With recruiters and employers using search phrases to dig up applicants, using the right words or phrases in your resume or online profiles is more important than ever. For example, should you use the term accountant or bursar, insurance agent or actuarial? There are very clear answers to questions like this if you know where to look. And finding these choice keywords could mean the difference between getting hired fast, or falling behind the crowd. Check out the tactics in this article to find out how.

Use the right terms

In today’s job market, companies are increasingly getting creative with their job titles and descriptions. What might have once been referred to as to as a secretary or office assistant position might now be called “administrative technician” or office support team member.” And that’s not even at the extreme end of the job title spectrum. In an effort to catch the attention of top talent, companies have integrated “ambassador,” “ninja,” “evangelist,” and other innovative monikers into their job ads.

This trend got its start in the tech world, where everything from employee benefits to office culture to job descriptions is steeped in progressive thinking. Now, the practice of creative position naming has trickled down to more traditional fields, with the thought that today’s younger crowd will feel more empowered by a less defined title, and that offering meaningful descriptors will increase their level of commitment to the position.

While some consider this trend to be waning, a simple search using Indeed.com’s Job Trends tool shows that these phrases are still lingering across the web. Essentially, what you should know is that it’s becoming clearer that the job market is now home to roles that run the naming gamut. This means that while you might be focusing your search on “manager” jobs, that might not be what the industry is looking to fill.

Because of this, it’s a good idea to expand your search terms. Get creative and start making a list of words that could apply to your ideal position. Also, since pinpointing job titles can be tricky, there is a variety of other keyword tactics that you can use to broaden or refine your search as needed.

Here are some types of words to think about:

  • Industry-specific terminology—Make a list of relevant terminology (even annoying buzzwords and jargon) that you would expect to find in job ads from your field. For example, if you are a graphic designer, think about “digital media,” “online publishing,” and other related phrases.

  • Abbreviations—Include abbreviations that could be used in relevant job ads. Are you a Registered Nurse? If so, try swapping RN into your search.

  • Career level—If you are a recent graduate, or you’re looking to make a career change, refine your search to hone in on entry-level jobs. This could mean adding “associate,” “junior,” or “assistant” into the mix. Even “recent grad” or “recent graduate” might offer additional results.

  • Responsibilities—What specifically can you do or have done? Since job advertisements generally talk about the scope of a potential position, inputting your specific capabilities and experience could generate results that you may not have thought to explore.

  • Education—Potential employers often search for someone with a specific educational background. So, including terms like “bachelor’s degree” or other educational qualifications could trigger additional results that are a match for you.

  • Certification—Many jobs require certification, such as nursing or trades. So, it could be prudent to incorporate terms related to industry-standard credentials.

  • Skills—Do you possess skills or knowledge in a specific area of using a popular technology? If so, make sure to include those in your search.

  • Job type—Think about using keywords that describe your desired job format. “Full-time,” “part-time,” “freelance,” and “contract” are just some of the terms that could narrow down your search.

Additionally, it’s important to include geographic terms into your search. And, while appending your search with a specific city name is always a good first try, don’t forget about adding region, suburb, or county names into the mix. Keep in mind that hiring managers don’t generally write jobs ads using the words you would expect. In fact, in an effort to make ads stand out, they are often written with the opposite intention.

O*NET OnLine

An additional resource for generating keywords is the U.S. Department of Labor’s O*NET OnLine, which catalogs careers and specific details about associated education requirements, job tasks, and more. This site offers a multitude of search options, including the ability to browse careers by skills, interests, or tools of the trade. Further to this, you can view titles conveniently categorized by areas such as industry and job family.

Google AdWords Keyword Tool

If synonyms aren’t your strong suit, you may want to check out Google’s AdWords Keyword Tool, which can help you find additional related words and commonly-searched phrases related to whatever you type in.

This tool can be ideal for expanding your (hopefully) already rich keyword list. Plug in your current terms, then jot down any new relevant terms the tool generates. The Keyword Tool also includes a “competition” column, which tells you if a particular phrase has high, medium, or low competition. In this context, high competition will signify that a phrase is present on a large number of pages, while a low competition phrase will mean that it is less commonly found by Google. So, focus on the high competition phrases to maximize your results.

Once you’ve established a solid list of keywords that are in line with your particular interests, skills, credentials, and qualifications, you’ll be ready to approach your job search in a whole new manner. You could be amazed at the opportunities that are waiting to be uncovered.

Don’t forget that HR departments are searching too

One last search-related fact to think about during the job hunting process is that HR departments in large companies utilize search too. Once you find the postings that interest you, make sure to include the words that appear in those postings in your application (as long as they are actually relevant to your skill set, education, experience, etc.). Many companies are now utilizing automated screening programs that look for relevant keywords in cover letters, resumes, and even LinkedIn profiles. This Lifehacker post does a great job of outlining how you can do this.

Ready to get started?

By incorporating the above-mentioned tips into your online job search, you could be opening the door to the career opportunities that really align with your strengths, goals, and interests.