Computers are commonly used these days to read resumes. And if you want to win an interview for that dream (or even ‘will do for now’) job, you have to make the computer love you more than your competition. How? It’s simple – by crafting a well-written resume that contains the keywords the computer will be on the look-out for.
It’s like speed dating, but you only have seconds – not minutes – to say the right thing. Say the wrong thing and you’re rejected and the next candidate starts being looked over.
Why keywords matter
Due to the volume of applications submitted online for jobs many companies and recruitment firms use recruitment management software. This is also known as applicant tracking systems (ATSs).
The computer software scans contact information and other chunks of data from uploaded resumes to screen out candidates. It determines whether or not a human will review your resume.
Some software has ‘parsing’ capability enabling it to evaluate keywords (e.g. depending on their position in relation to the top of the resume or the repetition of particular words). These are the words employers search for when reviewing resumes.
You can also include them in your cover letter so that if it is also screened, you will have a better chance of getting selected for an interview as a qualified candidate.
To woo these computers and get your resume read by a human, here are some tips for increasing the chances of your application showing up in the search results.
Refer to the job description
To get the computer’s attention, your resume should contain keywords targeting the job you are applying for.
Review the job requirements detailed in the job description, including skills, technical terms, proper nouns and verbs. Include these in your resume to increase the chances of it being compatible with the position.
- Job description says: You will have excellent project management skills.
- Keywords: Project management AND skills.
- Your resume: I have strong project management skills, developed through extensive experience of leading large projects.
If the job description specifies particular competencies, such as in a foreign language or software package, make sure you focus on the right ones. For example, if it asks for fluency in Chinese, refer to your Chinese language skills (and not your German skills!). Remember, you want your resume to match the job description using relevant keywords.
Find similar keywords
Look at job boards such as mycareer.com.au and search for job postings matching your background and experience. Include the keywords that fit your skills and qualifications from these job postings in your resume.
Another place to look is on LinkedIn: look up the company in question and their employees. Often their profiles will include your keywords.
Keep it simple
Fancy formatting, tables, pictures and graphics and text located in headers and footers can make it difficult for the software (and humans) to read your resume.
To increase your chances of the ATS software choosing your resume, format your resume simply. Include your contact information and important details about your skills and experience in the body of the resume.
Don’t create a resume with a list of great keywords if you don’t have these skills and abilities in real life. If an employer selects your resume and invites you to an interview, you risk blowing your chances of getting the job if you can’t back up your claims.
Break up with the computer
If you’re not keen on having relationships with computers, the best way to circumnavigate them and have a real life connection is to make contact with a human in the first place. Do this by building a professional network, maximising your opportunities of securing job leads and internal referrals at your targeted companies.
Unsure about how to include keywords to make your application stand out from the competition? If you are receiving outplacement services ask your consultant or a professional resume writing service can help.