In today’s job climate, merely having a Curriculum Vitae or resume is not enough. Companies receive hundreds or, in some cases, thousands of applications to fill a single position. Hiring Managers employ a variety of tactics to eliminate as many as possible to narrow the field. Did you know 72 percent (72%) of resumes never get seen by an actual person? If you want to have a chance at being seen by someone who can hire you, you must optimize your resume for keyword searches, much like websites do.

It is no secret that most companies are now using Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) Software to review resumes and online applications. This software has Optical Character Recognition (OCR), which searches for specific keywords and text in scanned documents. I.e., Resumes. I recommend following search engine optimization (SEO) practices, even if you plan to deliver your resume physically. Making your resume easy to scan makes sense since data shows that most Hiring Managers spend only 6 seconds looking at each candidate’s resume. Simply put, if nothing stands out or is remotely relatable via word association in that 6 seconds, then the resume is usually discarded.

How do you make sure that your resume can make it past applicant tracking software or busy hiring managers? Search engine optimization. Although search engines like Google and applicant tracking software differ in their algorithms and search methods, many of the principles are the same. During a search, weigh certain things, such as keywords or contextual keyword phrases, to ensure the best results. In the case of resume keyword searches, most applicant tracking software assigns a numerical value to valuable keywords. If your resume lacks pertinent keywords and receives a low score, then it does not pass muster. If, on the other hand, you do your research and have plenty of quality keywords on your resume, then your chances of moving onto the next steps dramatically improves.

Now that you know how important it is to make your CV or resume friendly to search engines, you probably want to know the best strategies to accomplish this task. The perfectly optimized resume has two primary components: format and content. The format ensures that the keywords you have placed are recognized while content ensures those keywords become “hits.”

The format often gets overlooked because most people use a resume template but having the best resume in the world does not matter if the software cannot read it. The optical character recognition used by ATS programs likes simple, clean, and readable text. So, it would be best if you forewent text in busy graphics or shading that might lead to missed keywords and always use standard fonts and crisp, dark ink.

Ensuring that the keywords in your resume are recognized is not enough. How you choose the right keywords is equally important. In most cases, the best place to find valuable keywords is in the job description and posting. You will see several things that the Hiring Manager is looking for in a candidate. If a company looking for a programmer mentions “skilled with JavaScript,” then you can be sure that those keywords will be used as identifiers in their search.

Your use of keywords is also vital on sites and job boards like LinkedIn, Indeed and Monster, where employers may directly search for applicants. Your best strategy is to be as specific as possible. For example, and to illustrate, try a web search for a general term like “cars.” The search might return millions of results, most of which will never be seen. Thus, searchers tend to be more specific and would search for “1976 Ford Mustang” and get more quality hits for precisely what they are looking for. A job search operates in much the same way. A generalized resume listing “programming knowledge” might get included in a general search, but it will be placed in a pool with hundreds of others and will likely get overlooked. Using specific skill-related keywords such as “proficient with PHP, Python, and SQL coding languages” ensures less competition for your resume.

A search engine optimized resume does not guarantee you will get hired, but it will increase visibility and, thus, your chances for success.

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