Long before many people reading this were actively seeking work, the process of applying was much simpler. One résumé and a cover letter were enough to land you where you wanted to be — or at least get you through the door. The digital age requires a lot more from job seekers.
One of the keys to getting your application even noticed by an employer is to master the use of keywords in your résumé and cover letter. Thanks to Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS), job candidates are often screened through software before a human being gets involved.
Keywords are phrases or terms related to the position that any human resources officer would likely look for. Without certain keywords in your job application, you might be screened out early.
Types of Keywords
The first set of keywords that should always be included is a list of required skills, experience, and previous employers they are looking for. Some of these may come to you naturally.
Candidates for a marketing position should always include words like “marketing,” “brand management,” and “public relations.” A customer service position should include “customer service” and “computer skills.”
How to Find Keywords
Finding the right keywords may take some guesswork, though there are easy signals and light research that can guide you. Your first option is to review the job posting as well as similar postings to find repeated phrases and incorporate them into your application.
The company’s website may also be useful in finding the right keywords. Particularly in your cover letter, using words to describe yourself that match those on the company profile may sound too on the nose, but AI favours preciseness over ambiguity.
Your final guide in the search for the correct keywords is Google. The internet is overloaded with helpful lists of ATS keywords. It should be stressed, however, that the first two methods should be attempted first. Companies are unique, and the words they look for may not always be what you expect.
How to Use Them
Be Exact: Always be precise with your keywords to ensure that they are as closely tied to the specific position as possible. Being focused in your language not only makes the writing punchier but also improves your chances of being seen as a good match.
Use as Many as Possible: Once you have figured out what keywords would be appropriate, be sure to use them all at some point. Some keywords may not apply to your level of experience or skill, so you obviously can’t include them.
Mix It Up: It’s always wise to deploy different kinds of keywords in your résumé. Your skills should always be there, but you can differentiate between soft and hard skills required for the position. Look for multiple versions of different terms in postings and on a company’s website. If they used “real estate agent” and “real estate broker” on both, you should too.
The more keywords for the position, the more likely you’ll land an interview.
Kenny Hedges | Contributing Writer