A Step-By-Step Keyword Guide

We’ve mentioned it a couple times. Beating the applicant tracking system (ATS) is very important when you’re trying to get in the employer’s pipeline. After all, with many hiring managers being bombarded with resumes, having the trusty ATS makes things a little easier on them. However, this means you need to be more strategic and aware when submitting your materials. Hiring has gotten extremely competitive, so anything you can do to stand out will greatly improve your chances.

Implementing the right keywords in your application will probably streamline your process. So, here’s a step-by-step guide to sprinkling them into your resume or submission should you be up against an ATS:

Read all hiring materials properly

Before you submit your application, do ample research. What does the job description ask for? What are the company values? What kind of employees do they have? This information can give you clues on what keywords to actually use.

For example, if the job description calls for a candidate with ample knowledge of French, list this in your application including how you’ve used it in the past to achieve milestones. Remember, just because technology is looking at your application first, doesn’t mean it’s not advanced enough to figure out good context.

Don’t overdo it

Putting keywords into your application is good practice. But, it becomes bad practice when you stuff your application with words of phrases for the sake at getting noticed by the ATS. On the contrary, it’s actually a huge mistake. As we just noted, applicant tracking systems aren’t as simple as you think they are. They’re actually pretty complex and can tell the difference between a genuine candidate and one that’s just trying to get flagged.

Instead, use these keywords not only in context, but also in your own unique way. For instance, if the employer wants a candidate with at least seven years of experience in healthcare, you can switch up the terminology, including how job titles are listed, rearrange words, etc. This way, you’ll not only fill your application with relevant keywords, you’ll also increase your chances at getting noticed by the ATS because it won’t seem like spam.

Remember the end result

When submitting your application to an ATS, remember this: At some point or another, your application will be read by a real person if it’s flagged. So, submit for an employer (as in, a real person), not the ATS. If you put no thought or feeling into you application, including how you’re going to put your own spin into implementing the right keywords, your submission will seem flat.

As an alternative, show the employer, not necessarily the ATS, that you’re right for the job by putting your personality into it, while at the same time implementing the right keywords. This means, projecting your tone, your accomplishments, and why you’d fit into their company culture.  This way, you’ll get noticed by the ATS, as well as the employer, the latter of which is the real goal.


What do you think? What sort of keywords do you implement into your applications?

About Mary Marino

Mary Marino is the founder of EmploymentPipeline.com, a job search resource. EmploymentPipeline.com has launched its “Occupation Pipeline” widget, a unique tool which enables users to search employment opportunities by sourcing occupations and employers, rather than job titles. Connect with Mary at EmploymentPipeline.com or on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.

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One Response to A Step-By-Step Keyword Guide

  1. Suzanne February 14, 2014 at 12:29 pm #

    A surprising 73% of resumes are never seen by decision makers. Your resume along with thousands of others is processed through employer ATS’s where it is broken down into fields and forms that make it easy for hiring managers and recruiters to see. But, if your resume hasn’t been optimized with resume keywords you’ll be one of the 73% that won’t get noticed.
    Good news, there’s a website that can help. Jobminx.com will match your resume to a specific job posting and return a list of valuable keywords that will help target your resume to that opportunity. There is a $7 per month subscription for unlimited use of the jobminx.com matching technology. In my opinion, a small price to pay to get noticed and ultimately get the interview.

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