How To Use The Best Resume Keywords
Is your job search stalled out? If you’re not getting responses from hiring managers despite applying to what feels like hundreds of job openings, your resume keywords may be to blame.
You see, before you can impress a hiring manager, you need to impress the robots that gatekeep their inbox. Most big companies—and many small ones—use applicant tracking systems to manage their hiring process. ATS software filters candidates’ resumes and cover letters, selecting the ones that seem like the best fit for the role.
The problem with employers relying so heavily on these systems is that the robots aren’t necessarily very smart. They don’t see an applicant’s talents, qualifications, and potential; they only see the keywords that they’ve been trained to look for.
Choose the wrong resume keywords, and you might find yourself stuck in job search limbo. This could mean getting zero responses for jobs that are a perfect fit for your skills.
The good news is that this is a problem that’s relatively easy to solve. Here’s advice on how to find an use the best resume keywords.
How To Use the Best Resume Keywords
The best resume keywords are often right in front of you. The trick is knowing where to look and understanding how to use these words in your resume and cover letter.
Be Prepared To Write Your Resume From Scratch
This isn’t what you want to hear when you’re already slogging through a job search, but sometimes you need to throw out your old resume and start fresh. Let’s face it, if your old CV were working, you wouldn’t be reading this post. So don’t be afraid to start with a blank slate. We’re about to give you some tips that will make that empty page a lot easier to fill.
Start With the Job Description
A resume is a sales pitch. But before you can make your pitch to an employer, you have to understand what they’re hoping to buy.
The job description is the place to start figuring out what the employer wants. Make a list of the skills, qualifications, and prior experience mentioned in the job listing.
Don’t worry if you don’t have everything they want (or say they want). Bear in mind that many employers reuse job descriptions for similar roles or add new qualifications to their list without considering whether they need all of the old ones.
Look Beyond Hard Skills
Job-specific skills like coding languages, software packages, or project management are important, but they’re not the only things that employers look for. Soft skills like flexibility, communication, and emotional intelligence are also crucial to success. Plus, these skills are harder to teach than technical skills that can be learned through repetition over time. So, don’t forget to highlight soft skills in your resume and cover letter.
Match Your Experience to Their Requirements
One common problem for job seekers is job title mismatch. This happens when your job title doesn’t accurately reflect your role, responsibilities, and duties. Job title mismatch becomes an issue when you want to apply to a job that fits what you do, not what your title says you do.
If you’re still in that job, you can negotiate with your boss for a title change that better reflects your role. But if you’re moving on to something else, your best bet is to make sure that you describe your duties using accurate terms. Most importantly, make sure those terms match the terms used in the job listing.
Note: It may be tempting to tweak your job title on your resume. Don’t do it. Employers will catch the change during a background check and perceive this as lying about your work history.
Don’t Forget These Crucial Bragging Points
Your skillset and work history aren’t the only thing you have to offer an employer. The ability to work in different ways and cope with specific challenges are also important.
For example, if an employer is hiring for a remote job, and you have prior experience working from home, include that information in your resume, e.g., “Graphic Designer, ABC Corp (Remote Job).”
Or let’s say that you’ve worked for multiple startups before and have targeted another new company for your next role. Use the word “startup” in your description of the job in the “Experience” section of your resume.
Remember that employers are hoping to find someone who will be able to get up to speed quickly. Using these resume keywords can show them (and their ATS) that you’re the best candidate for the job.