Using keywords to tailor your CV to job applications is a proven technique for boosting your chances of getting interviewed. While applying for jobs, it won’t take long for you to realise that job specs vary widely from one to the next. Even where job titles are exactly the same, the requirements laid out by different employers will seek different attributes.

Although you have reviewed and revised your CV / Resume and cover letter tirelessly for them to shed the most flattering light onto what you have to offer, a recruiter will be looking out for a few key, high priority attributes from each applicant. The job ad will usually lay out the vital requirements near to the top part of the spec. Furthermore, particularly important, must have keywords, may be repeated more than once.

Beating Recruitment Software Programs

Many recruiters utilise recruitment software programs known as Applicant Tracking Software (ATS) to assist with their search for new employees. Such tools rely on keywords as criteria to match CVs to job specifications. Most ATS systems will read CVs to calculate relevance scores based on a CV to job specification keyword match ratio. CVs that fail to attain a minimum score will automatically be discarded by the software. Others will be flagged to be read by eye and potentially approved by the recruiter for progression to the next hiring stage. To increase your chances of being invited to interviews you must therefore ensure that your CV / resume contains keywords that match the high priority keywords defined by each job spec.

Even if your CV is a pretty good match, it may not score highly with the recruitment software if keywords do not match exactly. For example, your CV may state, “5 years of development experience”. The job spec however may state the requirement, “4 years of programming experience”. To increase your relevance score, consider changing the entry in your CV to, “over 4 years of programming experience”. This would match the keywords in the job spec exactly.

CV Keyword Tools

To help you match your CV against job adverts, a number of free, online tools exist. A very good and free web app is Jobscan. It allows you to upload your CV and copy and paste the content of the job spec. You then click a button to compare the job spec against your CV. You’ll be presented with a page of results with a relevance score. It also lists each job spec keyword and flags if they are matched, or missing from your CV.

If you laser focus you CV / Resume and follow the other techniques I recommend, you can be rest assured that your chances of being hired will improve drastically.