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Keywords in CV's: why they're important and how to use them

Posting date: 1 December 2020
Simon Crabb our consultant managing the role

Too many of us don’t consider the importance of keywords when writing our CV’s / resumes, especially when search software is used by all hiring managers and recruiters – and that’s worrying.

You’re probably 90% there

You’ve spent hours perfecting your CV.

It’s written clearly, proofread for spelling and grammar, highlights your achievements and is neatly laid out in sections. You’ve even taken on board the time-costly advice of tailoring each CV for every job you’re applying to. 

No doubt you have your target audience in mind when writing your CV. But when hundreds are automatically filtered and ranked by an application software, you can’t guarantee yours will be seen for all the roles you've applied to. Most hiring managers or recruiters will only read through the top 20 or so when they create their shortlist.

The competition of getting your CV higher up the ranks is amplified by a precarious job market where demand for roles outstrip supply.

You need to look at extra steps to get your CV in front of the decision makers, and after exhausting the usual tips and advice, consider the steps it takes for a hiring manager to find their best candidates for a new role.

Search Optimise your CV: Keywords are vital for an Application Tracking System

You’ve likely heard about search-engine optimisation (SEO), if not you’ve definitely used it. So, let’s break down a simple internet search; 

You enter a search query or term into google or bing. How often do you look past the first page of results? You will most likely click on one of the top three links on the first page you’re shown. And if any of the results on the first page are not relevant to what you were looking for, you’ll simply refine or rephrase your search.

Don't forget Linked In: include relevant keywords in your profile

When using any kind of search software, human nature comes to play and we only take notice of our top search results to find what we are looking for. 

An ATS (Application Tracking System) works the same. Based on the type of candidate someone is seeking, they will use a search filter or enter keywords to shortlist the best available. It’s very unlikely that person will look at every single CV ranked further down the results that are the least relevant to their search.

Being mindful of keywords and their importance when writing your CV is all you need to make sure you are doing it right.

Simon Crabb, Managing Director - UK

This makes it sound simple, and it can be. Most people do this subconsciously when writing and reviewing their CV’s. Being aware of why keywords are important for search software will help, and we hope this is now clear.

You may not get further with some of your applications, but if your CV on file becomes a match and highly ranked for another role, it means you're better suited to it and the calls and follow-up will come in.

5 tips on how the best ways to use Keywords in a CV

Here are some tips and simple steps you can take to get your CV search optimised:

1. Pick out keywords from the job description

The best place to look for keywords for each role is to look at the job description. Pay attention to the list of responsibilities and desired candidate points outlined. Also look at any specifics to that role that you can relate to. 

E.g. if a role is in the commercial real estate sector and you’ve had five years’ experience in this field, state it.


2. Mention the skills, specialisms and qualifications you have relating to the role higher up

Your personal statement or introduction is the first thing scanned for keywords, both by an ATS and a hiring manager. Be sure to mention key related specialisms, qualifications or skills for the role here. 

If a job states having knowledge of BIM, REVIT or Autocad is essential, make sure this is highlighted in your personal statement or high up your experience list where applicable.


3. Don’t over-use keywords

There’s a term for it: ‘Keyword Stuffing’. It may be tempting to repeat the same keywords everywhere and anywhere thinking you can outsmart the bots- please don’t. It makes your CV look poor if phrases are repeated and become out of context for the sake of using a word as often as possible.


4. Make sure your CV still reads well for the end user

Drawing on the last point, you might get past an ATS by ‘keyword stuffing’, but the recruiter/Hiring Manager will simply put aside your CV if it reads poorly. Remember the ultimate end-user you’re targeting.


5. Use a free Keyword-check tool

You'll find plenty of free platforms for checking CV keywords and see how you would rank in your sector. (An internet search can help!). A few to note are Resume WordedJobscan and CV Scan. Be mindful that this is general to an industry or sector to make sure you're in the right direction. 


Bonus Tip: Don’t forget your Linked In profile

The professional social network is becoming the top destination for hiring managers to find candidates. Linked In’s candidate search-tools work the same as any other ATS. Check that your profile’s ‘About’ and ‘Experience’ sections include the relevant keywords and skills in your field too.

Real Estate CV and career advice

If you’re still unsure about your CV and how to best tailor it in your niche, speak to a member of our team. They’ll be happy to help advise you on best practices and direct you to any live vacancies you’re most suited for. 

Be sure to register with your cv and get matched job alerts.

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