Think about the stack of resumes on a recruiter’s desk. With so many applications to wade through, it’s understandable they only spend seconds, or minutes if you’re lucky, looking over your details to see if you measure up.
A sobering thought, right?
Scary as the prospect of being judged so quickly is, you can definitely increase your chances of being noticed.
There are keywords you can include in your resume which are going to maximize your ability to get through an Applicant Tracking System (ATS), and then get noticed by a hiring manager.
An ATS works by scanning your resume for essential details the hiring company wants to see, so you need to give them what they’re looking for.
This begs the question, how do you know what the keywords are and how to use them effectively?
Where do the keywords belong on your resume?
Coming up, we’re going to look at:
With plenty of examples and other information that will see you on your way to landing your dream job, too.
Let’s tackle the basics first, what are keywords for resumes?
Resume keywords are phrases or words that are important for describing the function or the expectations of a job role.
The words are usually regarding the abilities, credentials, skills, and qualities that a recruiter wants to see in their ideal candidate.
The next thing you’re going to want to know is…
Below are some popular industries and some examples of the types of keywords you’re likely to need:
These keywords, and more, are able to help your resume make a computer ping and whir with delight as it scans through your resume.
These are really important to work into your resume and work them in the right way.
Why is this so important?
The first time your resume is read it may be read either by a computer program, or a human.
Keywords can help your resume to pass ATS software and attract HR’s attention to the most important sections you want to highlight.
If your resume lands with a company, it will get scanned into an ATS (an applicant tracking system); a piece of software that speeds up the hiring process and makes the job of a recruiter easier.
Pro-TipAs smart as the Applicant Tracking Systems are, they still can’t make out typos. Be sure that all of your spellings are checked and double-checked before clicking “submit”.
Then, once you’ve made it past the computer, the recruiter will take a quick look through the pile that remains and skim over them to find the keywords they’re looking for.
Without enough of the keywords the computer has been taught, your application will descend into a digital abyss, never to be seen by the recruiter who no doubt would have loved you.
At the same time, if your resume lands directly in the recruiter's hands, it should also be filled with keywords, to show your most prominent skills and qualifications.
Never fear, there’s a way to avoid the depths of computerized oblivion and attract recruiter’s eye.
Here’s what you need to do with your keywords…
For the best chance of success, keywords for resumes need to be specific for the role you’re aiming to land.
Sounds simple, but you need to know what those keywords are.
This is where you need to put in some leg work…
We’ve got a handy checklist with some really powerful and effective ways to hunt down the perfect keywords for your resume.
Get to grips with these tricks and you’ll be adding in keywords that are highly relative to the job you want and targeted to the company and role.
Here’s different types of language to be searching for when hunting for keywords to use:
The more specific your choice of language and more focused you are in your writing, the more chance you’re going to have to prove your mettle and get the job you’re applying for. The more relevant keywords you use, the more chance you’re getting past the ATS. Just remember not to overuse them.
Pro-TipGet the keywords you’ve found into your cover letter too because this could get scanned by an ATS. Even if it doesn’t go into the system, when a recruiter reads your letter they’re more likely to pick you for an interview if you’ve done your research and used keywords well.
To get on to the shortlist for the role you’re hoping to get, you need your resume to rank high up in the Applicant Tracking System and to make it attractive for the recruiter’s eye.
To get there, you need to use the right keywords.
Once you’ve got your keywords, you’re probably looking at a long list and thinking…
So, how many keywords should there even be in your resume?
👍 As a rule of thumb, place them whenever appropriate. Using more than you actually need will start to feel really obvious, plus bots don’t like spam.
Mix things up with different types of keywords.
Pepper your resume with industry buzzwords, a mix of hard and soft skills, certifications, and others that have made it onto your list.
By diversifying your keywords, you’re demonstrating that you have the full gamut of qualities demanded by the job role.
Pro-TipSome ATSs pick up on different tenses, pluralization, and word variants, but the majority only pick up exact matches. If the hiring manager has set “team leader” as a term, you’re not getting anywhere with “led a team” or “leadership in a team setting”.
Whether it’s the person who’ll interview you or a computer reading your resume, they’re both going to want to see keywords cropping up all over.
You can fit them into your summary statement, key job titles work well in your work experience section, the skills section is the obvious place to include your hard and soft skills, and indeed anywhere else where the words fit and sound natural.
It’s important to not pack out your resume with too many keywords.
Overusing keywords is nearly as bad as not even trying to use them at all.
Another key pointer is to not just make a list that’s purely keywords.
Take the keyword and put it into a sentence that highlights an achievement.
An example would be, someone applying for a food store management role. The job description may say something like:
Looking for a manager for our food and beverage store, experienced in managing a large team, with a high engagement score, and able to manage the budget.
In this case, an applicant will be writing:
“…Food and Beverage Manager at New York Marriott Marquis; team leader for 25 staff with an employee engagement score of 97%, experienced in managing the budget for small and big businesses…”
This way you’ve wisely used the keywords mentioned in the job description.
An ATS and a hiring manager are going to do a quick scan over your resume to see if they spot the keywords they’re looking out for.
Without including the correct experience and skills, whether you have them or not won’t matter; you’re getting nowhere fast.
What do you need to do to get through to the next stage?
You need to find the words the system or the potential employer wants to read, and then make sure that you use those keywords when writing up your resume.
How do you know which keywords are needed? Once you know them, how do you actually go about putting them in your resume? How to avoid spamming a bot with keywords?
Now it’s time to ask these three important questions:
When you’ve done the same or similar role before or you’ve got the exact qualifications they want, be sure it’s listed on your resume and use the exact same words and phrases they do.
It’s worth noting…
Now you’re armed with the information about the keywords you need to use and where to find them, you can make sure that the content on your resume sparkles for the computers as well as humans. Once you get past the ATS you’re on track to landing your dream job!
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