Structuring your CV for Success – Keywords are King

How to use keywords to improve your resume

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:

We recommend you do the following:

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.

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