Using Keywords in Your Engineering Job Search


Without question there is far more competition now for every job posting. The recession has been exceptional hard on certain professions, especially civil engineering. The number of new jobs has been few compared to the number of individuals seeking employment. In this environment, you need an edge to set yourself apart. One of the best strategies is to use industry specific keywords or buzz words in both your Cover Letter and Resume.

After taking care of the basics, grammar and spelling, the next write or modify the Cover Letter and Resume specifically for the job posting. This is accomplished by embellishing the content with keywords and keyword phrases. Filling the documents with buzz words is just as important as action verbs. Keywords and Keyword phrases are normally nouns that are job-specific, profession-specific and/or industry-specific. The buzz words can be related to skills, technological terms and descriptions of technical expertise (including hardware and software in which you are proficient), job titles, certifications, names of products and services, and industry buzzwords and jargon. They may also include types of degrees and names of colleges and company names. Awards you have won and names of professional organizations to which you belong can even be used as keywords.

A list of keywords and keyword phrases can be created using several techniques. Some of the more common techniques are:

  • Boomerang Technique – Bounce the keywords and phrases used in the job posting back to the employer. Too many resumes are written for the general public and not specific to the job. This does not mean that you need to rewrite your resume every time, but that you should modify it by adding specific terms and phrases. Read the job posting closely, and you will find the verbs and nouns they are looking for. Most job postings are loaded with industry- and position-specific buzzwords. Take your cues straight from the source and include those same words in your resume.
  • Industry Specific Terms – The engineering profession has its own unique terms that few outside of the field would either know or understand. Even within the various fields of engineering there are specific terms. One such term is Building Information Modeling (BIM), which is a building design and documentation methodology that creates a reliable, coordinated and consistent digital representation of a building for design decision-making, construction document production, performance testing and actual construction process. Computer-Aided Design or CAD software, another industry keyword, is instrumental in maintaining the BIM model. Another term is Low Impact Development or LID also specific to engineering, but also specific to a few fields in engineering. The same is true for LEED certification, which is important in renewable and environmentally friendly or green design. To find more keywords, research industry trends and visit professional association websites to uncover current buzzwords — especially those used by the hiring company or industry leaders.
  • Your Own – Again you can list your own Keywords that may or may not show-up in the company literature or industry sources. One such phrase maybe Project Management. Project Management means that you have the knowledge, skills, and experiences to manage all aspects of a project.

There are two main areas to use these keywords; written and oral.

  • Written – This includes the Cover Letter, Resume, Thank-You Letter, Career Profiles, and other job search communications. The keywords used here are specifically tailored to the job by letting the employer know that you are the “right” candidate for the job.
  • Oral – This is mainly done at the job interview, but also includes any other oral communications you may have with the prospective employer. The objective is to reinforce the employer’s perspective that you are the right person for the job.

The key strategy that just might win you that next job is keyword and phrases throughout your Cover Letter and Resume. Review the keywords utilized by the job posting and the industry, and then repeat those keywords back to the reviewer.

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