Updated: Aug 12, 2019
Searching for a job will require your resume to get past applicant tracking systems (ATS). ATS are resume screening systems programmed with criteria keywords the hiring company or recruiter are seeking in a job candidate.
Incorporating correct keywords, phrases, terminology in your resume, cover letter, and LinkedIn profile is crucial to a successful job search. In many of the posts on SoCalResumes, we mention this vital job searching advice repeatedly. We don’t mean to sound like a broken record, but that’s just how important this information is to your job search success.
We want to make sure you 100% understand the importance of including the right keywords in your resume and cover letter to secure job interviews for the positions you are targeting.
If you’re failing to land job interviews, it may not be a lack of skills, experience, or qualifications. It could be your resume and cover letter are not beating the online screening systems. In other words, this means your resume could be missing correct words and phrases to describe your expertise and the value you can bring to a potential new employer.
In the age of online applications, this failure can be the single biggest deterrent to your job search. Companies are relying on candidates to use the right keywords in their resume and cover letter. Many organizations are using applicant tracking systems to help them sort through the hundreds of job applications they get from their online postings.
Resume screening software is designed to streamline the hiring process by sorting through applications and only keeping those that contain the right keywords that companies are looking for in a job candidate. So, in order to ensure your resume gets read by a human, you need to make sure that your resume is properly targeted with the correct keywords highlighted.
How to Get Your Resume Past ATS and Into the Hands of a Hiring Manager
Most people don’t know this, but the first stages of the hiring process are much more complex and goes far beyond the online application page the candidate is seeing. After filling out the form and uploading your resume, the process is taken over by special software designed to filter out irrelevant and unqualified resumes.
Keywords are the primary determining factor as to which resumes will reach the next stage of the hiring process and what resumes will land in the black hole. Knowing where and how to use these keywords will also determine which resumes are pushed up the pile. All of this is done automatically by the software, even before a hiring manager sees any of the resumes.
How to Properly Use Resume Keywords
The biggest mistake you can make is copying and pasting chunks of text from job postings or descriptions directly into your resume. Of course, you need to show how your skills in your field relate to those detailed in the job description. But steer clear of using the language of the job posting verbatim. Not only will this show lack of imagination, but it will leave the prospective employer wondering whether you know what’s included in your resume.
The trick is to weave the selected industry keywords into your resume in a natural way. (It may help if you view our resume samples.)
If, after doing your initial research to identify keywords you end up with a list of 50 words, don’t be tempted to try and fit them all in your resume. This strategy can easily backfire and it won’t impress the hiring manager. When writing your resume to beat applicant tracking systems (ATS), be selective about the terms and phrases you include – your resume should read naturally while adding the group of keywords that are most important.
Be sure to lead with action keywords when detailing your current role and achievements. Begin your phrases in the present tense, using bullets to separate each phrase. This will showcase your value to the hiring manager. Always avoid words like: responsible for or duties include. Instead try action keywords such as: Lead, Cultivate, Spearhead, Develop, and Deliver.
Previous Work Experiences & Accomplishments
Continue to use action keywords when describing your previous work history and accomplishments. Start your phrases in the past tense, listing them in bulleted format. This method will make your statements dramatic and descriptive. Example action words include: Achieved, Grew, Decreased, Improved, Boosted, Saved, Accelerated, Mitigated, Planned, Produced, Restructured, Transformed, Initiated, Supervised, and Managed.
Showcase your competence in your industry by using the correct keywords that highlight your expertise. Examples of industry keywords include Sales Management, Marketing Campaigns, Employee Engagement, Team Building & Development, Human Resources, Event Coordination, Impactful Presentations, Client Relationships, Productivity Increases, Contract Negotiations, and Data-driven Analysis.
Specifically, keywords to use in an executive resume could include Strategic Business Planning and Execution, Complex Change Management, Fiscal Accountability, Client Relationship Management, Global Markets, Financial Planning & Analysis, Strategic Partnerships, Growth Initiatives, and the list goes on.
Applicant Tracking Systems (and Hiring Managers) Reward Professionally Written Resumes
As you know, seeking a new job can be challenging – the competition will be fierce and you’ll be expected to be at your best to secure the job. The applicant tracking systems (ATS) software will scrutinize your resume and determine if it is well written enough to earn you an interview.
For this reason, many savvy job seekers choose our resume writing services, as our local professional resume writers not only know the Southern California job market but have in-depth experience on how to properly place the right keywords in your resume and cover letter.
Move Past Applicant Tracking Systems with These Useful Keyword Tips
Use the exact job title of the position you are applying to at the top of your resume.
Highlight keywords just beneath your resume profile summary. Search engines easily pick phrases at the beginning of a document. However, avoid using a table format as these won't get through ATS.
When using acronyms, spell out the full titles as well as the abbreviated form.
Same keyword placement tips apply when writing your cover letter – always send a cover letter with keywords.
Always make sure keywords flow well, making for an interesting read. In other words, don’t make it obvious you are including keywords… it should look and sound natural.
Continue to use keywords in your profile summary and the professional experience section of your resume.
Don't overuse keywords as screening software could tag your resume as spam.
Research industry keywords and use only those relevant to securing the job you want.
Be sure to only include keywords you are familiar with or skilled in. For example, don’t include project coordination if this is something you’ve never done.
If you’d like to make sure your resume contains all the right keywords and will stand out from the crowd. We invite you to check out the resume writing services we offer. We’ll make sure your resume makes an excellent impression with both hiring managers and applicant tracking systems! Get started at SoCalResumes today.
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