How key words create a “customer-centric” resume

How key words create a “customer-centric” resume

When you aren’t getting job interviews, the causes and the cure always begin with your resume. Often that resume isn’t focused enough to be discoverable in database searches. A generalized resume that tries to be everything to everyone is like one-size-fits-all clothing, that usually fits no one and simply has no place as the primary marketing document for a modern day job search.

You must have a “customer-centric” resume

Everyone gets the concept of “the customer is always right”, that is, until they build a resume. Most people try to generalize a resume, making it a jumble of everything they’ve ever done, in the mistaken belief that it will give their resume wider appeal. They make it all about: “me and everything I have done and think is important.”

Because such a resume typically doesn’t reference what the customers are actually buying, it will rarely, if ever, be seen: It lacks the focus and the keywords that deliver enough detail (data density) to make that resume discoverable in a database search. This me-centric myopia will short-circuit your ability to get interviews.

Contrarily, a customer-centric resume focused on a specific target job and built from the ground up with the customers’ needs in mind and using the words and phrases they use to describe the job, will perform far better in database searches. Then once pulled from a database for review, it will speak more intelligently to recruiters and hiring managers, dramatically increasing the odds of interviews and job offers.

The Customer-Centric Resume

Rather than telling potential employers what you want or what you think they want, a customer-centric, or job-targeted resume sells to a customers’ expressed needs.  With today’s resumes going into
customer-centric resumedatabases that can exceed 300 million competitive documents, a resume written with a specific job in mind, using the language and priorities employers use to describe that job will outperform competitive documents because it will include the keywords that recruiters are most likely to use in their database searches, and subsequently resonate with recruiters and hiring managers when read by them.

How Keywords Work in a Resume

The greater the number of keywords in a resume that are directly relevant to a specific target job, the higher the ranking that resume will achieve in recruiters’ database searches. The higher a resume’s ranking, the greater the likelihood that it will be reviewed by a recruiter.

However, if a client overdoes the usage of keywords, search engine algorithms will likely penalize the resume for keyword stuffing. Keyword stuffing means jamming a document full of keywords in an attempt to make it more visible. Just about every search engine penalizes this today.

Target Job Title

When recruiters search databases for candidate resumes, they start with a job title (taken from the company job posting): Obviously a resume with a target job title immediately becomes more discoverable. Plus, once pulled from search results and looked at by recruiters, that target job title delivers immediate focus and pulls the reader into the document.

This makes a target job title the first mandatory keyword/keyword phrase to use in a resume.

Performance Profile

This real estate at the top of a resume is valuable real estate for database discoverability and for quickly engaging a reader technically knowledgeable in that profession, so it needs to be used wisely.

Follow the target job title at the top of the resume with Performance Profile Performance Summary as a subhead, this replaces the traditional Objective – no one cares what a potential candidate wants at this point anyway.  Use of the word performance works because it speaks to everyday job performance capabilities, and simultaneously to the formal performance review that every manager must do with every employee every year.

The content of the Performance Profile avoids traditional Job Objective idiocies like, “The desire for professional growth with a blue chip company,” (duh!) or a Summary of what the writer thinks is important, “I’m a results-driven executive with excellent communication skills who thinks out-of-the-box,” can’t you just hear some jaded headhunter muttering, “We’ll be the judge of that”?

Now if we don’t talk about such things as these, how do we use a Performance Profile to maximum effect?

The Professional Skills Section

A Professional Skills section should list all the skills (keywords) required to execute the responsibilities of the job, (you can identify by doing a TJD – Target Job Deconstruction available at It should come right after a Target Job Title and a Performance Summary at the top of your resume because the ATS programs that help recruiters search databases reward both the presence of keywords and the placement of keywords – those keywords found near the top of a document are seen to make that doc potentially more relevant to the user.

Search engines don’t care much about formatting (as long as keyword search terms are separated by commas), but employing a visually accessible format, usually single words or short phrases in three or four columns, makes a big difference to readability and comprehension for a reader.

This suggested structure of Target Job Title, followed by Performance Summary and a Professional Skills section means the resume delivers all the critical information an ATS program or a recruiter needs to screen in a candidate within the first half of the first page.

Keyword Skills Prioritization

There is another important consideration for keywords in the Professional Skills section of a resume – they need to be prioritized. Once pulled from database searches, resumes are read by people who understand the job, professionals who are aware of which skills are “must-have” and which are “nice to have”, your clients will want their most important skills to come first.

Prioritizing skill keywords based on their relevance to execution of a job’s responsibilities, doesn’t help database discoverability, but it does offer a subtext for the knowledgeable reader who will understand that here is a professional who has a firm grasp of the relative importance of all the necessary professional skills of the job. This adds to the clear focus and obvious grasp already being established by resume structure and keyword usage.

Keywords In Context  

With job-relevant skills collected and prioritized, the task is now to include them in the Professional Experience section of the resume within the context where they have been applied.

While ATS search engines now reward the contextual use of keywords, seeing keyword skills in the context of work experience helps the recruiters and hiring managers get a better understanding of a candidate’s suitability. This dramatically increases the odds of interviews happening as it gives the employer has greater assurance going in to the interview that s/he isn’t wasting time with a non-contender.

Resume Length

The standard for resume length has been one page for every ten years of experience, and never more than two pages for at least the last 35 years; but now it is outmoded and potentially harmful to a successful job search.

The length of a resume is less important than its sustained relevance to the target job. For example, a two-page resume that has all the right stuff, but is illegible because the ridiculously small font used to squeeze everything onto two pages, doesn’t advance anyone’s candidacy.

When the first page makes a convincing argument, the rest of the resume will be read carefully. More complex jobs demand longer resumes and offer more space for relevant keywords and establishing who you are and how you want to be seen (your professional brand).  However, you should make every effort to maintain focus and an “if in doubt, leave it out” editing approach.

Want a resume that will be a top-performer? Let Knock Em Dead Professional Resume Writing Services do the work for you. For more information or a free resume consultation call us at 678.815.5996 or 912.308.0066.


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