have (degrees, majors, applicable course work, post-graduate courses, professional training, on-the-job-training, and certifications, etc.).

  17. Your publications

    If you have written any books, white papers, or articles, particularly relevant to the job, industry, or profession you are targeting, be sure to include them.

  18. Websites and media

    If you write - or have written articles - published on any well-regarded websites, publish your own blog, or have been widely quoted in various media, include the names of those websites and media.

  19. Trade shows and conferences

    If you have attended relevant trade shows or conference, particularly if you have been a speaker or presented a papers, add those names to your profiles.

  20. Other jargon

    Include any other common "insider" words, terms, and acronyms specific to the profession and/or industry that describe your work, typical products and/or services involved, and the people who do your job.

Regardless of which social profile you are using, to be effective for your job search, all of the profiles that support your job search need to be "find-able" when an employer or recruiter types their search terms into a search engine or social network search box.

Note: Include the words that are appropriate for you and your target job, but don't be inaccurate or deceptive. "Marketing mode" is fine. Scam/exaggeration mode is a very poor strategy. Friends and colleagues will spot the exaggerations on your social profiles, particularly LinkedIn.com, and lose confidence in you.

Follow me on Google Plus for more job search tips!

Susan P. Joyce is president of NETability, Inc. and the editor and chief technology writer for Job-Hunt.org and WorkCoachCafe.com. This piece first appeared on Job-Hunt.org.