The color of your keywords

What color are of your keywords?

Pink Keywords

The color of your keywords

Do you know that keywords have colors? Yeah!! they absolutely do! The thing is, we color the keywords ourselves. We color them by our experience, by our assumptions of what the word means, the assumptions how they relate to the skill they represent, the assumptions of why they performed the way they did, etc… Every keyword that we use is neatly wrapped and colored with this framework of assumptions.

You might not be aware of it but the coloring becomes apparent the first time you search using a keyword. When you enter a keyword into a search engine or database and get irrelevant results and accordingly proceed to discard those keywords, you’ve formed an image. By abandoning those keywords in favor of an alternate word, they show that you have come to believe that the keyword is not worth pursuing any further.

These keywords are often abandoned even though they may be the right keyword to find the “right skills” of the perfect candidate right from the start. Either way, the irrelevant results brought you to the conclusions that the either the keywords were bad or that the poor keyword has given all that it could give. In other words, you’ve colored that keyword as bad.

The truth is that the assumptions we make about a keyword affects the way we feel about how it will perform. Those  images that were formed in your mind about how the individual word performed colors your evaluation of it as a keyword from that point forward. The color of your keywords directs how the keyword performance is viewed in all future searches as well. This in turn affects the way that we use them.

Most recruiters don’t give it a second thought and go on to another search string. It is needless to say that this is a mistake. That is because bad results don’t necessarily mean that the wrong keywords were chosen. Bad results is not a good reason to designate a keyword as a bad one. Giving up on keywords prematurely is the most common way to give up on many potential candidates. Bad results mean that you colored your keywords with pink colored glasses!!

Let me give you some examples, the keyword “JAVA” is searched over 83 million times a month in Google alone. When a search for it on Google is conducted, 475 million pages are return as matches. However, those results will often include many irrelevant results. That is because it is both popular as a search term and popular as a keyword on website content. It is used across too many industries to count and it encompasses many skill sets.

In this instance our keyword is not bad but the effects of its popularity make it hard to clearly search for Java developer’s resumes. The word describes the skill set sought after but the many occurrences of it over the web make it difficult to use at best. Just as it is in the case of the keyword JAVA, most keyword can create a detailed image of the required skills, but can still bring about irrelevant or unwanted results. It is not enough even when these words describe the exact skills the prospective candidate possesses. The skills described are good but they form only half of the picture.

Many recruiters resort to using keywords as found in the job description or as given by stakeholders. It has become the “go to” or default practice as at first glance it appears to work. They do find some candidates which mention those keywords. Usually though, the mention of those are not enough. The results will inevitably end with frustration by a lack of qualified candidates. The problem gets worse when the database or search engine starts getting blamed.

Let me insert a parentheses here. Database are not the culprit. They do their job perfectly. Just like you wouldn’t blame your car for taking you to New York when you needed to be in Los Angeles. The car wouldn’t drive you the wrong way, the driver would. The same applies to databases. Bad data in a database is not as a big a problem to overcome. Not any more than encountering a road full of potholes. For those instances you can usually find another route to take. The same concept applies to searching databases.

Another area were assumptions color our perception of a words performance is the stakeholders choice of keywords. Most recruiters are trained to go to the stakeholder or hiring manager to get the keywords necessary for the search. Don’t get me wrong. I am not saying they are to be ignored. The words that you were given by stakeholders and managers are meant to furnish you with a picture of what you need to find. They are not meant to be absolute search terms. They are important as the starting point for your search. The key issue here is not whether to use them or not. The issue is to use these keywords not so much for generating candidate leads but for expanding your search knowledge base.

Running keywords in a search and accepting the results as final without researching the efficacy of the keywords will often cause the wrong keywords to be targeted. There are many factors that affect how your keywords will perfor m.  The assumptions for the keyword performance need to be tested and verified befor being accepted.  Without testing keyword decisions are based on nothing more than impressions. These untested impression wrongly color keyowrds without you even being aware of the actual coloring.

The way keywords work is a complicated dance between many different elements. The relationship between these elements is often misunderstood and oversimplified. At the forefront of undertaking a successful search, lies the foundational understanding of keywords. It is also the basis for the design of a strategy that would help to buffer your search from unwanted and irrelevant results. Rather than making assumptions, lets discover the real elements of how a keyword really works. In other words, stop coloring your keywords.

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