Finding your keywords

Job Postings Provide G2 for Resumes

A major source of stress for many people creating their resumes is figuring out what “keywords” are important and in general what information to include. It turns out that this is not nearly as difficult as it may seem. Keep in mind that there is a customer on the other side of the resume who is making a purchase decision. The goal of the job seeker is to talk to that customer about what they want to buy, in their language, and help them to make the “right” decision.

Guiding Principle: Job postings provide the roadmap for aligning a resume with hiring priorities

While it isn’t possible to go to every hiring manager to get the answer, job postings provide a wealth of information that can serve as a surrogate. In fact, once you understand how to read and deconstruct a job posting, it becomes a roadmap for creating your resume – in fact, it is like taking an “open book test” where you have also been provided with the “answer sheet”. It is only one short step from incorporating that G2 into your resume. (G2 refers to the military intelligence staff of a unit in the U.S. Army and more colloquially has come to mean “intelligence”, especially the kind that you must dig deep to get.)

The Structure of a Job Posting

Most job postings consist of four major sections, usually but not always in this order:

  1. Company Information
  2. Overview, summary or purpose of the job
  3. Job responsibilities
  4. Candidate qualifications – credentials, knowledge and skills, personal characteristics

The most important section is the Overview of the job. This is your best chance to find out who the employer is really trying to hire.

On the other hand, the Job Responsibilities section is the least important. This is almost always a data dump from the HR position description and often a lengthy checklist. It is worth looking at – last – to make sure nothing has been missed.

The Company Information section is worth reading for any tidbits about company business, strategy and culture that would provide context for the role.

The second most important section is the Candidate Qualifications. Unfortunately, this is usually a jumbled list of credentials, competencies, personal characteristics – and sometimes regulatory job requirements (e.g. “lift 50 pounds”). You will need to sort and evaluate the list. For example, this list often asks for more than any one person can possibly excel at. In addition, some items may conflict with each other, especially in the Personal Characteristics area. It is rare to find a dynamic strategic thinker who is also a disciplined hands-on manager.

The Restructured List

  1. Company information – quick scan only
  2. Overview, summary or purpose of the job – this is where the organization tells you who they really want to hire
  3. Candidate qualifications, sorted out and prioritized
  4. Job responsibilities – a quick check at the end

With this information as it relates to a single, specific job or a class of jobs amalgamated from several postings, job seekers should be able to determine the right key words to incorporate into their resumes.