Using keywords in your CV

A recent report in the Wall Street Journal highlighted the increasing use of technology in screening candidates for jobs. With some advertised vacancies attracting 1,000 or more applications, it’s not surprising that, faced with the task of manually reviewing each CV, automation is starting to become the norm in today’s crowded recruitment market. Ac-cording to the report, Xerox Corporation were able to reduce staff attrition amongst their call center staff by 20% in just six months by replacing manual searches of applicant CVs with an automated process. For more and more job appli-cants the new “hiring boss” may well be an algorithm contained in “talent management software”.

But of course there is a concern that talented candidates are being rejected by software that has been programmed to eliminate applicants who don’t precisely match the optimal profile. Many job hunters are simply unaware that their CV may not be reviewed by a human being and have little idea of how to “optimise” their CV. And this is not a problem that is confined simply to more junior or technical roles. Employers routinely use automated screening software even for senior management positions.

So how do you deal with automated screening?
One good piece of advice is to carefully study the job advertisement or the job specification and make sure that you include in your CV all of the key words and phrases exactly as they appear in the advertisement. The screening software is a fairly blunt instrument so if the search is for a “Head of Business Development” and you happen to be a “Sales Director” then your details may not be found. The answer is to use both titles. On your CV you can simply state: Sales Director (Head of Business Development) to ensure that the software picks up the expected job title. Of course you shouldn’t over promote yourself and you should only use job titles that are broadly equivalent.

It’s important to remember that this automated searching is not confined to low level jobs. Even Senior Managers should spend time making sure that their CV (and LinkedIn profile) is friendly to both human and non-human scrutiny.
. And it’s not just computers that will be searching your CV for key words and phrases., Recruiters routinely flick through large numbers of CVs looking for specific key words, key phrases and technical skills, making snap judgements on the suitability of individual candidates often in less than 10 seconds. The message is very clear. Your CV needs to be written in a format that enables the recruiter to see the key information, including keywords that sell you and match you to a particular role, in the very first screen of information, i.e. the top half of page one of your CV.
Many recruiters will have found your CV by way of a keyword search. That is to say they will take the keywords from a job specification and search CVs from the agency database and the internet job sites for likely candidates who most closely match their profile of the ideal candidate for a particular role.

Look at this extract from a recent job advertisement.

Looking for an experienced factory manager with a strong manufacturing background in the ceramics industry.

A typical recruiter’s search might look like this:
 ‘Factory manager’ AND ceramics AND manufacturing.

This search will pull up all the CVs on the database that contain those keywords and phrases. Now you can’t blame the recruiter for using those particular words in the search, after all that’s what the client is asking for, but if your CV states that you are a production manager for sanitaryware and tiles without mentioning the words manufacturing or ceramics then your CV may not be found. You need to be aware of all the keywords that are most likely to be searched for a particular kind of job.

About Jeremy I'Anson

Jeremy I'Anson is the author of You're Hired! Total Job Search 2013 published by Trotman Education. Jeremy provides one-to-one career coaching to job hunters at every level from graduate to CEO. Jeremy writes career related articles for the national press including Computer Weekly and The Guardian. He is the official Career Coach at the Daily Telegraph. View all posts by Jeremy I'Anson

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