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Using the right keywords in your job search

  • Story Highlights
  • Learn how to tweak your words to find the best job
  • Check online job boards for key words and use those in your next job search
  • Responsibilities and skills in job posting may tell more than job title
  • Quotation marks are easiest way to broaden or narrow your online job search
Anthony Balderrama writer
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Explore the Internet with different key words to find the right job.

Explore the Internet with different key words to find the right job.

The right words make all the difference in life. Try asking "Wanna get hitched?" instead of "Will you marry me?" for proof.

Even in a job interview, you wouldn't say, "Hey, dude." You'd probably say, "Nice to meet you." And your résumé wouldn't include slang, either. You know all this. At least, I hope you do.

But the need for well-chosen words starts when you search job postings. From the job title to the list of requirements, knowing how to tweak your words to yield the best results is vital to getting your job hunt started off right.

Here are a few ways to make sure you're using the right keywords:

Be a copycat

In your résumé and interviews, you want to let your best qualities and unique point of view shine through. But to get to those stages you first have to find the right job. That means you have to do something that's unacceptable in every other circumstance: plagiarize.

Go to an online job board and search for jobs that you think you're a great match for. Then study the language they use to perform your own searches.

For example, if you find a listing for a project coordinator position that sounds ideal, you should apply for it, of course, and then pull out key phrases to search other jobs. If they use the phrase "method calibrations," then plug that into the search field to see what other positions comes up.

Employers might use different job titles or you might find other positions that are good fits but you didn't know they existed. Video Watch two grads and career coach on finding a job »

Don't get stuck on titles

When you have defined goals for your career and subsequently your salary, you can find yourself fixated on having a certain job title. Although your ambitions are admirable and beneficial to your career, don't forget that not all titles are created equally.

Every company has its own culture and often its own lingo. One employer's vice president is another's senior associate. Search for the job title you want, but remember to dig deeper for other title ideas.

Look to the responsibilities and skills detailed in a job posting for a more accurate gauge of its duties. You'll still find the jobs you're looking for if you search by responsibility instead of title, except you'll be working backward.

If, for example, you want a retail manager position, then you should look search for related terms, such as "supervisor" or "customer relations." Filter through the results to find good matches. You might find that you're a perfect fit for a "team leader" position that you wouldn't have otherwise found.

Treat it like a search engine

When you're looking online for something that interests you -- say, a new apartment -- you suddenly become a master of the Internet query. You're trying different keywords, searching by zip code one moment and neighborhood nickname the next. If there's an available property in a two mile radius, you'll find it. You know how to work a search engine without a second thought.

Take that mentality to your job search. One of the simplest ways to broaden or narrow your search is to use quotation marks. Searching for a phrase without quotation marks (i.e., dental assistant) will find you jobs with either word in the description. However, enclosing the entire phrase (i.e., "dental assistant") in quotes will only return jobs with those words together in that exact order.

If you find your searches are returning too many hits or too few, play with quotes. You can also used the Advanced Search options to tailor your searches or use other shortcuts, such as minus signs to exclude words from results.


Copyright 2009. All rights reserved. The information contained in this article may not be published, broadcast or otherwise distributed without the prior written authority

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