When you’re in executive job search, you need to have a diverse online presence that reinforces your personal brand. This means you should be ever-mindful of SEO.
What is SEO?
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is all about optimizing websites, web pages and other online content to increase their visibility in Google.
This is accomplished by including enough relevant keywords and phrases in the content so those websites and web pages will land higher in search results when people Google those keywords and phrases.
As you’ll see below, when they’re sourcing candidates, recruiters and other hiring professionals will search on various keywords related to the jobs they’re trying to fill.
Once they’ve determined you’re a candidate of interest, they’ll search on “your name” to find out whatever they can about your good-fit qualities and qualifications.
Your online presence works for you passively, providing people with the kind of information about you that helps them decide whether to call you in for an interview and hire you.
If you have little or no online presence − and you’re paying little or no attention to SEO − you don’t stand a chance competing against others like you who DO.
Any content online about you that you want hiring decision makers to find needs to be easy for them to find.
That means that this content about you must be easily accessible to them, when they search relevant key words and phrases on Google, LinkedIn, and other search engines.
Additionally, the content needs to land towards the top of search results pages for those keywords, to be sure they’ll see it.
How SEO works in general, and in job search specifically
Google and other search engines strive to deliver the most relevant, helpful search results, when you enter words and phrases in a browser.
One of the many factors they use to prioritize search results is on-topic content with substance, that includes the words and phrases being searched (that is, relevant keywords).
When people look online to find people to meet their various needs, they search certain words and see what comes up.
You know this, if you’ve ever searched online for a professional to help you with home repairs, or other services, or if you’re researching various topics.
You search for, say, “heating contractor, city, state” and begin the process of assessment and selection, based on what you find.
It works pretty much the same way in job search
Recruiters and hiring decision makers search on keywords relevant to the kinds of candidates they’re seeking, such as “Information Technology Executive, Enterprise Business Systems”.
Working from this understanding, you need to determine which are the right keywords for your particular job search.
Then you need to place those keywords in the right places in your LinkedIn profile and any other online content you create for your job search.
This doesn’t mean that you should pack your LinkedIn profile, etc. only with long strings of your relevant keywords.
In fact, search engines frown on “keyword packing” and may penalize web pages that go overboard with keyword density.
The content needs to strike a good balance between personal SEO (keyword density) and personal branding (vibrant content that demonstrates your personality and character traits).
Where to find the right keywords for you
Step one in job search is targeting. You need to know which companies and organizations you’re going to pursue, and then research each one.
Then you’ll be able to build your personal brand and job search marketing content (resume, biography, cover letters, LinkedIn profile, etc.) around showcasing your unique value to those particular employers.
As you research each of your target companies, you’ll identify the challenges facing them right now, that you’re uniquely qualified to help them overcome.
You’ll also pay attention to the relevant keywords and phrases (usually representing areas of expertise) that consistently come up.
Those are the best relevant keywords for your job search, if they apply to you and your promise of value to your target employers.
3 SEO things to keep in mind
1. Placement of keywords matters
Keep in mind that search engines typically pay more attention to the content that sits towards the top of any web page. That’s why, in your LinkedIn profile, your professional headline is one of the most important SEO spots.
The LinkedIn About section is also very important, since it also sits near the top of the web page that is your LinkedIn profile.
Overall, be sure to position your most important keywords “above the fold” in the online content you create.
2. Spelling matters
Aside from the glaring fact that typos, misspellings, and poor grammar reflect badly on your communication skills, there’s another, equally important reason to carefully proofread before posting content.
If, for instance, you call yourself a “Chief Financal Officer” (instead of “Financial”) or “Project Manger” (instead of “Manager”) in your content, search engines may not recognize the misspelled word and may not include that web page in search results.
3. Executive Resume Applicant Tracking Systems work a little differently
You’ll need 3 versions of your executive resume for various purposes:
- A nicely formatted, visually appealing Word version.
- A PDF version so that formatting of your document will set up exactly as you meant it to.
- A stripped down, barely formatted text or ATS-friendly version to make it through Applicant Tracking Systems. This can be created as a Word document.
When recruiters, HR and other hiring professionals put resumes into ATS, the documents are scanned for the keywords they put into place for a given job they’re trying to fill.
Resumes that don’t contain enough of the right keywords may not make it through ATS, and those candidates may never be considered for those roles, even if they are 100% qualified.
It’s all about the keywords, in much the same way that SEO is all about the keywords.
ATS technology rewards keyword density across the entire document, not just keywords found towards the top.
So in your ATS-friendly resume, pack your relevant keywords everywhere in the document, even at the bottom.