The job market has become increasingly competitive in recent years, to the point that many positions have more applicants than the hiring manager can reasonably consider. At times like these, when you may fear that your CV will not even be read, it can be empowering to feel that you have an ace in the hole. In the case of many jobs, the secret weapon that gets your foot in the door may be your ability to use keywords in your CV with savvy. Mastering the art of keywords can be tricky, since the best ones are different for every job. However, we have compiled some simple tips to help you begin incorporating keywords into your application and related documentation.
Keywords are specific words that employers look for in CVs and job applications. When an employer receives a large number of applications submitted online for a job, these may be scanned electronically for certain words or phrases before they are ever seen by a human hiring manager. Though keyword searching is more common in certain industries than others, some polls indicate that as many as 90 percent of applications are searched for keywords. The vast majority of Fortune 500 companies use keyword searching on new applications, and an increasing number of smaller companies have begun to use it as well. This means that no matter where you plan to send your CV, you need to be aware of keywords and how to incorporate them.
One of the trickiest parts of learning how to use keywords in your CV effectively is figuring out exactly which ones you should be striving to use. It’s not as if hiring managers publish a list of their preferred keywords so prospective employees know to include them. There are a couple of different methods to determine what words you want in your CV.
First, you can consider what keywords might appeal to employers in the industry as a whole. Keywords are usually nouns, and they are usually related to job skills and experience. Think about what skills are currently in high demand and how they are generally phrased in job postings and descriptions.
Alternately, you can look to the job posting you are applying to in order to try to determine the keywords. Often some of the unique skills that employers are looking for are included right in the posting. Look for specific skills and insert them in your CV without changing the phrasing.
It’s generally recommended that the keyword density in your documents be rather high. Use them in your CV at a rate of about 25-30 per page. This allows for variation in electronic searching methods, ensuring that your application is flagged as one to follow up on.
Some job seekers, fully grasping the importance of these phrases, have taken to including a dedicated keyword section at the top of their CV. In some cases this can be effective, but for most jobs it isn’t recommended. Instead, incorporate keywords naturally in the work experience, accomplishments and summary sections of your CV.
When incorporating a keyword, remember that all the traditional rules of CV writing still apply. Make sure to use keywords naturally in a way that sounds organic rather than forced. Additionally, endeavor to use the keyword to express a specific achievement or accomplishment, and include action verbs in your CV whenever possible, so the person reading it can see how your skills improve your job performance. You should also try to include keywords in your job cover letter or any other documentation that you submit. Though these items are not generally scanned electronically, they will be seen by a hiring manager who is doubtlessly on the lookout for keywords.
The next time you send off a resume or CV, ensure it has a good keyword density. You may be surprised by how much more interest you receive from hiring managers.