Get More Interviews by Using Keywords in your CV


A recent survey revealed that recruiters consider keywords to be more important than applicants do. So what are keywords and how should you use them?

What makes a good CV? There are a lot of boxes to tick, from the basics of good spelling and grammar and a clear layout, through to the finer details such as explaining gaps in employment and including relevant experience.

However, one element many CVs are missing out on might not be immediately obvious: Keywords.

Simply put, keywords are the words that jump off the page and tell the hiring manager, “This person is ideally suited to the role”.

Remember, your CV is a living document and should be carefully modified for each position you apply to. Not once size fits all!

Getting your CV past ATS, CV Parsing software and busy recruiters

Larger companies get hundreds of applications for each position advertised. Your CV might have to go through several gatekeepers before it even reaches the desk of a real decision maker, with some of these gatekeepers not even being human. Therefore it’s really important to make it as quick and easy as possible to glean vital information from a CV.

Many companies utilise an ATS (Applicant Tracking System) or at the very least, a CV parser. These will automatically scan through your CV and input the data to their system so it can be quickly indexed, categorised and searched through.

Some ATS systems will even score and rank CVs based on the criteria they are given, effectively screening the CVs before they are even seen by human eyes. In fact, 72% of CVs are never actually seen by employers.

Even if a human does read your CV, most will only look at a CV for ten seconds before deciding whether or not its author is a good fit for the role.

What these computer programmes and human hiring assistants have in common is that they are scanning your CV for very specific things – keywords.

Where to find the right keywords for your CV

Which keywords should you focus on? It’s simple – look at the job advert. Pick out specific skills, jobs titles, disciplines, software packages and personal qualities, make a list, and include them in your CV where possible.

How to use keywords in your CV

  • Make sure all your keywords are displayed up front in your personal statement or objectives paragraph right at the top of your CV.
  • Place your keywords in the appropriate sections of your CV, mirroring the job advert’s format where possible.
  • Use the exact words as specified in the advert. For example, if your standard CV mentions your word processing skills, but the job advert specifically mentions Microsoft Office Word 2017, make sure you include “Microsoft Office Word 2017” exactly.
  • Include both abbreviations and expanded names next to each other, for example, “CAD (computer-aided design)”.
  • If the company who posted the job uses a particular term for something, make sure you use it too. Speak in their language.
  • Make sure the job title you’re applying to have is featured prominently on your CV. Different companies use different job titles for the same roles, so if you’ve done the job before but with a different title, make sure you include the job title you’re applying for.

If you’d like more help with your CV and how to succeed in your job search, get in touch with our experienced team of recruitment consultants.

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