How To Use Keywords in Your Resume

How To Use Keywords in Your Resume

How To Use Keywords in Your Resume

You spend hours perfecting your resume and applying to jobs that match your qualifications. All your hard work could be wasted, however, if your resume gets tossed aside without having been seen. Using keywords correctly can help save your application from that sad fate.

Use Resume Keywords To Pump Up Your Job Search

You know how tough the job market is, but these statistics really put things in perspective.

  • Professional job openings receive more than 250 applications each.
  • Out of these applications, hiring managers pick two to four people to interview.
  • Entry-level and nonprofessional job openings typically get 100 applications. About 10 people might be chosen for interviews.

Given those numbers, how do you get your job application to make the cut? Using keywords correctly is the ticket. To do that, you need to understand the way companies use scanners to screen out applicants.

Why Resume Keywords Matter

If you’ve heard of keywords, you probably know they're important for search engine optimization (SEO) strategies. When you create a website, blog, or social media account, you use keywords to attract potential viewers and customers. Used correctly, keywords can help your website rank high on Google search results.

Keywords on a job application work the same way. When employers write job descriptions, they use specific terms to describe the job and its qualifications. Any application that uses the same terms will make the cut.

How Scanners Screen Out Applications

There are two steps in the screening process. Both rely on keywords.

ATS Scanner

ATS stands for applicant tracking system. It’s a database that screens applicants before they get in the digital door. Have you ever applied for a job that asked you two or three screening questions? They might ask, “Do you have three years of experience doing this work?” or “Do you have a master’s degree in a life science?”

Recruiters call these “knockout questions” because if your answers don’t match the job requirements, your application won’t get any further.

An ATS has another screening function. It filters out applications that don’t have specific keywords. Using keywords correctly is key to keeping your application in the running.

Human Scanners

The next step is screening by a human being. In many companies, a professional recruiter might be the screener. In others, the screener might be a human resources employee. In all cases, the human screener is likely to use the same keywords and keyword phrases the ATS uses.

Up Your Job Search Game with Keywords

Follow these tips to give your job application a better chance at rising to the top of the heap.

1. Choose the Right Keywords

Before you submit a job application, read the job description and list of qualifications. This will give you a good idea of the keywords and terms that matter to the company.

The experts at SweetCV suggest that you look for keywords related to the following:

  • Industry-specific skills – using the industry jargon that the hiring manager will understand
  • Hardware and software programs
  • Job titles
  • Education and professional titles, like Ph.D., MBA, CPA, JD, and so on
  • Vocational training certificates.

Compile a list of keywords for each of these categories. Think about how you can update the information on your application with these words and phrases.

2. Use Keywords Strategically

Once you have a list of keywords, add them to your application.

Don’t go overboard. Use them in ways that will sound natural.

For best results, use a mix of keyword types. Use a combination of all the categories we listed above, including industry terminology, soft skills, professional certifications and hard skills.

Don’t Stuff It

Don’t “keyword stuff.” Your descriptions should read normally.

Have you ever read a website article that seemed to be a bunch of keywords stuffed together for no apparent reason? You don’t want your job application to come across that way.

Keep these tips in mind:

  • Don't use white font to stuff invisible keywords into your application.
  • Don't lie about your skills or qualifications.
  • Do use a simple format with an easy-to-read font and plenty of white space.

Match the Company’s Values

Go beyond basic skills and qualifications. Read the company’s website to learn how it describes itself. For instance, if the company’s literature constantly stresses innovation, be sure to use terms like "innovative" and "innovate" in your application.

Don’t Forget Social Media

If you have profiles on professional social media sites like LinkedIn, update your profile. Add skills that mirror the keywords you discovered during your research.

Your Application Can Rise To the Top

Using these tips can make a big difference when you submit a job application. When you add the right keywords to your application, you give it a good chance to make it past the screeners.

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