The following material has been excerpted from Electronic Resume
Revolution by Joyce Lain Kennedy and Thomas J. Morrow, Copyright
(c) 1994, Joyce Lain Kennedy & Thomas J. Morrow. This material has been
provided in cooperation with John Wiley & Sons, Inc. and is intended for
your personal use only; it may NOT be otherwise copied or distributed
without specific written permission from the publisher.

Chapter 3

Key Concepts for Keywords

How You Can Use Labels
to Manage the Perils
of High-Speed Searching

This chapter helps develop your keyword skills. The concept is unfamiliar to most people, but it is becoming critical to a successful job search.

As you saw in the previous chapter, employers are choreographing the recruitment process with scanning and recognition technology.

The most qualified candidates come center-screen on hiring companies' computers. Second-tier candidates land in the understudy ranks, ready in case the stars conk out. The candidates who are near-misses never make it to the screen at all.

The scanning/OCR technology described in the preceding chapter is used in both resume databases of corporate internal applicant tracking systems, and in independent resume databases to which employers turn.

Your challenge is to avoid being passed over--to find a way to coax your name out of the computer vaults of the trackers.

You can minimize the risk of being passed over, but it will take a dose of rethinking how you present yourself on a resume. You've got some unlearning to do.

From your student days, can you recall a stream of teachers warning you of the insensitivity you display when you label people?

  • Don't put labels on people. The wrong label grinds a person down, lowering that person's self-esteem. Labeling is judging a person before you get to know that person. Just because a person is short... fat... tall... thin, it doesn't mean...
  • Your kindergarten teacher told you labeling isn't a nice thing to do. Your elementary grade teachers insisted you can't tell a book by its cover. Your high school social science teachers warned that earmarking people is politically incorrect.

    Because your teachers along your entire education ladder added their condemnation of the human tendency to put tags on people, by twelfth grade you had gotten the message that labeling is unacceptable in polite society.

  • Labeling prejudges. It encourages bigotry. It creates stereotypes. It is unfair. It wreaks havoc in the civilized world.
  • If these messages took root, you probably haven't consciously thought much about labeling since then. Avoiding thoughtless classification of other people is still a good idea, but the time has come to revise your attitudes about labeling yourself. As a job seeker, the time has come to shift gears and think of yourself in terms of labels.

    In a contemporary job search, you must think about labels each time you write a resume or tailor your core resume for a specific position.

    What's the reason for chucking remnants of what you learned in school about labeling? The technology responsible for computer-readable resumes operates on the principle of labeling. At the center of the technology are keywords. Call them buzzwords. Call them descriptors. Call them skills words, or job words. Call them whatever you like--labeling is labeling.

    Keywords Mark The Search Trail

    When an employer sends a job requisition through an applicant tracking system, the light at the end of the electronic pathway falls on well-defined labels of the women and men most suitable for the position.

    Let's take as an example a recent job order for an account executive in directory publishing. By analyzing the job order, we see the labels the employer requires:

    All these requirements are labels that mark the electronic trail followed by recruiters.

    Supplied with these keywords, a computer races along across the hills and individuals dales of a resume database until it comes up with the individuals best matched to the labels.

    Each time a computer makes a decision that either makes your screen presence felt or leaves you in the electronic dark, it is making judgment calls on the basis of labels. The secret to screen stardom in computerized job searches is to put as many labels as possible on your resume. Feed the system all the labels it wants, here, there, and everywhere.

    In real estate, the three important words are "location, location, location." In the resume revolution, the three important words are "labels, labels, labels."

    When you're in the job market, you must overcome all your inhibitions about labeling yourself. Forget shyness and forget modesty. Label yourself. That's what the keyword concept is about.

    Two Examples Of Keyword Searching

    The telecommunications industry is now bigger than computers or aerospace, according to Columbia University's Center for Telecommunications and Information Studies. A stream of innovative products--electronic data networks, information services, long-distance packages, cellular car telephones, and fax--has caused telephone usage to grow almost three times as fast as the population.

    Bell Atlantic in Arlington, Virginia, is the "Baby Bell" company serving the Mid-Atlantic region, including the nation's capital.

    Realizing that Bell Atlantic has state-of-the-art technology, we asked Jane Paradiso, the information company's director of human resource service systems, to create fictional illustrations of how specific job requisitions would move through Bell Atlantic's automated applicant tracking system.

    Using a dialogue of co-author Tom Morrow's questions and Jane Paradiso's comments, here are two illustrations. The first is for a professional job; the second, for a clerical position.

    Overseas Accountant

    Morrow: Where will the person chosen for this position work?

    Paradiso: In this illustration, we are staffing a financial position in Czechoslovakia where an accountant with public experience is required. This is what the job requisition looks like:

    Job Requisition for Overseas Accountant

    Required Buzzword: Accounting

    Required Degree: BA

    Required Major: Finance

    Desired Buzzword: Cost Accounting, Public Accounting, Acct'ing Principles, Financial Status, Account Analysis, Corp Financial Sys, Revenue Accounting, Quality Programs, CPA Leadership, Czech, French

    Desired Company: Arthur Andersen, Coopers & Lybrand, Deloitte & Touche, Ernst & Young, KPMG Peat Marwick, Price Waterhouse

    Morrow: The required buzzwords, degree and major, are pretty clear. Can you comment on the desired buzzwords?

    Paradiso: First, notice that they are not action verbs, but nouns. In computer-read resumes, action verbs are virtually obsolete. Nouns that state specific skills--Unix [a computer system], TQM [total quality management], and leadership, for instance--are the best kinds of words to guarantee selection. Desired buzzwords [keywords] mean just that--we prefer that a candidate have these qualifications but each one is not essential. The candidates with the greatest number of desired buzzwords--plus desired company experience--will rise to the top of the short list.

    Here are four resumes. Look them over and see how many of the required and desired buzzwords you can find in each of them. A computer, of course, can do it in a flash.

    Click on the document icons to download a jpeg image

    Sample Resume 1

    Leonard J. Malik......

    Sample Resume 2

    Kenneth L. Garnet...... ...

    Sample Resume 3

    Jack T. Toney...

    Sample Resume 4

    Rhonda Lococo...

    Morrow: Which candidate crossed the finish line first?

    Paradiso: Here's the short list. A rating of three points is the highest score, meaning Kenneth Garnet came in first, followed by Leonard Malik. Rhonda Lacoco rated one point. Jack Tony is in a group with no points.

    Ranking of Candidates for Overseas Accountant Position
    GARNET, Kenneth L.
    MALIK, Leonard J.
    LOCOCO, Rhonda    BRIGHT, Cal        CHOSKI, Sapna
    DIXON, Helene     BITTEL, Roger      KIM, Joon
    KORMAN, J.        BONDA, Andy        REES, Petra
    RIM, James        ROSS, James        WILLIAM J. SC
    TONY, Jack T.     DAWSON, Ken        FRIEND, Sally
    GEGER, Patty      LEREN, Rodney      WICKS, Melvin
    BOPKINS, Bob      JACKSON, Grant     HETTE, Tonya
    KLERK, Cynthia    LEE, Robert        LEDBETTER, Mitch
    LEIDNER, Mitch    CLARK-IVY, Pat     LOY, Patrick
    LOPEZ, Juan       LUT, Daniel        MANDELL, Barb
    NOWAK, George     OGILVIE, David     PLANT, Jerry
    SLOAN, Peter      SPRINGLER, Tim     STEFANI, Tiffany
    WALKER, Paul      WHITE, Steven

    Morrow: Can you elaborate on this result, Jane?

    Paradiso: The job requisition requires that all candidates have a BA in finance, as well as accounting experience. Therefore, the computer first found all candidates in the database with these requirements. Additionally, the computer looked for desired skills and experience in desired companies. Candidate Kenneth Garnet has three of the desired buzzwords. Leonard Malik has two. Rhonda Lococo has one. Jack Tony has only the required skills. Kenneth Garnet has all the required skills plus three of the desired skills* (CPA, Coopers & Lybrand, Price Waterhouse).

    Leonard Malik has all the required skills, but only two desired skills and experience (Czech and Price Waterhouse). Rhonda Lococo has one desired skill (French).

    Morrow: Does this mean Kenneth Garnet gets the job?

    Paradiso: Not necessarily. In a normal environment, the hiring manager or recruiter would scan the top candidates, probably first looking at Garnet, then Malik, Lococo, and so forth. The specifics on their resumes would be reviewed, and management judgment would be utilized to decide which candidates to interview. The computer system is used to screen and select the best candidates, those with the largest number of desired skills, in addition to those meeting all requirements. After that, human judgment takes over.

    *In human resource circles, "skills" is sometimes used
    as an all-inclusive term that also means experience,
    previous blue-chip employers, and other attributes.

    For more actual book material...