How to use the secret language of job postings to supercharge your resume, cover letter and interview

Posted June 05, 2015 by


Job postings have a secret language all their own and understanding this can supercharge both resume and cover letter, plus your performance at job interviews.

There are half a dozen keywords and phrases that you see in almost every job posting. These words and phrases are so commonly used that most people say they are meaningless – that you could put any job title on top of them. These people are missing the point. Far from being pointless, these words represent a secret language that most job hunters never grasp but should include in their job application. Those that elaborate on these keywords and phrases are the ones who get the job offers and the subsequently promotions that help them achieve far greater levels of long-term success. 

The six most common keywords in job postings

  1. Communication skills
  2. Multi-tasking skills
  3. Time management
  4. Organization skills
  5. Teamwork, creativity, critical thinking
  6. Problem solving and leadership skills

Related: Communication skills factor into who gets promoted

The foundations of success

This handful of words and phrases represent the skills that enable you to do your job well, whatever your job may be. Because they are relevant to success in all jobs and at all levels, we know them as transferable skills because no matter the job, the profession, or the rank, application of these skills make the difference between success and failure. They are skills that anyone and everyone can develop and they form the foundations of every successful professional career.

For example, when critical thinking or problem-solving skills are mentioned, it means the employer is looking for someone who knows his or her area of responsibility well enough to identify, prevent, and solve the problems that activity naturally generates every day.

As an illustration, let’s apply this thinking to a job posting for an Accounts Receivable Specialist with good problem solving skills. Accounts Receivable is that incredibly important function that allows a company to make payroll on Friday, so problem-solving skills in this context can be thought of as the ways you identify, prevent, and solve the problems that cause accounts to go over the 30 day payable mark; and when they do, to do to solve that late payable, getting it in by the 45 day mark.

As another example, you’ll sometimes see “works closely with others,” which is another way of saying “teamwork” or “team player”, and it also embraces the communication skills you employ to work effectively with others.

Communication is keyTalk of communication skills is commonly seen to refer to verbal, written, and listening skills, but it also refers to the supporting communication skills of: digital communication, dress, body language, social graces, and emotional maturity. Together, these eight components of effective communication impact the power and persuasiveness of all your interactions with others.

To illustrate this point further, if a sales job involves entertaining clients, you might have great verbal skills but you will never get the job offer if you don’t understand the importance of table manners, professional dress and social graces.

In your job application, use this secret language of job postings 

In a resume you can mention relevant transferable skills in the Professional Skills section of your resume, the one that highlights the hard skills you bring to the job.

Also read our Definitive Guide to Resume Writing for Students and Grads

An example of a Dental Assistant’s “Professional Skills” 

4-Handed Dentistry, Infection Control, Preventative Care

Oral Surgery/Extraction, Casts/Impressions, Emergency Treatment

Root Canals, Diagnostic X-Rays, Instrument Sterilization

Critical Thinking, Multi-tasking, Persuasive Communication

Prosthetics/Restoration, Teeth Whitening, Radiology


You should repeat these keywords them throughout the work history section of your resume, as they apply to your responsibilities and achievements.

In a cover letter, where there is more space, you can integrate these keywords and phrases more creatively. Make sure to reference the company’s job-posting requirements.

For example, if the job posting asks for  “Communication skills”, you might write this: “I helped increase on-time delivery by 35%, made possible by improving my communication with Purchasing, Supply Chain, and Customer Service.”

If the job posting asks for “Multitasking,” you might write this in your cover letter: “I built an understanding of every department’s critical functions and timelines. I effectively used this awareness, multitasking to balance various demands, to help Finance & Supply Chain save $55,000 in last three quarters.”

Related: How to get out of customer service and transfer your skills to a new career

Supercharge your future

When you can express transferable skills in your job application, that is your resume and cover letters, you can dramatically increase the number of interviews you get. At those job interviews, when you can express how the transferable skills are applied in the identification, prevention, and solution of the daily problems that are the heart of your job, you can change the trajectory of your professional life forever.

About Martin Yate: Martin is the author of N.Y. Times bestseller “Knock Em Dead 2015 – The Ultimate Job Search Guide” Visit Copyright 2015 all rights reserved

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