ByÂ Kaitlin Madden
Years ago, when rÃ©sumÃ©s were still sent to employers by mail, job seekers hoped things like a high-quality paper stock and unique, professional formatting would catch the eye of an employer. These days, things are a little different.
First of all, it’s rare that employers even accept paper rÃ©sumÃ©s anymore. Second, and more importantly, it’s not even the employer’s eye that job seekers should hope to catch anymore — more likely, they’re trying to get noticed by an applicant tracking system Â– essentially a rÃ©sumÃ© search engine Â– now commonly used by employers to screen rÃ©sumÃ©s and separate the qualified candidates from the unqualified ones.
This digitized version of candidate screening brings with it a whole new set of rÃ©sumÃ© rules. No longer are human resources managers scouring rÃ©sumÃ©s looking for intriguing phrases on luxurious linen paper. Now, rÃ©sumÃ©s are downloaded into a database and digitally searched for specific keywords. If your rÃ©sumÃ© doesn’t contain the keywords the employer is looking for, consider yourself overlooked. Â
So how can you ensure that your rÃ©sumÃ© makes it past square one? Below are a few things that every job seeker should know about rÃ©sumÃ© keywords:
1. Include words from the job description
More than likely, many of the keywords that rÃ©sumÃ© databases will be searching for are the functions that are listed in the job description. For example, if you’re looking for a bookkeeping position and the job description calls for someone with experience managing accounts receivable, bank reconciliations and payroll, then all of those words should appear in your rÃ©sumÃ©.
An even better way to make sure you include relevant keywords is to look at various job postings for positions similar to the one you’re applying for, advises Laura Smith-Proulx, a certified professional rÃ©sumÃ© writer and author of “Solving Your Toughest RÃ©sumÃ© Challenges.”
“To maximize your rÃ©sumÃ©’s effectiveness, I recommend looking in detail at several job descriptions … that represent your ideal role. For example, an operations manager might find productivity, Six Sigma, process improvement and sales operations in most job postings for a position at their level. Job hunters can also search through LinkedIn profiles of other professionals in their field to gather even more keywords,” she says.
2. Always assume your rÃ©sumÃ© will be scanned by an applicant tracking system
Companies both large and small are using keyword-search software in their hiring processes these days, so it’s important to make sure you always send out a search-ready rÃ©sumÃ©.
“While applicant tracking systems are more common in large corporations, due to the volume of rÃ©sumÃ©s received and the impossibility of reviewing them all manually, some smaller companies may also have installed these systems to help with hiring,” Smith-Proulx says. “My point is that you’ll never know if your rÃ©sumÃ© actually needs to pass a keyword scan, so it should be ready for this Â step.”
3. Don’t just add a list of keywords
While adding a “skills” section to your rÃ©sumÃ© is the easy way to make sure keywords are included, a list is usually not enough to get noticed by the search engine.
“Be sure that this common suite of keywords is used in your rÃ©sumÃ©, but not merely in a list,” Smith-Proulx says. “Many ATS systems look for the frequency of keywords that are sprinkled throughout the text of a rÃ©sumÃ©, rather than listed by themselves. Therefore, ‘Leveraged Six Sigma principles to improve productivity’ or ‘Led process improvement project that resulted in 23 percent gain in sales operations efficiency’ will not only impress the human reader, but fulfill the keyword requirements at the same time.”
Lastly, Proulx says, be sure that your rÃ©sumÃ© doesn’t completely abandon the qualities it takes to attract the human eye as well. “Like any other marketing effort, a job search is most effective when you plan to address the needs of all audiences you might encounter. Your chances of being selected for an interview are much higher when your rÃ©sumÃ© satisfies both audiences — automated and human.”
Kaitlin Madden is a writer and blogger for CareerBuilder.com and its job blog, The Work Buzz. She researches and writes about job search strategy, career management, hiring trends and workplace issues. Follow @CBForJobSeekers on Twitter.