Does your CV contain important keywords?

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Discover how CV keywords can help your job hunt

Using the right keywords in your CV is vital if you want potential employers to find you. However, do you know what a keyword is in this context?

You may have heard of the term ‘keyword’ as it’s used a lot in the SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) world, and keywords are extremely important when it comes to creating and developing websites to ensure the general public find what they are looking for on the Web.

Keywords are also essential when it comes to the job hunting process, and it is now widely accepted that ‘keywords’ are no longer restricted to the focus of web designers and companies aiming to rank highly on Google. Keywords are now vital to how successful your CV is or will be…

So what are ‘keywords’?

Just like SEO, keywords are effectively words which people are more than likely to type when searching for information on a particular subject. If we switch this to the world of recruitment, these keywords are now words which employers will use when searching through their database, or in some cases known as the Applicant Tracking System (ATS). This helps them define the CVs which are most relevant to the job vacancy currently.

This obviously means that each job vacancy will have its very own unique keywords.

So why are these unique keywords vital when it comes to your CV?

As stated by the latest report by, a job vacancy on average can attract around 200-250 applications and CVs. As you can imagine, it’s not possible for these managers to sort through all of these CVs and expect to give them all a thorough read in a short space of time. Ultimately, CVs may only be glanced at for a few seconds before they are quickly sorted into the ‘potential’ and ‘rejected’ pile. Nowadays, it is believed that three quarters of Fortune 1,000 companies use the Application Tracking System to scan, sort and find suitable CVs.

For these types of tracking systems to succeed, employers will browse for unique keywords and/or phrases to determine which applicants the tracking system picks. So, if you do not have the correct and relevant keywords contained within your CV, it just won’t be seen and picked up by the manager, stopping your application before you have had the opportunity to show your skills, experience and qualifications. How frustrating is that?

We’re all confident in our own skills and abilities, and all we need is an interview to shine and prove our worth. So if we can’t even get to that hurdle, then finding a job is now not only tough, but virtually impossible!

So how do you find out which keywords to use?

There are a few different ways you can narrow down and identify the very best and relevant keywords for your CV, and the best place to start is the actual job advert and job description itself.

For instance, let’s say the job role is for a ‘Team Coordinator’, and the name of the company is ‘Worldwide Media Agency’. After reading the job description you notice that the job title itself is mentioned numerous times, and there is a particular mention of media experience being ideal, or even essential. You also notice that there is a minimum typing speed of 60wpm which is required, as well as experience and knowledge using Microsoft Word and Excel 2010. Exceptional organisation and diary skills are also mentioned as being essential for the role.

Having fully digested the application details, it is now safe to assume that the words ‘Team Coordinator’ and ‘Media’ are all obvious and relevant keywords for this particular vacancy. The employer is also expected to browse for CVs which mention the Microsoft software packages and organisation skills as highlighted in their job description.

Following this, if you’re still uncertain as to which keywords to use, then you could also read other job adverts similar to your skills and experience. Is there a particular word they all use to describe the vacancy?

Are there two different words that ultimately mean the same? For example – internet marketing or digital marketing. Lastly, the very popular website ‘Indeed’ has a useful Job Trends Tool which can be used to find the latest job vacancy trends and to see the keywords which are most popular.

“The job post will give you an idea of the keywords and key phrases that the employer will be looking for in a CV. To verify, launch a search query on the job using the keywords and see if it yields a good number of results.” : Coburg Banks

So how can you use these keywords in your CV?

First of all it’s important to start with how not to use them, to help prevent you from making any mistakes. If you are considering padding and filling your CV full of keywords so the Applicant Tracker will find it, then this is your first mistake. Packing your content full of keywords is how it used to be for the SEO experts so they can rank highly on search engine algorithms, but unfortunately it spoils the content itself and doesn’t make for very interesting reading. Good content is equally as important as good keywords, and your CV is no exception.

You must remember that as soon as the tracker has found your CV, there will be a manager now reading through it. So for obvious reasons your CV still needs to remain presentable, interesting, engaging and relevant to the role you are applying for. So when it comes to applying keywords to your CV you don’t have to be afraid of using them, but make sure they are strategically placed. They have to fit into your content with ease, without overusing them. Make sure you proofread your CV thoroughly once you’ve added these keywords to make sure it still flows, and that the use of these words hasn’t been overdone and don’t stick out and become obvious to the reader.

“ATS systems work principally through key word and phrase recognition. This means that you should try to align your headings, key skills and job titles to the most commonly understood industry terms.” : The Guardian

Here’s a comprehensive guide on how and where to use keywords in your CV:

  • Consider using keywords and phrases in your CVs headings, titles and any sub-headings. For example – ‘Personal Profile’.
  • Use keywords in the skills segment of your CV. This may be for example, ‘Typing speed 60wpm, Word, Excel, organisation skills.
  • Consider adding your keywords in bold text. You do have to be careful not to overdo this however, but it’s worth noting that during the early selection process the employer will most likely just give your CV a quick glance whilst at the same time searching for an indication that your CV matches the job description. So you are basically making it much easier for the employer to find what they’re looking for.
  • Try it for yourself, and give your CV a quick proofread after you’ve added some of the keywords in bold. How quickly does it catch your eye? You could also get a friend to do the same.
  • Match the wording of the job advert in your CV and covering letter – job ads are always clear and concise, and straight to the point.
  • Use well known and appropriate industry-specific words and/or phrases.
  • Always write your CV to reflect the role you are applying for, rather than attempt to make it very generic. Employers will see right through fluffy generic CVs.
  • If you are looking to change careers, don’t forget that it’s important to select keywords that are applicable to your new targeted role and not your previous role.

Finally, after all of our great advice, if you are still struggling to find the right keywords then don’t hesitate to get in touch with a friend or someone you know who is a manager. Our advice would be to always get a second or even third opinion on your CV overall, and not just for the keywords you use.


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