Now that we've talked about what applicant tracking systems (ATS) are, you're ready to optimize your resume. Keywords are the key to your next job interview, and ultimately, advancing your career. An applicant tracking system scans your resume searching for keywords the recruiter has chosen, so pick them carefully.
In this article, we'll help you seamlessly integrate ATS-friendly keywords into your resume. By taking the time to do this, you will be one step closer to your next job. The first thing candidates should realize though is they might need a different version of their resume and cover letter for every position they apply to.
Study the job description
Make sure you take the time to carefully read each job description before you apply. By studying the keywords, you can best optimize your resume. Also, take note of the job title listed. Many industries have numerous names for the same job. For example, if you are applying for a Copy Editor job but your last title was Content Editor, you may want to change your title on your resume.
Some candidates might feel this is dishonest, but if the titles are comparable then you're not doing anything wrong. You'll still have a chance to explain to the interviewer exactly what you did at your previous job, if things differ. With that said, don't inflate your titles. So if the role you are applying for has a senior title, do not add that to your resume if you never held a position at that level.
Look for specific keywords in the job description for guidance. Similar to job titles, companies can use multiple words for the same thing. You want your resume to be unique but you don't want it to slip through the cracks. Find a happy medium when listing and discussing your skills on your resume. If you are proficient in Microsoft Office but the job description lists each skill out, consider doing that on your resume.
You will want to include both soft skills and hard skills on your resume. Recruiters will search for both. Here are some top skills to include in your resume.
- Software skills: Adobe Creative Suite, Microsoft Office
- Languages: Spanish, French, etc
- Coding Skills: Java, Python
- Analytical tools: Google Analytics, CRMs
- Machinery skills
- Technical skills
- Accounting and bookkeeping
- Communication skills
- Team player
Resume keywords for a specific job
Beyond the hard and soft skills, you will want to include additional experience details. Remember, a human will read your resume too, so it needs to be more than just a list of employers with added keywords. You want to include context and relevant details about your experience. Here are some tips to help get your resume past the ATS.
- List your years of experience
- Highlight technical skills
- Make sure you have any degrees or certificates clearly stated
- If you are involved in any clubs or professional groups, have them on your resume
- List any systems or software you are proficient in
It's important to include the right keywords based on the specific job description. If you are applying for a content writer position and also a copy editor for example, you will need two versions of your resume. The hiring manager wants to find candidates that have the specific skills needed to get the job done. While the two job descriptions could be similar, pay attention to the differences listed. If you take the time to customize your resume for each role, you will have a better chance of your resume getting past the ATS and into the hands of the hiring manager.
Applying to hot jobs
When you visit a job website you will see hot jobs or popular roles listed. If you feel like one of these job descriptions matches your background and experience, feel free to apply. But remember, they will be getting even more resumes, so you will need yours to stand out. Getting your resume into human hands is the goal, so first, you have to master getting past the applicant tracking systems (ATS).
Make sure your resume isn't missing relevant information. Focus your keywords on the soft skills, hard skills, education, systems and software listed on the job description. Every keyword you include on your application can make a difference in it getting into the hands of a human.
One way to help get your resume in front of the hiring manager is to do research. Spend some time on the company's website. Read about their business. Can you find information on their sales data or marketing process? Depending on what you are looking for, there could be a whole section of their site dedicated to it. Use the resources available to you to gather information on the company.
Final thoughts on ATS keywords
Don't let ATS keywords get in the way of applying to jobs. Be confident in your work experience and skills. Your resume might just need some tweaking though.
Identify job opportunities that match your background. Keep in mind, the more qualified you are, the better chance you have of getting your resume to the hiring manager.
Picking the right keywords to describe your experience and skills can mean your resume gets into human hands. Take time to carefully list out your years of experience, technical skills, systems and software you are proficient in. Then make sure they match the job descriptions you are sending your resume to. Always review your resume, cover letter, and any other document you are sending. With a little time and some help from the right keywords, your application should land in the hands of the hiring manager.