Use relevant keywords and outsmart applicant tracking systems.

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Keywords are your ticket to assuring the relevancy of your résumé  and successfully sidestepping the potential hazards of Applicant Tracking Systems.

Such systems store, scan, and select job applications and résumés for prospective employers. This once traditionally major company recruitment methodology has now evolved into a standard approach for small and large companies alike, and thus can  bypass qualified candidates. In this way, robotic systems leave the job seeker with the formidable task of bulletproofing their résumé  and withstanding impersonal robotic scrutiny and exclusion.

Here is where your keywords can save the day. If they are an integral part of your résumé, they will be instrumental in passing the ATS test. Of course, integrating language from a particular job-posting if you have a specific job in mind is also helpful. Adapting our messaging to a position can be advantageous, however this is not always possible. Still if keywords are present, the battle is already more than half won.

My clients often ask about how  we can be sure that the right keywords will be included in their résumé. I often tell them that the keywords and skill sets they bring to the table flow naturally as they tell their professional story. Skill sets can be included in a core competencies section in which we often list the concrete areas of expertise that you have acquired. Such words can become in effect key words. Therefore, Customer Service Management, Relationship Management, Sales & Marketing, Cross-Functional Team Leadership & Performance Management would be meaningful “tangible” keywords as opposed to “Team Player” which is a much more abstract. We can use words like team-oriented in a cover letter, but the résumé must be accomplishment-focused rather than obscured by abstract terminology. Describing these skills in a professional manner can tell your audience what kind of professional you are, what you bring to the table, how you have excelled as a thought leader, mentor, or manager. Quite often when I ask my clients what their magic is, they say things like, ” I can work independently or in groups” or “I am reliable and dependable”, “I get along well with others.”. Such things are ultra-basic and may well forfeit the persuasive advantage. When we purchase an automobile, we don’t ask if it has a steering wheel. We just assume it has! Thus, it is a given that a quality candidate is going to be reliable and dependable and capable of working independently or in group situations. We need to give our prospective employer much more meaningful content than that!

While graphics, tables and columns may be aesthetically pleasing, they can short circuit the scanning software. So resist the temptation. Uncomplicated, readable résumé designs do best within the ATS scanning process.

A simplified Word version or alternate text version is one sure alternative for ATS scanning purposes. PDF files do not always work so be careful to review what you paste online to make sure it is being interpreted correctly. A simple Word or text version works best because HTML is not really compatible with fancy fonts and formats.

In conclusion, I remind my clients not to become over anxious about keywords. There is an inherent specific language and terminology that is characteristic of each profession. As you collaborate with your writer, these terms will come naturally, and your writer will also be able to share valuable insights on integrating the terminology that is unique to your profession. If you focus on telling the best of your story, articulating the most impressive of your accomplishments, and using a compatible format for online postings and applications, your résumé will become keyword rich and ATS scannable.

So, choose your writer well, and he or she will help you tell your professional story in a way that will project your résumé past the scanners and into face-to-face interviews with hiring managers!

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