Coburg Banks | Multi-sector UK recruitment agency

How to Choose the Right Keywords For Your CV [Guest Post]

By Felix Tarcomnicu | Jan 31, 2017 | Candidate Tips

How to Choose the Right Keywords For Your CVKeywords are popularly identified with Internet searches.

These are the words or phrases commonly used to launch a search query. They play a valuable role in content marketing.

By using the right keywords in a blog or an article, search engine crawlers will be able to find and index your content faster. As a result, your content will come out more often whenever a search query on your topic is launched.

The same principle applies when you choose the right keywords for writing your CV.

How does it work?

In today’s Internet- driven world, many company websites have features that allow interested applicants to email their CV’s. These companies take advantage of technology by vetting applicants’ CV’s through an ATS or Applicant Tracking System.

An ATS jump-starts the qualification process. It works by searching for specific keywords in your CV and then matching them with the list of keywords provided by the employer. The ATS will calculate a score which will determine whether your CV moves on to the Hiring Manager.

Statistically, the numbers on ATS couldn’t be more disconcerting. 90% of recruiters use ATS but the system tends to reject 75% of applications!

Even at the human level, efficiency is the primary focus. Recruiters and Hiring Managers go through hundreds of CV’s every day. According to studies, recruiters spend no more than 6.25 seconds scanning a CV to decide whether the applicant moves to the interview stage or the filing cabinet.

Recruiters are also searching for specific keywords that relate to the job description.

With the prevalence of ATS and the speed by which recruiters conduct their evaluation, it is therefore imperative that you choose the right keywords for your CV.

Here are 4 valuable tips on how to find the right keywords that will help your CV stay ahead of the competition and straight into the interview:

1. Choose Keywords that Refer to Your Skills

Recruiters are looking for 2 types of skills:

a) Hard Skills.

These are the qualities that are required for the job that you are applying for.

When it comes to hard skills, keywords could be phrases which involve an action word. It could also include terms that are standard for the industry. These are referred to as buzzwords.

The phrase could also include words that pertain to specific tools or software programs used in the job.

For example, if you are applying for a job as an Accountant, keywords that refer to the required hard skills would include:

  • Bookkeeping
  • Financial Analysis
  • Inventory Management
  • Payroll Preparation
  • QuickBooks
  • Tax Accounting`

b) Soft Skills

These are the attributes which the recruiter feels best embodies the right person for the job.

Don’t underestimate the value of soft skills just because they are the so- called intangibles. In a 2016 survey, more than 80% of employers reported they are looking for candidates with strong leadership skills.

A study by Bloomberg indicated the following soft skills as the most sought after by recruiters:

  • Leadership
  • Strategic- Thinking
  • Creative Problem- Solving
  • Communication Skills
  • Analytical Thinking
  • Ability to Work Collaboratively

When choosing keywords, make sure these are concise and to the point. Focus on quality keywords not on the quantity.

If you happen to pass the ATS and the Hiring Manager notices your CV appears inundated with keywords that read irrelevant and out of context, you may be flagged for keyword stuffing.

2. Be Honest and Sincere With Your Choice of Keywords

Before choosing the right keywords to describe your hard and soft skills, take an accounting of your value and work experience. Do not choose keywords just because they rank high.

On a piece of paper, create a category each for hard skills and soft skills. Write down which keywords best represent your skills and abilities.

Recruiters have a keen sense of intuition. They know if something is not right. Choose keywords that are relevant to your experience and capabilities. Otherwise, it may compel the recruiter to conduct due diligence by contacting your previous employers.

Your choice of keywords must be authentic and sincere to what you can really bring to the table. The truth will eventually come out.

If you happen to make it to the interview stage, the Hiring Manager would be able to assess whether the keywords were genuine or pure fluff.

3. Review Job Postings

When employers publish job posts, they will include a summary of qualifications and skill sets that are required for the position.

Take note of the specific keywords they use to identify hard skills and soft skills. You should also observe the action words used to describe the scope of work and responsibilities.

The job post will give you an idea of the keywords and key phrases that the employer will be looking for in a CV.

To verify, launch a search query on the job using the keywords and see if it yields a good number of results.

4. Choose Keywords that Connote Action

Recruiters prefer a CV that presents a dynamic personality; one which shows the applicant as an active member of the organization. Use action words or keywords that best describe your qualification or accomplishment.

In our earlier example on hard skills for Accounting, by using the appropriate action words the applicant’s work experience and skills sections would read as follows:

  • Proficient in QuickBooks
  • Experienced in Bookkeeping
  • Created Inventory Management Systems
  • Certified to implement Tax Audits
  • Designed Accounting Systems

You will also notice that the action words are not preceded by a pronoun. Recruiters frown on pronouns because they make the applicant come across as self- indulgent.

We can summarize the best way to choose the right keywords for your CV in one simple rule: Choose the keywords that will make your CV read and feel right.

Keywords are there to support your goal of landing the job of your dreams. They should not be the primary focus.

When creating an effective CV, content remains king. Even with the correct keywords, content should remain usable, relevant and compelling.


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Good luck.

- Felix Tarcomnicu

Felix Tarcomnicu

Felix Tarcomnicu is the founder of ResumeOK.com, a website that helps job seekers learn how to improve their career and land better jobs. You can connect with him on Twitter.

> More blog posts by Felix Tarcomnicu

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