November 1, 2013
Just as job seekers use keywords to find jobs on search sites like SimplyHired.com, many employers use keywords to determine whether candidates are qualified for the roles for which they’re hiring. Today, many large employers (as well as many other smaller companies) use an applicant tracking system (ATS) to manage the hiring processes, which scans resumes for keywords chosen by the employer. To make sure your resume passes the initial scan–by machine or person–make sure to include important keywords in your resume related to the position.
To determine which keywords should be included in your resume, take a look at the job description. Here, the employer lays out exactly what the requirements are for the role in their own words. In your resume, work the terminology that the employer uses into your resume. For example, if the job description calls for experience “answering customer billing questions,” and if you have this specific experience, that phrase should be included in your resume. If you say you “Answered customer service questions in a variety of areas,” even though that might include billing questions, it may not pass the initial scan.
Keep in mind that often, many words companies are scanning for are not verbs, but nouns. While it’s important that you “performed” or “wrote,” chances are those are not the words that would be picked up by an applicant tracking system. Instead they’re scanning for skills, experience, names of hardware or software, degrees, certifications, and job titles.
A stipulation to the last point is to include powerful verbs when describing your experience, such as “managed,” “increased,” and “achieved.” These words should describe your achievements rather than job duties. In addition, use numbers to back up those achievements.
One important thing to note is that you should be honest about your experience. If you don’t fit a requirement in the job description, don’t say that you do. Employers typically examine potential candidates closely and will find out if you’ve exaggerated your skills or experience either during the interview or while performing reference checks.
Specific keywords to include are subject to the industry, position and company, but by following these guidelines, you will increase your chances of passing the initial keyword scan when applying for a job.
Comment below with keywords you’ve found to be helpful to include on your resume, as well as the specific position and industry where they are typically used.