• Keyword research

Do you remember the last time you looked up something on a search engine? Well the words you used in that search were keywords.

Recruiters also use keywords to identify candidates with desired skills and qualifications. The ATS tries to find these keywords in candidate CVs. This is why the keywords you use can make or break your job search.

The first step is to get your keywords right but this isn’t straightforward because they’re constantly evolving. That’s one reason why people are increasingly using professional CV writers.

However, you can make a good start by checking job descriptions on employer’s websites and industry related job portals.

Find and note the keywords used in the job overview and candidate specifications. Focus on both the role and industry in which you want to work.

The role of an industrial marketing manager might use different keywords to that of a digital marketing manager. If there are different versions of the same keyword, then search for both to see which one returns the most relevant results.

  • Target titles

Always use standard job titles in your keywords, particularly if your title in your current or former roles was a little unusual.

“Brand Warrior” may sound cool but an ATS is unlikely to pick it up and even a human might struggle to translate it as “Marketing Manager”. Use this keyword title as the headline on your CV and adapt it to different job applications.

For example, you may need to change “Marketing Manager” to “Head of Marketing”, “Marketing Communications Manager”, “Product Manager” or “Brand Manager” depending on the job ad to which you’re responding.

This ensures you’re including the most important keywords. It also aligns you in the mind of a human reader with the vacant role they are trying to fill.

  • Skills and experience, but no fluff

Make sure you include all the skills most relevant to the job. For example, did you manage a team? Have you presented at industry related conferences or launched new products in new markets?

Tangible outcomes make the difference here. In a tough job market, you need a proven, measurable background of success to impress potential employers. When recruiters search for keywords, they are looking for concrete skills. They won’t be typing in “out-going” or “team player”

People have overused phrases such as “results-focused” to the point of irrelevance. It’s the specific, highly relevant achievements, where you’ve used your talent to give an employer a measurable benefit, that will get you noticed.

Work out what those achievements or strengths are; then connect them in words or phrases to a target job description. Those are more of your keywords.

Good CV writing is all about the effective highlighting and presentation of objective achievements, alongside optimising your keywords. You need to customise these achievements for each role.

Be the candidate they want.

If you’re applying for a senior executive role or leadership position, your CV needs to follow the target job specification with precision. It also needs to demonstrate a senior level of management responsibility.

Identify the most important leadership keywords, such as ‘staff training and development’ and make sure they appear throughout your CV.

The principles remain the same for a good graduate CV. But you need to convey a different skill-set, demonstrating potential, motivation and commitment.

  • Qualifications

Try to make your qualifications relate to the specific job. What software packages and technical skills does this role require? Do you need to have any specialist industry qualifications like the CFA or ACCA? Remember to include both the acronym and the keyword or phrase.

  • CV formatting

It’s always frustrating not to get an interview for the perfect job. Now think how you’d feel knowing it was just because the ATS rejected your CV’s formatting. This is a simple problem to avoid. You just have to remember that most ATS algorithms won’t read your CV if it includes:

Graphics or symbols of any kind, except for simple bullet points (like this one)

Lots of different fonts (styles, sizes or colours). Stick to two or three maximum and save CAPITALISATION for SECTION HEADERS such as ‘PROFESSIONAL EXPERIENCE’

These don’t just confuse the ATS. Most companies (particularly in the UK and US) now delete photos to ensure they can’t discriminate based on age, race, sex, or hair colour – or anything else they might see.

  • Consistency

It’s important for an overall job strategy that your CV and LinkedIn profile use similar keywords. This will help you maximise the effectiveness of your job search. It also signals consistency and attention to detail for recruiters.

One last (key) word; always be truthful, don’t exaggerate or lie because it’s hard to repair your credibility when a recruiter catches you out. Ultimately, you and your CV need to impress humans, not just robots.

Decoding the job search means not letting technology stand between you and the dream job you are qualified to do. It’s not about trying to trick the algorithms; the robots are too clever for that anyway.

Don’t let technology stand between you and the dream job!


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