Dear Sam: Can you explain how I can figure out what keywords to use in my resume to have my application ‘pulled’ for a potential interview? I am receiving such conflicting advice. One person told me to be as vague and broad as possible to avoid closing doors, while another told me to re-write my resume for every position I apply for. I can’t possibly do the latter; that would take far more time than I have when I’m working full-time, attempting to be a decent father and husband, and also trying to conduct a job search. What approach should I take, and how do I know what keywords to use? – Cole

Dear Cole: The key to getting your foot in the right doors is ensuring the language in your resume reflects the roles you are applying for. The more targeted you can be in your resume, the stronger your results will be. A one-size-fits-all general approach is rarely effective, and that is not the approach I would recommend. I also do not recommend the need to re-write your resume every time you apply for an opportunity. Instead, it would be best if you had a clear target in mind regarding the types of roles you are seeking, the titles you will be applying for, and perhaps even the industries you are focused on, and your keyword strategy will stem from that career objective.

I have presented this keyword mapping exercise before, but it warrants repeating. To perform keyword mapping, I suggest the following steps:

(1) Print a representative sampling of job postings (10 or so) you are interested in.

(2) Read the postings and write desired qualifications, skills, etc. on the left side of a piece of paper. Focus on the job description, not just the “requirements” for the job. Requirements are often so vague that many in highly diverse fields could actually “qualify” for the role; the key to indeed being qualified for a job is being able to emulate a similar message in your background to the position you are applying for.

(3) Cross-reference the list with your qualifications and experiences, transferring the items you possess to the right side of the piece of paper and crossing them off the left side.

(4) If you see items that you “sort of” have, “move” those to the middle of the paper.

This “master list” will then illustrate an overview of your qualifiers (right side of the page), disqualifiers (left side of the page), and potential disqualifiers (middle of the page). These keywords and phrases then need to be incorporated into your resume, being very careful how you handle or perhaps address items that remain on the left side of the page or fall in the middle.

This exercise will provide you with a roadmap for the language (keywords) you need to speak to develop a targeted resume based on your area(s) of interest. This exercise will also showcase whether your career targets are too diverse. If you find yourself writing furiously by the time you are mapping your sixth or seventh job posting, then perhaps you need to take a closer look at the target of your job search to ensure you are positioning yourself as something and not everything. The more targeted you can be, the stronger your keyword strategy and response.