One challenge modern job seekers face is the need to balance their resumes and LinkedIn profiles for both human eyes and applicant tracking systems. You want a readable, engaging resume, but it may need to get through an Applicant Tracking System (ATS) first. While up to 40% of companies may not use an ATS, using organization keywords is still the best way to get noticed by both digital and human eyes.
What exactly are keywords? Susan P. Joyce excellently defines them as:
“The terms used by searchers to find relevant content in a search engine, social network, applicant tracking system, or other database.”
We always speak about the importance of tailoring your resume, and this is where keywords shine. Discover why keywords are vital in the modern job search and how to make them work for you, and you’ll find the key to job search success!
The importance of keywords
Recruiters spend a short amount of time on each resume, and the ATS may keep your resume from getting to them in the first place. You need to stand out in a limited amount of time and prove you’re the candidate for the job.
Consider your search. You’re using keywords to find the jobs you are interested in, inputting job titles and locations into search engines to find positions relevant to you. If you’re looking to be a warehouse supervisor, just typing in “supervisor” is going to find a lot of unrelated jobs.
Coming up with a plan for your job search is the first step to finding the right keywords to use. Ivy Exec recommends figuring out your goals and conducting thorough research before you start applying. Target your ideal roles and industries, talk with your network, and research specific organizations. This targeted approach will provide clarity on what your dream jobs are looking for and how you can appeal to them.
With this knowledge, you can begin incorporating keywords into your resumes and into your LinkedIn profile, too.
While we’ll recommend, as always, tailoring your resume for each position, there are a few keywords that are always relevant—your basic information!
It may seem obvious, but make sure you’re using the same professional name across all of your job seeker material. Susan P. Joyce says if your business cards use a different name than the one you use on LinkedIn, it will lead to confusion.
You don’t want to use a full address, but make sure your current city or targeted city is clear, as many recruiters search based on location. If you speak any additional languages or have college degrees or certifications, they should be clear as well. Finally, use a job title for the position you seek, and be as specific as possible. Use the version used by the company, if possible, and when in doubt, Susan adds to use a slash between two similar titles (Executive Assistant/Administrative Assistant for example).
With the basics covered, you can get into the finer points. Start by combing through the job description and highlighting all action words. These are the key responsibilities of the position, and your resume needs to show you’re capable of them. If you see a reoccurring word, definitely make a note to incorporate it, writes Mariana Toledo.
The exact word choices matter and you want to be specific. That’s why the easiest way to find relevant keywords is to take them right from the description.
Next, look at the industry on the whole. The terminology may change from position to position, but there should be a few constants. Alison Doyle suggests looking at the difference between job-specific skills and transferable skills and making sure to highlight both. If you’re applying for a programming job, you may need specific software skills, but you’ll also want good communication skills.
“For example, being able to operate a power saw is a job-specific skill for a carpenter, but not for many other jobs.” –Alison Doyle
You can use these keywords and incorporate them through your work history. Not only will this show you have the experience where it matters, but a potential ATS will note the word choice and help you stand out.
If there are any relevant proficiencies, certifications, or courses you’ve completed, make sure to add them as well. These are things like Photoshop, Salesforce, WordPress, programming languages, and even Microsoft Office suite. These can be sprinkled within your work history or on a separate “skills and qualifications” section.
Finally, after incorporating keywords, make sure your resume is readable and truthful. Joseph Rios writes that while it may be tempting to manipulate keywords to your advantage, never lie on your resume. It can bite you in the rear down the road. Susan P. Joyce adds that stuffing your resume with keywords with no strategy will make your resume bloated and unreadable. Make sure to incorporate your keywords in a logical and descriptive manner.
Using keywords may seem daunting at first, but if you do your proper research it will become a natural part of job searching. It’s imperative to stand out in your job search, and using the right keywords will make sure your resume gets seen. Use job descriptions and industry knowledge to your advantage, and incorporate the keywords in an honest and logical manner.