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Where Do Keywords Hide in a Job Posting?

Are you tired of submitting job applications without receiving any responses? One possible explanation for the lack of reply could be the absence of appropriate keywords in your resume, which diminishes its visibility to recruiters and hiring managers. Keywords are specific words and phrases that employers use to describe the specific things they're looking for in a candidate, such as certifications or certain skills. By incorporating these keywords into your resume, you can significantly enhance your chances of securing an interview.

To simplify the keyword discovery process, let's break it down into smaller steps:

Step 1: Review the Job Posting

Analyzing a job posting in the STEM field requires careful attention to detail due to these positions often requiring specific technical skills or certain experience. A thorough analysis of the job description allows you to identify what specifics are preferred or required, which may affect your decision to continue with the application. Start by reading the job title and summary to grasp the overall purpose of the role.

Pay close attention to the required qualifications, such as specific degrees, certifications, or technical skills mentioned. Note the desired years of experience, as it may indicate whether the position is entry-level or more advanced. Evaluate the job responsibilities, looking for specific tasks and projects mentioned, which can give insight into the scope of work involved. Take note of any preferred attributes or qualities, such as teamwork, problem-solving, or communication skills, as they may be crucial for success in the role and provides more insight into what the day-to-day looks like for someone in this position. If a company's culture and values are important to you, assess whether they align with your own.

Step 2: Identify the Main Sections of the Job Posting

Most job postings are divided into four main sections: Title, Summary, Responsibilities, and Qualifications. By understanding the purpose of each section, you can better identify the keywords that are most relevant to the position.

  • Job Title: The title is the first thing that catches the eye of a job seeker. It's usually a brief description of the position and can include keywords such as "engineer," "programmer," or "scientist."

  • Job Summary: The summary is an overview of the job duties and responsibilities. It can include keywords such as "develop," "design," or "manage."

  • Responsibilities: The responsibilities section is where the employer lists the specific duties and tasks that the candidate will perform. This section can include keywords such as "analyze," "create," or "implement."

  • Qualifications: The qualifications section is where the employer lists the specific qualifications and skills that the candidate must possess. This section can include keywords such as "degree," "certification," or "experience."

Step 3: Determine Which Section the Keywords are Located

Keywords can be found throughout the job posting, but are most commonly located in the qualifications section. This section will often include keywords related to educational background, skill certifications, years of experience and specific industry knowledge such as previous projects including certain equipment or processes. By looking for these keywords, you can better understand what the employer is looking for in a candidate and ensure you meet the basic requirements for the position.

Step 4: Identify Hard Skill Keywords vs. Soft Skill Keywords

Keywords can be divided into two categories: Hard Skill Keywords and Soft Skill Keywords.

Hard Skill Keywords are specific technical skills that are required for the job, such as programming languages, software applications, or laboratory techniques.

In comparison, Soft Skill Keywords are personal attributes that are important for success in the job, such as communication skills, problem-solving abilities, or leadership qualities.

Hard Skill Keywords examples:

  • Programming languages: Java, Python, C++

  • Laboratory techniques: PCR, ELISA, Western blot

  • Software applications: MATLAB, AutoCAD, SolidWorks

Soft Skill Keywords examples:

  • Communication skills: written and verbal communication, active listening, presentation skills

  • Problem-solving abilities: critical thinking, analytical skills, attention to detail

  • Leadership qualities: team management, decision-making, conflict resolution

Step 5: Leverage Critical Keywords

Once the keywords have been identified, they should be leveraged to optimize your resume. Make sure to include the most important keywords in your work experience, skills sections, and summary or objective statement (if you have one). Use similar language as the job posting to demonstrate to their hiring team you align with the type of candidate they're looking for.

For example, if the job posting requires experience with NodeJS, make sure to include "NodeJS" in your skills section and use objective evidence to highlight your competence with the language in your work experience section. Such as, "Built internal tool using NodeJS and Pupeteer.js to automate QA and monitoring of donor-facing web app, which improved CTR by 3%."

Finding keywords within STEM job postings is an important part of the job application process. By taking the time to establish what the critical keywords are within a specific job posting, you can greatly increase your chances at being considered for the role. If a hiring team is using an applicant tracking system (ATS) to review resumes, your optimized resume will be ranking at a much higher level than if you were to omit the usage of relevant critical keywords.


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