How to use keywords in your CV
There are lots of different ways to make a CV stand out, but one of the most effective is to use keywords. Due to the sheer amount of applications, the hiring manager has to be very quick in deciding who to shortlist for an interview. Using the right and most effective keywords in your CV will help the hiring manager immensely, as they will be able to quickly see that you’re ticking the right boxes.
Here’s how you can use keywords in your CV, and dramatically increase your chances of getting an interview…
Look at the job advert for inspiration
Most of the keywords you’ll ever need are contained within the job advert. No matter how short or long this advert is you’ll easily be able to extract the relevant keywords.
A huge mistake most job seekers make is that they often like to go it alone when writing a CV. Using their own keywords and bold cliché statements – ‘I have great communication skills’. The problem with this is that there are so many different words which can be used to describe the same thing. Of course, the hiring manager has written the job advert and will in turn be reading the CVs that come to his/her inbox.
If you make their job difficult and use different words and terminology to them, you are of course going to confuse or throw doubt in the mind of the reader. Does this person actually understand what’s required of the role, the company, and the industry? Do they lack the commercial awareness that we need?
Recognise the different types of keywords
Keywords come in many different types when extracting them from the job advert. For example, it may be the way the employer states what they are expecting from a candidate –
‘We require a dynamic, hard working individual who has experience in sales’
So the keywords and phrases to take from this sentence would be –
Experience in sales
The advert will often also list the skills and qualifications required for the role. So look to see if you can match any of these and then use the same keywords in your CV. This doesn’t of course mean that you can fib about your actual skills and qualifications, and simply put this down on your CV. Instead, what it does mean is that you can ensure the same skills and qualifications are using the same words or wording.
There are various ways you can state your IT skills on a CV, so instead of coming up with your own variation you can just use what the employer has put. For example – ‘proficient in Microsoft Office 2010’.
Conclusion – the importance of keywords
The whole point of a CV is to showcase your skills, qualifications and experience to a prospective employer to prove to them that you are the right person for the job. One of the most effective ways to show this is to match the keywords contained within the job advert, as it shows them that you have what they are looking for.
If you don’t use the right keywords in your CV then you are instantly making it hard for the reader to see that you are a match for the role. It’s important to remember that each CV is only read on average for about 20-30 seconds before moving onto the next, which is why it is extremely important to make a great first impression.
Tip – Some employers use Applicant Tracking Software which is designed to filter through the right applications. This filtering system will be heavily based upon keyword parameters. For that reason alone you can see why it’s so important to closely follow the job advert, and to research the company’s website and social media pages.
This will further ensure your entire application, including cover letter and personal statement, is singing from the same hymn sheet as the employer.
NB: This CV template was updated on 9th September 2018
Jen Wiss-Carline has been a Senior Manager and Consultant for several sizeable companies which included dealing with all aspects of staff management and recruitment. She is also a Solicitor and Chartered Legal Executive, having been admitted as a Fellow in February 2006.