Job seekers are all too familiar with the screening hazards of Applicant Tracking Systems. While I am a strong proponent of sidetracking these monsters whenever possible, you will have to deal with them at some point in your job search.
Using key words strategically in your resume will insure it gets through the ATS gate and read by a human being.
1. Review the job description. Using a highlighter, mark the skills, abilities, industry experience and other requirements on the job description that match your qualifications. Using key words will help customize your resume for the job you are applying for.
2. Choose key words wisely. Next review your list of key words to be sure they are specific and descriptive of what you do. Avoid using broad brushed terms like sales or finance. Instead choose words that specify your area of expertise such as, ‘internet sales’, ‘financial reporting’ or ‘global finance operations’. Your goal is to clearly define your areas of specialty so your resume gets through robotic maze.
3. Provide context. Just as companies have become more selective in their hiring practices, so have the contraptions they use to screen resumes.
Simply listing key words under a subheading of ‘Technical Skills’ or ‘Core Competencies isn’t good enough any more. According to Michelle Robin of Brand Your Career in Buffalo Grove, Illinois, “Applicant tracking systems are getting smarter and looking for context”.
Robin suggests strategically weaving key words into stories. “Provide examples of what you have accomplished around key words”.
Use a key word as a heading to an achievement bullet. For example: Business Development: Established relationships with distributors, partners and customers throughout APAC, positioning the company to enter two new markets in the region.
4. Find the right balance. Too many key words and your resume will not get read. Strike a happy balance. If you use a competency section make sure the key words are included elsewhere, but do so in moderation. The resume should flow nicely and be easy to read.