The Value of Resume Keywords

Start paying attention to resume keywords, or your next online job application may already be doomed.

Hands typing resume keywords on a laptop

There’s a reason no one reviewed your last job application. It’s the same reason your next application will go unnoticed too. No, you’re not unqualified. And no, the world isn’t out to get you. The fact is you’re likely not making proper use of resume keywords, which may be rendering your online job application useless.

There’s a statistic going around the Internet that around 70 percent of resumes submitted online are never viewed by a human being. The main reason? Employers have started using applicant tracking systems. In a nutshell, an applicant tracking system (otherwise known as an ATS) is software that parses information from your resume into a database that ranks you against other job candidates. The recruiter then searches the ATS’ database, using keywords to help filter the most relevant resumes to the top of the application stack.

In 2013, we will see more HR professionals relying on platform solution providers to access data quickly in order to make business decisions in real-time. - Bill Glenn, vice president of marketing at TalentWise

When an ATS parses your resume, all styling is removed. The software only cares about recognizable text, which means that professional image you attached to the top of your resume is useless. Also, you’ll want to use a web-safe font like Arial or Georgia, and avoid special characters like arrows when bullet points will suffice. Highly stylized resumes may be great for in-person interviews, but you’re better off with something plain and simple when it comes to an ATS.

The fastest way to identify what resume keywords you should include is to study online job postings that interest you. What words are used in the job title? What words are repeatedly mentioned that are associated with said job title? What skills are required? 

Employers will search their ATS database for specialized skills, which is why it’s beneficial to tweak your resume keywords for each and every job application. If an employer is looking for a customer service expert, then taking up half your resume with background information on your computer programming degree isn’t doing you any favors.

As obvious as this tip seems, please be sure to triple-check your job application for spelling errors. Otherwise, all your resume keyword research will have been wasted because your potential employer’s ATS thinks you’re a skilled ‘bratender,’ not a bartender.

Do you pay attention to resume keywords when preparing online job applications? Let us know your thoughts in the comment section below!

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2 comments

  1. Terrence

    Bottom line: employers and hiring managers are LAZY. LAZY. This is why they rely on “keywords” and farm out to recruiters, headhunters and platforms. Yes, they get hundreds of resumes for two jobs. So what? That’s the point of HR. Hiring. Firing. Settling intraoffice disputes. THIS is the problem. Not keywords.

  2. Izzy Fraley

    Thanks for the tip on formatting and it’s unimportance due to the ATS. I never knew that, very helpful to know.

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