Katharine Brooks Ed.D.

Career Transitions

Job Seekers: Have Your Wordle'd Your Resume?

Wordle-ing your resume uncovers hidden flaws and some fun.

Posted Mar 30, 2009

One of the biggest challenges facing job seekers is crafting a resume that highlights the expertise, education, and experience employers are seeking-- particularly when it's your first professional position or you're changing to a new career field.

You need to make sure that your resume speaks to your new potential employer. To do that you have to know and use the lingo of the field you aspire to, not the field you're in. Every industry has its own terminology and part of shifting into that industry involves knowing and using the terminology. Using keywords can save you from being stuck in your past. For instance, if you are a teacher or a tutor and would like to transition to the field of Human Resources, you might want to use the word "training" rather than "tutoring" as in "Trained students in English language skills" rather than "tutored students in English."

College students need to be careful that their resumes don't scream "student." They should use language that illustrates the connection between what they're doing now and what they propose to do for the employer. For instance, they should only mention the word "fraternity' or "sorority" once in their resume. After that they should use a more general term like "organization." They should write about "new members" rather than "pledges."

By reworking your resume to include language that is applicable to the field you are seeking you are increasing the likelihood of being selected for an interview and possibly employment. Not only do resume reviewers look for keywords, computers are programmed to do so. It is not unusual for resumes to be placed into a database and scanned for words related to the position. You can find many of these words in the advertisement for the job itself.

As you've now learned, keywords are imperative for your future employment. If you want to learn more check out the invaluable information at this site.  For more in-depth information, look into this excellent publication, "Words to Get Hired By" available online at Quintessential Careers.

So this information is all well and good-- but just a teeny bit boring, right?

Not anymore.

Just ask Ross Wade, Assistant Director of Career Services for the School of Communications at Elon University in North Carolina. Ross was looking for a way to inject some creativity into his resume workshops and appointments with students. He discovered "Wordle" and suddenly turned resume guidance into fun for his students.

Wordle is an addictive little program designed by a programmer at IBM Research, Jonathan Feinberg.  Wordle takes a document and creates a "word cloud" of the text. Wordle will ignore insignificant words like "the", but nouns, verbs or adjectives will appear, and the more often they occur in your document the larger Wordle will print them.

To "Wordle" your resume, copy and paste it into the text holder on Wordle. Click "GO" and Wordle will give you a clear visual image of the key words you've used in your resume. For fun, try clicking the "randomize" button to see what colors or designs it creates from your resume.

So...what do you see? What are the "big" words? Can you tell what career field your resume reflects by the words that appear?

Mr.Wade finds that by "Wordling" a resume, students can quickly see what career field their language applies to. If a student wants a career in marketing, but no marketing lingo appears, that's a clear sign that the resume isn't targeted well-enough.

What words are most prominent on your resume? Are words like "responsible" or "duties" showing up in a large font? That's a sign to get rid of those generally useless phrases like "responsible for" or "duties included."

Are keywords from your desired field or job showing up in large fonts? If not, what field do they represent? Are they in the language of the employer you're hoping to work for and the job you're hoping to get? Are they powerful, active words like "managed", "created", or "developed"?

So go ahead...Wordle your resume... it might be the most creative and fun thing to happen to your resume in a long time.

One warning before you go into Wordle: The Wordle home page regularly shows documents created by users; there is no censorship or control over the wording on the samples. Therefore, it is possible that a viewer will see a sample Wordle with adult language; please use caution when showing or using this tool with anyone under the age of 18. Also, Wordle relies on the latest version of Java script which you might need to add to your computer before you can run the program.

Picture credit from Flickr.com: http://www.flickr.com/photos/orangejack/