You may think of as simply a source of position listings. From an employer's perspective, the site is both a place to post position listings and to "source" for candidates: many employers and third-party recruiting firms pay big bucks to search Monster's resume database. (The issue of when and when not to "post" to a resume database will be the subject of a future post.)

I've spent many years helping students and emerging professionals apply for positions, I've also worked as a recruiter--and "sourced" for candidates through resume databases. Here's how it works from the back-end--and how you can increase your chances.

  • When posting positions, individuals have the option to include "keywords" for the job
  • When searching for candidates, many employers often type in "keywords"

In both situations, search results and applications for positions are ranked in order of "keyword" relevance: your resume and application materials are assigned a percentage of relevance--i.e. a score of 87% means that your skills and experience are assessed to be a reasonably strong match with the position description.

While you can't see your "relevance factor," here are a few strategies to optimize your resume and applications and to increase your % score:

1. Identify a position description of interest. Note phrases listed in the job--e.g. if project management is listed in the job description, it is also a potential keyword.

2. Seek out the Wikipedia entry for your intended field or functional area; many summaries including information on buzzwords and concepts used in the field--again, an obvious source of potential keywords. (Caveat: Since Wikipedia is an open source encyclopedia and is written by scores of people, never rely on the site as your primary source of information for employer research.)

3. If two keywords sound alike and mean essentially the same thing, assess the popularity of your word choices by conducting a GoogleFight. This application allows you to put two phrases in opposing text boxes and calculate which generates the largest number of search results. Use the "winner" unless you've been advised otherwise--there's a larger chance it will be relevant.

Once you have a short list of keywords, weave the ones that are relevant to your own experience into the body of your resume and cover letter. Note: While many resume samples on keywords recommend a keyword rich section at the top of your document, most search agents will base their relevance factor based on the entirety of your document and the discerning employer will know what you are doing if they see a list of more than ten keywords "clumped together."

Finally, apply for the position. You can't be found if you're not in the game! (Though again, listing yourself in the resume database may not be the best idea...we'll tell you why soon--promise.)