Writing a search optimized online resume- Online Job Hunting with SEO: Part II of III

Now that you have your research about keywords to use from Online Job Hunting with SEO: Part I of III – Online Resume Keyword Research, you need to write your search-optimized resume. Once you write your resume, read on about Posting your online resume for maximum results- Online Job Hunting with SEO: Part III of III .

If you don't have a resume, you're relying on recruiters to find you just based on your Google profile- a dangerous proposition! (Image courtesy of http://farceur-enthus.blogspot.com/2008_10_01_archive.html)

If the keywords are the bait, your resume is the hook to reel in the recruiters. In a tough job market with lots of competition, it’s important to stand out with a resume to promises to deliver results for the potential employer.  An online resume differs from a printed one in that you can’t control the formatting, the length or which companies will receive it.

But you can control the search optimization.

1) Alternative “Resume Keywords” list

Take the keyword research from Part I and separate them out. The most common search terms need to be incorporated throughout your resume, in profiles, descriptions, job titles, etc.

The remaining less common keywords should form part of a Resume Keyword list you are going to add to the end of your online resume.

In addition to the researched terms, you should add common alternate spellings (including misspellings), acronyms, and versions of job titles that you are aspiring to obtain that you did not include in the rest of your resume.

For example, a marketing manager/ director applying for marketing management jobs might some of these “alternative” titles and spellings to your Resume Keywords section:

Resume Keywords: marketing director, director of marketing, marketing management, dir marketing, markting manager, marketing manager, marketing mgr, manager marketing, marketing manger

2)     Profile Summary section

We are the sum of all our experiences, not just the last job or two. However, the typical resume format makes it hard for someone reviewing a resume to quickly put together a whole picture of you. And frankly, no one takes the time any more to try to piece it together- you have to spoon feed it.

That’s where a profile section comes in. In this section you summarize ALL the experience and skills you want to highlight, gained throughout your life and career, all wrapped up in an attractive, easy-to-read and understand package.

Before I started adding a profile section years ago, I got very little response from my vanilla follow-the-rules resume. I began adding a section at the beginning of my resume that sums up all the pertinent experience from throughout my career in a tidy little package.

Depending on your industry and position level, your profile section should highlight what is important to companies that are hiring people with your skills.

For example, when I redid my brother’s resume who had completed his PhD and was trying to be hired as an orchestra conductor at a university level (there were only two jobs open in the United States of that type the year he was looking!), I added an overview section, put his education credentials in the profile section (very important to academia), and added a multi-column section highlighting four areas of his skills in: Music Skills, Teaching Skills, Faculty/ Management Skills (to show he was a team player and knew how to manage a department), and Fundraising/ Marketing / PR / Audience development to demonstrate his success at bringing in dollars.

Now it is important to note that nowhere in the job description were marketing and fundraising mentioned as being required (or even included at all), but my research showed that being able to bring in donors and build an audience are critical for any leader in the arts today, as an orchestra conductor is today.

IMPORTANT LESSON HERE: Your resume will be FOUND due to your use of the common keywords for this sort of job, but your resume will gain a RESPONSE due to your understanding and responding to the unstated needs for the job.

The results? The hiring committee gushed over his resume, particularly the fundraising and marketing, which no other candidate mentioned, they said. He got the job over hundreds of other candidates with more years of experience!

I’ve seen this repeated over and over in resumes I’ve redone in every field.

In my case, since I am at an executive level in ecommerce and integrated marketing, I have added a section listing some of the key successes in my field.


A highly successful senior digital and integrated marketing, strategy, communications, and ecommerce executive. Expert in:

>Ecommerce, Online Marketing & Web Management: Built and ran multiple Top 30 online sales businesses of up to $500M in revenues, both in the public and private sector. Expert in online marketing and web management (paid search marketing, SEO, affiliate marketing, email marketing, display advertising, shopping comparison engines), social media (Facebook, Twitter, blogs, YouTube), creative (user experience & usability, web design, online content & editorial), merchandising (new product development, sourcing, drop-shipping, fulfillment), and overall web operations (project management, production, web development, technology, testing and QA and customer care).

>Integrated Marketing Communications: Versed in branding, targeted communications & marketing plans, program and project management, public outreach, marketing, business operations, strategic partnerships, technology integration and business development….

The second part of my profile section includes a list of the many web sites I have worked on. For my other brother, a very senior systems analyst and data center manager, I added a section here listing the computer languages, systems, security clearances and other IT skills that he has.

The final part of my PROFILE SECTION is a bulleted list of Marketing, Internet and Management Skills:

>Ecommerce & Online Marketing Strategy & Management

>Multi-channel (Web-Catalog-Retail) Marketing & Branding

>Web Site User Experience, Design, Usability & Editorial Content

>Email, Affiliate & Search Engine Marketing; Search Optimization


In the print (MS Word and PDF) version of my resume, this bulleted list is shown in two columns, but that doesn’t work for an online resume. And bullets don’t work either, so I use a different symbol to create visual separation. (See #7 to read about bullet formatting.)

3)     Functional titles

Now to build the standard part of your resume- you know- the reverse chronological listing of jobs. Here again you need to think SEO.

For example, what if a company you worked for used an unfamiliar term for a job title? Government agencies have Program Managers that can run multi-million dollar budgets and Chiefs of Staff, while a Secretary in the federal government runs a cabinet, and doesn’t handle a filing cabinet like a private sector “secretary.”

Or one company during the dot com era that had all of its senior executives have “cutesy dot com” titles; in my case, I was “Screen Queen” and in another “Da Digital Diva” but I make sure my real title of VP of Ecommerce is listed in my resume.

If you have a job title that does not have relevance outside your company or field, make sure you include a current functional equivalent title in parentheses.  In my first job, I found that IBM calls its technical marketing consultants or sales engineers by the term “systems engineer” which really confuses other companies. In my resume today, I would list that job title as “IBM Systems Engineer (Sales Engineer / Technical Marketing Consultant).

4)     Prove you are Results-oriented

Almost every job posting lists a requirement for being “results-oriented;” however, very few people really understand how to display a results orientation.

When it comes to results, assume every employer is from Missouri and says “Show me!”

Every single job listed in your resume must end with the word “RESULTS:” and a listing of quantitative results you have achieved in every job.

For example, when I was Vice President of Ecommerce for Redcats USA where I built an ecommerce division of 14 high volume web sites, I achieved the following results which I add to the end of my job listing:

RESULTS: Started and grew ecommerce division for this multinational cataloger to $500 Million in sales in 3 years. Earned ranks of #19 ecommerce business in the Multichannel Merchant 100, #25 of Internet Retailer Top 500 Retail Web Businesses, and 3 sites ranked in the Top 10 Search Conversion sites.

Think you don’t have quantitative results? Sure you do! Never lost a client? Then you have 100% customer retention rate. Are you a teacher who triple the number of kids graduate every year? Then you “increased graduation rates 300% over ten years.”

Find a way to turn results into a measurable amount on every job. Employers will become to nod and smile as they see that you focused on results in every position.

If you really cannot come up with any quantitative results on one job, then put in very strong qualitative results, but include quantitative items on every job possible.

5)     Honors and Recognition

Most of the time you can include honors and recognition under the relevant jobs. But sometimes they don’t fit there, come from outside your “traditional” jobs, or just need to stand out. If that is the case, create a separate honors / recognition section. 

Were you honored by a volunteer organization? Did you win a writing contest or have an article published in a trade publication? List ‘em!

For example, if you are a Content Editor or in academia, it is critical to show what you have published, or if you are a designer or Art Director, you will be expected to have a portfolio, so create an online portfolio site and link to it.

6)     Digital Profile

If you are applying for an executive position or are in marketing or digital media, you should definitely list your online media profile, blogs, and other public online participation. Recruiters and employers will Google you anyway, and these items will show up, so it’s better to claim them and explain them yourself.

In Part III, we’ll talk about Googling yourself to check out any problems with your own online search results.

7)     Unformatted Version, Capitalization and Bullet Alternatives

People don’t read long paragraphs anymore; we skim. So using bullets is definitely the way to go to improve legibility.

However, bullets from Microsoft Word do not translate well online, particularly with online sites that strip out all formatting or that don’t accept HTML tags.

Therefore to create a list of items with the appearance of bullets, I recommend using

* either an asterisk * or a

> symbol in front of each list item. 

CAPITALIZING AS A SUB-HEADER IN A SENTENCE: Another technique to create visual separation in an online resume where you can’t use formatting like bold, italics, underlining or different font sizes, is to add a capitalized section at the beginning.

THIS CAPITALIZATION CREATES THE SEPARATION even without any other formatting.

To test how your resume could look in one of these web sites which strips out all formatting and turns everything into ugly Courier text, copy your Word resume into your built-in Microsoft Notepad application (find it under Programs > Accessories) on your Windows machine).

If your resume is still attractive and “reads well” even without its formatting, then you know you have achieved your goal of presentability.

8)     A great resume is never done- at least the SEO isn’t.

One final piece of advice. Your resume should never be “done.” Each job applied to, each interview held should provide input to “tweak” your resume. If you read or hear a new way of wording an existing skill, then you should revise your resume accordingly.

If that new wording has become the standard for your target industry or target company, then you should switch to it in your primary resume sections to increase the search optimization odds of your resume being found if recruiters are using this term to search. Otherwise, just add it to your alternate keywords section.

Also, ask recruiters who call what words they used to find your resume and how long it took them, along with what drew their eye and what didn’t. This feedback will help you tweak your resume’s SEO.

QUESTION FOR MY READERS: Any additional tips for writing an online resume that is optimized for the main search engines and/or job site search engines? Share them in a comment!

Now you’re ready to move on to PART III: How to post your resume for maximum discoverability.

– Michele Bartram


5 responses to “Writing a search optimized online resume- Online Job Hunting with SEO: Part II of III

  1. Pingback: Online Resume Keyword Research – Online Job Hunting with SEO: Part I of III – | Web Practices Blog by Michele Bartram

  2. Great post and insights, Michele! These are definitely key to know and be aware of in the IMC profession. Keep up the great work and hope all is well!

    Best Wishes,
    Karen Freberg

    • Thanks, Karen, or should I say Dr. Freberg? I was excited to see the Ph.D after the name. Congrats! You won’t need to use this job hunting advice soon, but perhaps some students will.

      Michele Bartram

  3. The information provided on Designer Resumes was very useful. It is always good to know that there are blogs so dedicated to providing information that is seriously concerned with the reader’s needs. Thanks for sharing your insights with us through your blog.

  4. Pingback: Posting your online resume for maximum results- Online Job Hunting with SEO: Part III of III | Web Practices Blog by Michele Bartram

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