What Is The Buzz About Keywords, Your Resume And Applicant Tracking Systems?

What Is The Buzz About Keywords, Your Resume And Applicant Tracking Systems?

Nowadays at most companies, applicant tracking system (ATS) software uses keywords to filter resumes before a human ever reviews them. Search results are sorted in a list from 100% match to 0% and if your resume is ranked as a 100% match, then you have 10 seconds to make the impression that you are the right candidate for the job. How do you get in the top 100%? What is the secret behind the term “keywords”?

I have heard many stories from people and how they are using keywords in their resume: hiding words by changing the font color to white, using summary to embed keywords or the footer of their resume as keywords depository. I think there are a few simple steps every person can take without hiring a professional resume writer to improve the resume and make it 100% Applicant Tracking System proof. If you are unemployed, I am sure you can use 500-600 dollars for other things.

  1. First make sure you know what type of position you are looking for: for example, I have accountant skills and want to look for job as an accountant. Go online and search for job: Accountant. Don’t limit your search with local positions; I am sure even in Dallas an accountant does similar tasks as an accountant in Boston. Our goal is to find at least 3 jobs that are something you like, you can do and have all the keywords we are looking for. Save at least 3 job descriptions.
  2. Make a list of companies you like and visit their job board, search for jobs. If they don’t have any at the moment, visit their competitor’s web site and search for your dream job there. Make sure you save the job’s description; it is an important part of our project.
  3. Search LinkedIn profiles of users who have a similar job and see what key words they are using in their profile.
  4. Are you a member of an association? Visit their web site and look at the member directory and check the key words other members have used.
  5. Get a paper and start filtering the data; make sure you have at least 30 keywords on your “master list”.

This is Part one of your project; Part II is how to use your “master keywords” list.

Looking back at the time when I was a recruiter, I think I was using a Boolean search to look for local candidates. In plain English: enables users to combine keywords in their search using and, or, etc. To give you an example: “Accountant and SAP and J.D. Edwards and Boston”.

The search results will pull all candidates that have Accountant in their title and are from Boston and have experience with SAP and J.D. Edwards.

It is important to have a location, address in your resume. For any reason if you don’t want to disclose your address, you can skip the street and number and use Boston as a location; your phone number with area code is useful information too.

Be careful with acronyms; make sure you spell out the acronyms. I am not an accountant and don’t have a clue of the meaning of NSPA?

Applicant Tracking System is designed to scan your resume for keywords, spell it out, and keep it simple and easy to read by machine and by human.

Now we have a bucket with at least 30 master keywords for your dream job. A lot of professional resume writers are using sections called Qualities, Aptitudes and skills. Some are using “Professional Sum­mary” or “Skills” at the top of a resume as a kind of depository for keywords.

I personally think that you don’t need a Professional summary, because your resume is your summary. If you feel that you need to have a Summary, then use this section as a corral for the first 8-10 keywords from your list.

I think keyword lists are really not a very good idea as usually they are misrepresented by an ATS. In the earlier versions of resume readers and Applicant Tracking Systems they were great way to get your resume to the top of the list. Nowadays the systems are more progressive and they are designed to look for the keywords within the context of the resume itself. If the keyword is found to be “hanging” out there with no contextual reference, the resume is disregarded in many cases. That would be the exact opposite of what you want to happen.
Having said that the next step in our project is to look at your work experience. It’s important to use your keywords throughout the resume as well, in the context of job responsibilities.

For example:
“Used numerous applications to manage and collect A/R account base of $60 Million per month.”

Look at your keywords list and add: Oracle 11i, JD Edwards, Siebel 7.7, AS/400
“Used Oracle 11i, JD Edwards, Siebel 7.7, and numerous AS/400 applications to manage and collect A/R account base” and to make your resume result oriented: add some numbers:

“Used Oracle 11i, JD Edwards, Siebel 7.7, and numerous AS/400 applications to manage and collect A/R account base of $60 Million per month.”

Sounds better and now I know that you used/using the above application as part of your job and this is a transferable skill we are looking for the position.

Part III, don’t forget your cover letter and make sure your keywords are included in your cover letters in case they’re also being scanned.

Part IV, look at your online brand/image: LinkedIn, Personal Website, Facebook use keywords in social-media profiles as well as resumes.

To summarize everything above: look at the current ads out there for the job title you are looking for, read the ads and look for keywords they use in the ads. Create a master keywords list; edit your resume to include those keywords in your current/past job descriptions. Use the same keywords in your cover letter, social-media profiles. This will work much better than a separate keyword page or keywords hanging in the bottom of your resume or in the summary section that may be misused in the ATS.
I am confident if you follow the above steps you can improve the visibility of your resume and also make your online appearances stronger than before

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