The Keyword Approach To A CV & Cover Letter

Staff Writer | @campusmoments13
4 minute read

In a keyword search of resumes and cover letters, employers identify, either electronically or manually, important words or phrases related to the job description. Candidates will then be selected for further review based on the number and/or level of matches found in the search.

According to Registered Organisational Psychologist & Career Coach, Phiona Martin, “Most companies are using (Applicant Tracking Systems)ATS and if you are making online applications, you can no longer ignore the requirement for your CV to be ATS “friendly.”

To develop a keyword resume and cover letter, study the job description carefully, identifying important words/phrases from both the responsibilities and qualifications of the job (highlighted in red for demonstration purposes only). Incorporate these words and phrases into your resume and cover letter using your background and experiences.

Sample Cover Letter

career chat cover lettr.png
Incorporate words and phrases directly from the job description that pertain to your skills and experience (shown in red for demonstration purposes only. Do not use red in your resume or letter)

Phiona Martin recommends the following seven ways to ensure your CV is ATS attractive and actually lands in a human recruiters hands.

  1. Mirror the Job Description wording in your CV, including the tense it is written e.g if job description says “management of suppliers” change if your CV says “managing vendors and contractors”. This requires customising your CV for every job. NB:  Do NOT copy and paste job description word-for-word you may be penalised by ATS or recruiter.
  2. Nail those keywords. There is lingo in every profession/industry. It maybe software, skills, certifications, licenses, responsibilities, or  procedures. The words that matter in your profession need to be included in your CV/Resume. Use both acronyms and spelled out form of titles.
  3. Repeat important keywords related to your skills a few times in your CV. Do NOT merely stuff as many key words as possible as the new scanners pick up this tactic. It will also be a turn-off to the recruiter who actually reads the CV if your CV does get past the scanner process.  A recommended suggestion is using a keyword two to three times per CV, taking into account that it is coherently placed.
  4. Make use of free cloud services like Wordle and TagCrowd to help you determine the right keywords to use in your CV. Just copy and paste the job description into the generators and the software will tell you which keywords are important to include in your CV.
  5. Only use text. Don’t use graphics, logos, or tables in your CV as fancy graphics, images, tables, and logos confuse the ATS. Anything placed in header and footer areas is invisible to the ATS, do not put important information in these sections.
  6. Headings. Put in straight forward traditional headings such as; Work Experience, Education, Qualifications, Experience, Hobbies, and References and avoid creative titles as they may not be recognised by the ATS
  7. Job Titles. Pay attention to the job title in the advert. E.g. if you are a Finance Manager, but the job title is for an Accounting Manager, be sure that you include “Accounting Manager” somewhere in your CV.

Sample CV

career chat 2.png
Incorporate words and phrases directly from the job description that pertain to your skills and experience (shown in red for demonstration purposes only. Do not use red in your resume or letter)
Get more from the #CareerCoach at http://www.phionamartin.com/blog. Sample CV & Cover Letter adapted from unl.edu/careers

 

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