How to Use Keywords to Keep Your Application Out of the Garbage!

April 14th, 2016

When you submit your resume to a potential employer, it probably won’t end up in the hands (or on the screen) of a reviewer right away. Most employers use a system that deposits resumes into a database immediately upon receipt, and that’s where they tend to stay until they’re actively called up and drawn out via a strategic keyword search. So how can you make sure your document appears in the results of such a search? Here are a few tips that can help you choose the best keywords and use them to your advantage.

Look for clues in the job post.

Read the text of the job post carefully. Chances are the keywords that will be used to search for resume matches are right there in the post. Use them in your document where appropriate, and use the exact wording that you see. For example, if the post says “CPR certification required,” make sure your resume contains the phrase “CPR Certification”, not just “certified in multiple areas including CPR.”

Use as many different keywords as you can.

It won’t help you to repeat the phrase “CPR certification” 10 times in your resume. Once will be enough. In the meantime, look for ways to use other distinct words and phrases that might help you.

Insert key phrases seamlessly.

There’s almost no chance you’ll be offered a job (or an interview invitation) based solely on an automated scan of your resume. At some point in the process, your resume will certainly end up in the hands of at least one human reader (if you make it that far). So make sure this reader isn’t turned off by robotic language and keywords that have been awkwardly inserted where they don’t belong. If you have to choose, always prioritize clarity, readability, and accuracy over keyword use.

Don’t stretch the truth.

Don’t use “clever” strategies to pack your resume with keywords where they don’t belong. Eventually your document will be reviewed by a human reader, and you’ll end up in the recycle bin if you engage in trickery by using phrases like “I don’t hold CRP certification, but…” or placing your keywords in white text so you can fool the scanners.

Don’t neglect your cover letter.

Cover letters are often subject to keyword searches as well, and your letter may be examined first. Make sure you emphasize keywords in the opening paragraph of your letter and the summary section of your resume.

For more information on how to help your resume stand out in a crowded applicant field, reach out to the Belmont job search and career management experts at Personnel Services Unlimited.

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