The industries I work across in Perth have taken a huge hit resulting in a higher applicant role ratio than I’ve ever seen. Some of the executive campaigns we have run this quarter have attracted over 300 applicants. It makes sense that candidates are trying to stand out. And so they should. Your CV is a first impression. It’s your in. It’s a marketing tool.
Why you should avoid keyword stuffing your resume?
Today I’m going to talk about keywords, particularly keyword stuffing and how I really don’t think it’s a great idea. Use of role/industry specific keywords in your CV are so so vital – but I’m referring to the overuse of these keywords to the point where the purpose/value of the document (to sell your relevant skills & experience) is lost.
I’ll start by saying we don’t (and would refuse to) use an applicant tracking software (ATS) that draws keywords when reviewing applications and commit to reviewing every CV for every role I advertise with my own eyes. Ergo I can’t really comment on the effectiveness of these tools. (I don’t think recruitment is a machine’s job and if I did there are some kick-ass candidates that my clients never would have hired.)
I will comment on, though, the impression when these CV’s do hit human eyes. Because I’ve seen a lot of them. This week I received a few applications that are by far the worst cases of keyword stuffing I have ever seen. I’m talking the same words repeated in an excess of 10 times in fonts as small as 2 pts and I hadn’t even made it HALFWAY down the first page.
What happens when an employer receives a keywords stuffed CV?
- Wow, my eyes hurt. Has this person tried to build an optical illusion within his CV?
- Oh. Look. The candidate included their title 10 times in his career objective statement.
- Does the candidate actually have this experience or has he just whipped up a CV to penetrate an application robot?
That last thought of mine. That’s the killer. The credibility went down the drain because it was so clear that the purpose of the document had changed. It was no longer showcasing his skills and experience, but the fact that he’d figured out that a lot of places use CV sorting robots.
Keywords are important – but the use of them should never compromise the quality of your job application. It is a marketing tool. Cheating the system isn’t the best first impression. The trust will be gone.
So what’s the go with keywords?
We’ve compiled a bit of a do’s & don’ts list:
Don’t do the following:
Don’t overuse keywords
It might get you past the robot (that are becoming increasingly better at identifying this tactic, btw) but once your precious marketing tool reaches human eyes, it’s a total turn off
Whiting out keywords
Don’t add keywords into the header and change the font to white. Yes I’ve seen this. No it is not a clever idea.
Don’t use pictures.
They take up valuable space and can cause ATS’s (for companies using them) to throw tantrums and discount your application
There’s only one thing worse than a stuffed CV and that’s a CV stuffed with lies for the sake of getting to the top of the pile.
Don’t use elaborative descriptions/paragraphs.
While a nice thought, these aren’t easy on the eye and are often skimmed. Get the most out of the space on your page. Use it wisely. White space can be more important than text and is a HUGE attention drawer – dot points can be your friend here 🙂
We recommend you do the following:
Use the right language
Do ensure that you use the right language in your CV – every industry has them. This might include a methodology, use of colloquial acronyms etc.
Distribute the words you’ve drawn from the job spec throughout your career history, provided you have demonstrated experience that can be backed up by a reference.
Specify skills, tools and experience
Do incorporate the skills, tools and experience that are specified in the job description where they are relevant. A way to do this is specifying the tools you used on a particular project – this will showcase an application of expertise, rather than stating that you have it 5 times.
List your key skills
List your key skills, which should align with the key requirements of the role, and your years of experience in a simple manner on the first page of your CV. I tell my tech guys to do this in table format. It’s nice and easy to interpret.
Use easy to read fonts
Use a sans-serif font (Arial, Calibri, Verdana, Tahoma). CV robots like these – and so do human eyes.
Use dot points
Do use key points/dot points and keep ‘fluffy’ wording to a minimum. Paragraphs aren’t as easy to digest, and the first review of a CV is always a ‘skim’ – so keeping it light is wise.
Address missing keywords
If you’re missing something in the job spec – address the fact that you’re missing it. Keyword still included but you’re not lying. Bingo on the ATS and bonus points for honesty.
Seek advice from people who read CV’s on what they like to see. I’d advise you to form a personal relationship with recruiters you work with and try to send your CV directly.
Use keywords (wisely) on your Social Media profiles, too!
Technology is here to stay, it’s getting smarter and companies DO use applicant tracking software to filter and refine CV’s
How you structure your CV is so vital in standing out – both to software AND to us humans… so I really hope you’ve enjoyed hearing my two cents. I’d love to hear yours – comment below 🙂
If you do ever want to sit down with me for some one-on-one feedback and consultation on your CV – please contact me directly and we can sort something out.