You can make the most beautiful resume in the world, but if you don't include the right keywords, it's possible no one will ever see it.
That's how important keywords are.
A keyword, as you probably know, is what computers use to search for documents and records in the database.
Like it or not, many companies funnel all incoming resumes into an Applicant Tracking System (ATS) and then let the system compare the open job description with the resumes in the file.
Then the system spits out the ones that most closely fit the bill, and those are the resumes that get reviewed by a human being.
That means that if your resume doesn't have those specific keywords, it will never make it to the top of the stack.
Here are ten ways you can make sure a keyword ATS search will find you:
1. Think like the recruiter.
What keywords would you enter if you wanted to find the resume of someone who would be the most qualified for this job? Are they looking for a sales rep with experience selling tractors and creating marketing plans? They will expect the right resume to include the words "sales tractors marketing" so you need to make sure all of those keywords are found in your resume.
2. Echo the words the company uses in the job description.
Search for the job you're looking for on job boards, and see what words are used to describe the job and the qualifications required. If the posting says "we value independence" then make sure the specific word "independence" is somewhere in your resume. If they say "we are looking for a sales hunter with contacts in the biotech world," then make sure that "sales hunter," "contacts" and "biotech" appear in your resume.
3. Use a cloud word software like Wordle.net to discover the dominant keywords for the job.
Go paste in the whole job description (even better, find several descriptions for similar jobs) and you'll get back a graphic with the important words. I like Wordle just for fun, and for keywords, it's fantastic. When you see the cloud graphic, you'll see if your resume has enough emphasis on the important keywords for that job.
4. Include standard titles for your jobs, too.
Your last company might have given you the way cool title of Hero of Happiness, but if the recruiter is searching for a Director of Customer Service, your resume won't come up. Always include the standard job title somewhere, too; I suggest using a slash or parentheses, so your job title on your resume could be Hero of Happiness (Director of Customer Service).
5. Use a heading or title with the main keywords and job title.
The fastest way to get your resume read is to show that specific title in your resume. What if you've never been a "Director of Customer Service" before? Remember, to the computer "Seeking Director of Customer Service Position" will be considered a match; of course, the rest of your resume needs to support your ability to do the job so when the human being reads it, you still look like a fit.
6. Include descriptions of the companies you worked for.
Always include a sentence or two to say what the company you worked for did. The easiest way is to look at the "About Us" page on the company's website; make sure to include common words used to describe the industry, too. Plant as many key words as possible in that descriptions, and you will increase your match percentage.
7. Use job titles for the job you're looking for.
If you're aiming to compete on a higher-level position, make sure those keywords appear in your resume. If a company says they want a "customer support agent," then make sure your resume includes those words at least once. Never been a customer support agent? Use those words to describe something else you did.
8. Don't try to trick the system by putting keywords in white on your resume.
This is an old trick, inserting a long chain of keywords that can only be read by the computer, but many systems don't like it. Focus on getting the key words in your job descriptions, skills and accomplishments where they carry far more weight.
9. Include the right acronyms, but spell them out, too.
Include specialized training, using the appropriate abbreviations (such as CPA, Six Sigma, LEED). If you do use an acronym that is sometimes spelled out, too (P&L vs. profit and loss), then include both to make sure the computer sees it.
10. Include important search terms, even if you might not actually have them.
Remember, all the computer is looking for is the keywords, so writing "MBA coursework at University of Phoenix" will have come up in a search where an MBA is a requirement. (Of course, when a human reviews your resume they'll see that you don't actually have the MBA, but if you've written a strong resume, you might still have a chance.)
Keyword searches are how people will find your resume, so learn how to use them to your advantage, and you'll increase your probabilites of getting the interview you want.
More tips to help your resume stand out: