Today, most recruiters and employers use applicant tracking systems (ATS) to collect and scan job applicants’ resumes, automating the process of finding strong candidates for available and upcoming roles. ATS software is designed to rank applicants based on how well resume keywords match those in the job description. The higher you rank, the more likely it is that you’ll be contacted for a job interview.
This means that, even if you’re the best fit for a role, your application could go unnoticed by ATS software – and the hiring manager or recruiter – unless you include the right keywords in your resume.
And as most job-seekers know, just having your resume looked at is half the battle. By following this guide, you can give yourself a better chance at having your resume considered by potential employers and recruiters.
How to find resume keywords
How do you know which keywords to include in your resume? A good starting point is to highlight relevant words and phrases when looking through a job posting. If you see the same words being used multiple times, or phrases that are very specific to the job, they’re likely to be keywords.
Recruiters will also commonly search through resumes for specific job titles, to find people who have held positions similar to the role they are trying to fill. Obviously it’s a major bonus if you have had relevant job roles in the past, as you can simply include these in your work history on your resume. If not, try to include similar keywords instead. For example, you might include the phrase ‘administrative professional’ in your resume summary when applying for an administrative assistant role.
Also make note of any well-known software and programs related to your industry, as well as industry shorthand names or acronyms. Recruiters and employers (via ATS software) will be looking for someone who is familiar with the technology, programs and processes used in that position.
How to include keywords in your job application
Resume keywords are essential, but this doesn’t mean you should use them at every chance in your resume, regardless of whether or not they fit, or if they’re relevant to your experience. Instead, try to naturally weave keywords into your listed experience, skills, education and accomplishments. Above all else, they should make sense when you use them.
Adding keywords in your resume might get it looked at by a recruiter, but if the keywords don’t match the rest of the information in your resume then it can have the opposite effect.
Should you add keywords to your cover letter?
Just like your resume, your cover letter is likely to be scanned by ATS software as well. So think of it as an additional opportunity to incorporate relevant keywords into your application.
Remember every cover letter should be tailored to the specific job – this does take longer than sending out a templated version, but it could be the key to getting you an interview.
Most job postings will describe the ideal employee they are looking for, so use your cover letter to demonstrate why you’re the perfect candidate.
When you go through a job application, this time take note of the skills they are looking for in a potential employee – weave these keywords in your cover letter. This will not only show that you’ve read the application thoroughly, but also ensure when recruiters search through applications, they will find yours easily.
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