How and why to use keywords in your CV

IN CVs
ON February 28, 2018

Many candidates applying for a job may not fully understand or acknowledge how an ATS (Applicant Tracking System) works — or why the system is even used today. Nonetheless, 75% of recruiters and hiring professionals use an applicant tracking system in the hiring process (Source: Capterra). Therefore, it is important you adapt your CV with keywords to comply with this system.

75% of recruiters and hiring professionals use an applicant tracking system in the hiring process

What are keywords

Starting with the basics, keywords are phrases and words used in search engines by people to find relevant searches. Well, one of the main screenings an ATS can do is scan for related keywords.

What is an ATS (Applicant Tracking System)

An applicant tracking system automates the recruiting and staffing operations at some companies. The system electronically handles résumés and applications.

ATS and keywords

Applicant Tracking Systems have this filtering feature that works like search engines; it works principally through keyword and phrase recognition. The system scans CVs for detected keywords that match with the job description and skills that are corresponding to the job role. Recruiters use this tool to make sure that the CVs that are received from a job advert is up to scratch with the requirements that are needed.

If you are not sure what keywords to include in your CV or you don’t really know where to start, then follow these steps to make sure your CV is optimised with the correct and most effective keywords.

Don’t scan… read job descriptions

With any job advert, you need to read through the description to understand the job role. When it comes to adjusting your CV for the job position you want to apply for, pay extra attention to keywords. These phrases will be what the employers are looking for such as person specifications. For example, if a job advert talks about having ‘telephone skills’ then this skill should be included in your CV. An ATS tool will then pick this up as a direct correlation between what the employer wants and what you have. After a while, you will identify commonly used keywords that you can have on your CV.

Job titles

One keyword that is naturally used in any job advert is the job title. However, a job title can have many different terms. One job role could be ‘Web Designer’, but the same role could also be titled as ‘Graphic Designer’. Aligning your job titles to industry standard terms will adapt your CV to the most recognised within your industry. Another handy tip is not to be creative with your job title. Even if you are a ‘Tech genius’, the term isn’t commonly used as a job title.

Don’t overload

Comparable to best practice SEO with websites, having too many keywords and phrases is not a good idea. Most ATS systems will flag the keyword overload as a suspicious CV. Also, appearance wise it will look overcrowded. Therefore, write your CV as naturally as possible but be sure to focus on main keywords in the professional profile, job skills and job titles.

Check keyword grammar

When using keywords in your CV, it’s best to double check all spellings. If a keyword is spelt incorrectly then the ATS will overlook this word. Consequently, your whole CV may be overlooked for the job position that you applied for. Best way to avoid spelling mistakes is to have a friend – or two – review it for you.

It’s not all robots

Thankfully an Applicant Tracking System is only used at the very start of the recruitment process and eventually your CV will be read by someone like a hiring manager. With this in mind, your CV should still follow best standard CV writing practice. Ultimately though, any decision about inviting you in for an interview will be made by a person, not an ATS system. Therefore, it is essential your CV looks professional and all your skills are up-to-date.

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