Targeting Your CV Using Keywords

With the unemployment rate at around 8 percent, it is more important than ever for job seekers to do all they can to improve their chances when searching for new opportunities. Targeting your CV towards a specific type of role or sector is a great way of doing this.

These days almost all CVs are in electronic rather than paper format. One of the advantages of soft copy CVs is that they are searchable, which can be extremely useful for job seekers, long before applications have reached the interview stage.

Hiring managers and particularly recruiters – both internal and agency – really love the fact that CVs are searchable because it helps them to deal with the high ad response rate they often receive. When a recruiter receives 200 or more CVs, the search function allows them to conduct a first filtering based on the keywords for their vacancy. As a candidate, It is important to be aware of this so that you can tailor your CV accordingly.

To give an example of the keywords I mean, I conducted a search on a job board today and found an agency looking for a Web Developer with ASP and .Net. I reviewed a vacancy on LinkedIn and came across a Project Engineer requiring experience in an EPC environment. These are typical examples of keywords in CVs that can be used as search criteria by recruiters looking for candidates who match their essential criteria.

Qualifications are the most obvious keywords to include in your CV, but remember to include the IT packages you can use and the environments you have worked in (public/private sector, professional services, regulatory etc.).

Over and above this, if you really want to give yourself a competitive edge, try reviewing typical job descriptions for your role – often copied and pasted by recruiters straight onto job advertisements. Doing this will allow you to identify common features of the job or industry e.g. Stakeholder management, analytical ability, agile project environments or working overseas.

If a vacancy uses acronyms then your CV should as well. For example, if you have worked with ALB (Arms Length Bodies) or have experience of complying with the WEEE Directive (Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment Directive) you should state this fact. You may even consider using jargon or ‘buzz words’. Although jargon is usually to be avoided, some phrases may be usable if the terms are common in your role or industry. A rule of thumb is that if a recruiter is likely to search on a word or phrase then you should aim to include it.

Remember though that keywords and phrases are only one part of targeting. Littering your resume with them might succeed in matching it on recruiters’ searches, but these keywords need to be part of a well-structured CV. The objective is to use them to link your skills, experience and achievements together. You might describe keywords as the glue that binds the factual information together. This will help to showcase the suitability of your experience.