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Keywords are the Key to a Great Resume

Keywords are the Key to a Great Resume, by Susan Gulliford
Andriy Popov/

It seems like every day there is an article on the internet telling you what not to put in your resume. You understand that using general terms such as ‘detail-oriented’ or ‘hard worker’ is not advisable, but you are left wondering exactly which keywords are helpful to you. This article provides you with some answers.

The sole purpose of a resume is to get recruiters and hiring managers to call you for interviews. Think of your resume as a marketing document rather than a biography. Like any marketing piece, you need to know what your audience wants in order for it to be successful.

I spoke by phone with two specialists in the field of healthcare talent acquisition to find out more about what makes a resume stand out to them. They shared several practical pieces of advice regarding keywords and resume structure that help you, the job seeker. Some responses were edited for clarity.

Keywords Recruiters Want to See

My first interview was with Jennifer Andersen, Sr. Recruiter/Team Lead with Yoh Health Care Staffing in Walnut Creek, CA. She places individuals in occupational health and case management positions with her clients.

“For occupational health, I look for keywords such as immunizations, pre-employment, and blood borne pathogens. Certain settings transfer well to occupational health, so include keywords such as urgent care, emergency room, correctional health, or family practice if you have experience in those areas.”

Ms. Andersen also recruits for case management openings. If you want to move from a clinical role to a Case Manager position, she advises, “State any experience you have working with case managers and discharge planners.” Ms. Andersen said other keywords that transfer to that field are “chart review, auditing, care coordination, and care planning.” If you have performed those duties or collaborated with people in charge of those duties, put those experiences on your resume.

My second interview was with Brad Marburger, National Director of Platinum Career Solutions, based in Chaska, MN. Platinum Career Solutions, a national recruitment and placement company developed by The Goodman Group, places healthcare workers at assisted living and senior living facilities. Brad recruited travel nurses and full-time healthcare professionals before joining Platinum Career Services. The company recruits CNAs, RNs, LPNs, Directors of Nursing, and Executive Directors. He looks for different keywords for the various positions he fills.

“For CNAs, we love to see volunteer experience, but it does not have to be in the healthcare field. Volunteerism demonstrates the traits of compassion and care. Also, we look for experience in customer service or client satisfaction. It is great if they can show any results in those areas.

Terms like ‘collaborate’ or ‘collaboration’ also make a CNA resume stand out. You really want people who can work together.” It is important to note that Platinum Career Solutions offers CNA classes so the company can train people with those attributes that want a career in healthcare.

“For licensed nurses (RNs and LPNs), we look for several things. The first is critical thinking. The resume should use keywords and demonstrate experience in problem solving and planning. The phrase ‘consultative approach’ (i.e. asking questions and developing a solution) is very beneficial.”

Other experiences that Brad considers important to highlight include:

  • Workflow optimization (i.e. does the candidate show results such as productivity numbers or has he/she improved processes)
  • Quality control – This is so important in today’s environment
  • Compliance – Has this person kept abreast of regulatory changes
  • Charting software experience – He wants to know what software applicants have worked with, so they should include EMRs they use.

For senior level positions, Mr. Marburger distinguished between leadership and management and said it was important to include both on resumes for Executive Director and Director of Nursing positions. He cited “leading by example” and “Team Leader” as crucial keywords for leadership positions. When it comes to management, Mr. Marburger stressed that terms such as “budget management, revenue production, solutions-oriented, process improvement, workflow optimization, client satisfaction, and service optimization” are important to see in a resume. A successful candidate needs to include positive achievements related to his or her management initiatives.

Stand Out from the Crowd

I asked both interviewees if they had other advice for readers to create great resumes. Ms. Andersen shared that while a four-page resume is too long for candidates, “They do not need to condense it to one page.” She emphasized that a varied background and a detailed two page resume will help, not hinder, a candidate. Mr. Marburger told me that, “You need to get your point across quickly,” because people are trying to fill numerous openings simultaneously. He also recommended applicants “avoid using Microsoft templates,” because you want your resume to have a distinct appearance.

Even in a field with low unemployment such as healthcare, you always want to create a great impression. A keyword rich resume gets you interviews for great opportunities. Incorporate the recommendations in this article so you distinguish yourself from other applicants!

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About Susan Gulliford CPRW

Susan Gulliford is a Resume Writer based in Schaumburg, IL. Previously she recruited for corporate and healthcare positions before transitioning into the career services field. Susan enjoys helping others with the job search process.

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