How important are keywords in your resume and cover letter?

The advancements in technology mean most employers and recruitment firms are using sophisticated scanning programs to find keywords in resumes and CVs, enabling them to find strong candidates matches quicker than ever before.

The inclusion of keywords in resumes means the difference between having your application seen and ignored.

In the modern hiring world, many companies or recruiters will scan through large batches of resumes either manually with a simple search function or using an AI applicant tracking system (ATS). The ATS will rank applicants based on how well your resume keywords match exactly to what’s in the job description. The higher you rank, the more likely it is that you’ll be contacted for a job interview.

It doesn’t matter how well it’s written or designed, if a resume doesn’t appear to have any keywords relating to the job ad or job description, it’s highly likely that it will be passed over. Often this is because a position relies heavily on familiarity with a particular piece of software, requires a certain level of qualification or a set of specific skills.

Just having your resume looked at is half the battle. But by following this guide, you can give yourself a better chance at having your CV looked at by potential employers and recruiters.

What keywords should you use in your resume?

While this may seem obvious, list your previously held roles. Recruiters will commonly search through resumes for specific job titles, to find people who have already held positions similar to the role they are trying to fill.

You should also mention any well-known software and programs related to your industry, as well as industry shorthand names or acronyms. Recruiters are also looking for someone already familiar with the technology, programs or processes used in that position.

Where can you find keywords? 

An easy way to find relevant keywords is by highlighting them when looking through job postings. If you see the same words being used over and over, it’s likely to be a keyword. Work them into your resume – they’re the skills that the ATS and hiring managers are looking for.

However, this doesn’t mean you should use keywords at every chance in your resume, regardless of whether or not they fit. Make sure to weave them into the skills you’ve developed and achieved in previous positions to show you already have the qualities they’re looking for.

How to work keywords into your CV

Rather than listing off keywords and titles in a bullet point list, you should mention them in your career biography and history to describe the skills and achievements you already hold, and the positions you developed them in. Above all else, they should make sense when you use them.

Adding keywords in your resume might get it looked at by a recruiter but if the keywords don’t make any sense with the information in your CV, and/or it’s obvious you’ve just thrown them in, then it’s unlikely you’ll be contacted for a job interview.

Should you add keywords to your cover letter?

Every cover letter should be tailored to a specific job application – this does take longer than sending out a standardised version, but it is well worth it and common practice. Most job postings will describe the ideal employee they are looking for, so use your cover letter to demonstrate how you are that ideal employee.

When you go through a job application, this time take note of the skills they are looking for in a potential employee – weave these keywords in your cover letter. This will not only show that you’ve read the application thoroughly, but also ensure when recruiters search through applications, they will find yours easily.

Taken this advice on board and ready to apply? Check out our current job opportunities.

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