Consider how much easier resume keywords make the hiring process. Imagine that you work in a human resources office, and whenever a job applicant submits a resume, you put it in a file folder with all the other resumes submitted for the same position. Sometime later, your manager tells you that your company wants to hire a bookkeeper, and she asks you find all the resumes of people who have worked as bookkeepers. The only problem is that, as long as you have been in charge of organizing the resumes, your company has never hired a bookkeeper. You go through the folders of resumes and make a new folder of resumes of people who would be appropriate for the new position; you do this by putting all the resumes that include the words “bookkeeper,” “bookkeeping,” and “accounting” into the new folder. The prospective employees you contact for an interview are delighted that they are being considered for the new position, but think of how much time it took you to look through all those resumes. Now imagine that all those resumes are in a database, and that when you use the search function and type in the keyword “bookkeeper,” dozens, if not hundreds, of resumes appear within seconds, and you can immediately get to work contacting applicants who have experience with bookkeeping. More and more employers are using automated means to search through large numbers of resumes to find the candidates best suited to the job.
Applicant tracking systems
Many large companies and an increasing number of small businesses are using applicant tracking systems (ATS) to help them identify the most suitable candidates for the positions they are trying to fill. An applicant tracking system is a type of software that allows recruiters to search a database of information on potential candidates. The databases usually consist of resumes submitted electronically through the employer’s website, but some ATS even use profile pages from social media networks such as LinkedIn in their databases. The recruiter enters keywords into the applicant tracking system, and it produces a list of resumes containing the desired keywords.
Search engine optimization
Keywords are words and phrases you enter into a search engine; the search engine then displays results that contain those words and phrases. Every time you have conducted a search on a search engine such as Google, or in a university catalog, you have used keywords. The keywords for which potential employers search are usually nouns (such as “manager”), noun phrases (such as “information systems”), verbs (such as “supervised”) or acronyms (such as “IT”). When you try to guess which keywords an employer is looking for to include those keywords in your resume, you are engaging in a process similar to search engine optimization, which is when writers include popular search terms in the content of their websites so that search engines, and therefore readers, will be able to find their sites easily. We recommend using Jobscan to get an instant analysis comparing your resume to the job description of our choice. You will get personalized feedback on your keyword usage, and suggestions for improvements.
Research your desired position
The best way to find a job for which you are a good fit is to learn as much as possible about the job before applying. Read the job posting carefully to start. If the posting asks for experience with certain industry-specific software programs, such as Quickbooks for accountants or Trados for translators, there is a good chance that those will be used as keywords when the employer searches through submitted resumes. Tools such as Jobscan can speed up the keyword identification process. Think like a search engine when choosing the keywords you use and how you phrase them. It is important to use terms that match the job description exactly. Perhaps the job posting says that one of your duties will be to “manage interns.” If your resume says that, at your current job, you “supervise interns,” you can change your phrasing to “manage interns.” Most forms of artificial intelligence, ATS included, do not recognize synonyms. When it comes to acronyms, it is a good idea to include them in both their abbreviated and spelled-out forms at least once in your resume. For example, if you are a registered nurse, make sure your resume includes both “R.N.” and “Registered Nurse,” because you don’t know which one your potential employer will use as a keyword.
Many resume databases include resumes from all over the United States, if not all over the world, but most positions are being offered in a particular location. Therefore, the recruiter will look first for job candidates in a particular city who have the desired qualifications. Mention your city, state, or zip code in your resume. If possible, include several versions of your state’s name, such as its postal abbreviation (i.e. “FL”) and its conventional abbreviation (i.e. “Fla.”). You might also mention your region. Perhaps you live in Fort Lauderdale and are applying to a job in downtown Miami. You might mention that at one of your previous jobs, you “worked with clients throughout South Florida” so that someone searching for “South Florida” will find your resume. If you are planning to move and are looking for a job in your new city, mention it in your resume; you can say that you are seeking a position in a particular location. This way, your resume will likely be displayed in an ATS search for candidates in your desired location.
Even your name can be a resume keyword. This is especially true when applicant tracking systems use social media sites as databases. If you have a common name, consider adding your middle initial or middle name to your resume and social media profiles so that potential employers will find you and not a different person with a similar name. Even when recruiters are dealing with paper resumes or email attachments, four out of five job searches still involve the recruiter entering a candidate’s name into a search engine. It is in your interest to use the same name for all professional purposes, including your resume, LinkedIn profile, comments you make on blogs in your field, and work-related communications on social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest. If you take your spouse’s name when you get married, consider adding your married name to your original name in your online profiles instead of replacing it, even if you have legally changed your last name to only your spouse’s name. The phenomenon of employers searching for your name is another reason not to use your real name when venting your anger in the comments sections of online articles.
Tailoring your resume
It is best to tailor your resume for each time you apply for a job. Two advertised positions may require similar qualifications and have similar responsibilities, but use different keywords. This means that you will need to research each position you apply for before you submit your resume. It may sound like a lot of work, but it is far more effective than sending the same version of your resume over and over. A resume without the right keywords is unlikely to be ranked highly in ATS.
It is standard practice for recruiters to verify the employment history and qualifications on your resume. Applicant tracking systems make it possible to verify your qualifications within seconds.
Frequently used resume keywords
Some sites keep track of keyword-related statistics. The Job Trends section of Indeed.com contains graphs showing how many job advertisements contain particular search terms, gathered from many thousands of postings on employment sites. The New York Department of Labor has compiled a list of suggested resume keywords for candidates seeking jobs in a variety of industries. The Foster School of Business at the University of Washington also has a list of industry-specific resume keywords for different careers. These sites are good references, but the right keywords for the job that interests you will most likely be the ones that appear in the job posting itself.