CV optimisation using keywords

Web designers use keywords for Search Engine Optimisation, and so should you when writing a CV!

Keywords are buzz words or phrases which a recruiter (human resources professional, recruiting manager or recruitment consultant) might look for when searching for potential candidates for a job vacancy. Keywords could relate to your job title, job responsibilities, employers, products or services, systems, clients, industries, skills, knowledge, education, professional interests and memberships.

Typically, recruiters will receive hundreds of CVs in application to a single role. As technology has advanced, so have methods of recruitment. More and more companies and almost all recruitment agencies will use an in-house CV database to assist them in searching through, and shortlisting CVs of registered candidates and job applicants.

Keyword searches are used to narrow down the pool of candidates for a position into a more manageable one. Recruiters will have different ways of working. Some might start with a broad search and pick the higher ranked CVs to review first and others will do more refined searches to provide a smaller field of candidates, and many will use a combination of the two.

In addition to in-house databases, recruiters also use online job boards to proactively source candidates for a vacancy. You have probably already registered and posted your CV on at least one job board, possibly during your current search for a job or some time in the past. But have you thought about how your CV will be found by recruiters and how it will rank against other CVs? If your CV is ranked at number 200 of a recruiter's search, it's unlikely it will even get a glance.

Ensuring your CV is keyword rich and that it contains the right keywords for the roles you're applying for, will significantly increase your chances of being shortlisted for interview.

Here are a few tips:

  • Do your research to find out what keywords are being used by recruiters. Keywords or phrases used within job descriptions / advertisements for roles similar to those you're looking to apply for, will be a good indicator. You will notice that certain keywords or phrases will come up time and time again.
  • Review keywords already used within your CV. Determine whether these are widely recognised within the industry and whether these are relevant to the roles you're applying for. Having lots of keywords relevant only to previous roles that you're not interested in pursuing, will result in recruiters contacting you about those sorts of positions. Adjust these to be more relevant to the roles you're interested in where possible and remove any irrelevant jargon.
  • Repeat keywords where you can (without making it obvious and unwieldy), for example in your opening statement, job titles, skills and responsibilities.
  • Try to build "synonyms" into your CV keywords such as account management, business development, client relationship management etc. so that your CV will be included in a variety of searches
  • Use acronyms or abbreviations as well as the full description such as Customer Relationship Management and CRM.
  • Use relevant keywords throughout your CV, but ensure that these are emphasised on the first page of your CV.
  • Provide enough detail in your CV so that key experience can be picked up in keyword searches. A CV with a career summary with just job titles, employers and dates, won't rank highly.
  • Ensure that keywords are used within context to describe demonstrable experience. Littering your CV with irrelevant keywords will only annoy a recruiter and won't help your case even if you do manage to get through to the first shortlist.
  • Remember to tweak your CV to ensure it mirrors recognised keywords used by the employer.

I hope this article has been useful. Please contact us if you need help!

Author: Nike Wadds, Stand Tall Consulting

Copyright 2012 Stand Tall Consulting