How to use the right keywords to get your resume past hiring software

In some organizations, hiring managers are looking for candidates for several different departments, looking to fill many diverse roles. It would take ages for them to review all of the resumes manually, and this would result roles not being filled in a timely manner.

As a solution, a tool referred to as a human resources (HR) software program can help to filter the resumes and cover letters that are submitted. Not only does this save time, but it allows hiring managers ensure that everyone who moves on in the interview process has a minimum level of experience.

???????????????????????????????How do these software programs work? Usually, they’re algorithms that help to identify keywords in resumes and cover letters that are relevant to the experience required for the job. The good news is that you’ve probably already seen these keywords – they’re typically listed throughout the job description.

A recent article in the Globe and Mail shares how to get your resume past these electronic screening programs.

Here’s an example of how a well-qualified candidate may not have been considered had she not incorporated an important keyword into her resume:

“I helped a lady recently who wanted to work as risk analyst in a bank. She had an MBA, a background in accounting, she was fully qualified for the job. I did a quick keyword search of the word ‘risk’ in the job posting, and it showed up 17 times. Then I went to her resume, and it showed up once, on the second page. That would never get through.” – Pamela Paterson, resume coach and author of Get the Job: Optimize Your Resume for the Online Job Search.

The goal is to write your resume in such a way that it will get through the system and into the hands of a human who will consider you for the job.

The three things to remember when you’re writing a resume that will be reviewed by a software algorithm are:

Tip 1: Highlight the keywords – Make sure the recurring terms in a job description, like skills, responsibilities, training/certifications, commonly-used abbreviations and action words, are used in your resume and cover letter.

Tip 2: Keep it simple – Avoid PDFs, and use traditional headers and basic formatting.

Tip 3: Time matters – If you’ve had different roles in the same company, treat each as its own job and identify the dates you were in that role. This may be a cue to the filter that you have the required amount of work experience.

What if you’re searching for a similar job at different companies? You can probably use the same version of your cover letter and resume. But never assume that a generic resume will get you past the first round of review by the software algorithm and into the hands of a hiring manager. Take a careful look at the job description for each company to find keywords that are frequently used. If a job description isn’t available, review the company’s website or online newsroom for clues about the keywords you should include.

What does this all mean? How you write your resume needs to constantly evolve to adapt to the new digital tools used in the job search process.

Do you have any tips for incorporating keywords into your resume or cover letter? Share them in the comments.

Image credits:; Creative Commons.

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