How to Keyword Optimise Your CV for ATS & Tailor It to Specific Jobs
You may have heard about the importance of keyword optimising your CV for applicant tracking systems (ATS), but how exactly do you go about doing so?
Jobscan's ATS research study revealed that 98.8% of Fortune 500 companies use applicant tracking systems.
As such, keyword optimisation is now a crucial element of your CV to keep in mind (especially if you are applying for jobs at large corporations that receive high application volumes).
In this article, we provide:
- A keyword optimisation tool
- An ATS optimisation checklist
- An explanation of how to tailor your CV for specific roles
CV Keyword Optimisation Tool
If you are unsure whether your CV effectively incorporates target keywords, we encourage you to use the tool below.
Simply copy and paste your CV and a job description into the boxes below.
You'll then receive a percentage match score to let you know whether your CV is sufficiently tailored to your target role.
Don't get caught up in achieving a perfect score!
Remember that this tool created by Jobscan is meant to serve as a benchmark: always use your best judgement.
You shouldn't force additional keywords into your CV just to increase the match percentage.
Although doing so will result in a higher percentage match, we don't recommend listing soft skills on your CV, for example.
Soft skills such as the following are best communicated during the interview or by providing concrete examples of how you demonstrated them on the job:
- Effective communicator
- Strong team player
- Results-oriented executive
- Excels in high-pressure situations
- Proven ability to negotiate
- Adaptable, driven and motivated leader
While you want to effectively optimise your CV for applicant tracking systems, your CV still needs to read naturally and be truthful!
At one point or another, a human will read it, and "keyword stuffing" is rather obvious to detect.
If you find that your score is low and agree with the scan's outcome, you'll learn how to naturally incorporate additional keywords below.
ATS Optimisation Checklist
Keyword optimisation is not the only thing that applicant tracking systems (ATS) care about!
As you'll notice from the checklist below, the key to getting your CV past initial ATS scans is to:
- Keep your formatting simple (avoid any gimmicks)
- Use conventional section titles
- Align your content with the job description requirements
Note that if you are a senior executive, making sure that your CV meets all of these requirements becomes a bit less critical, as:
- You'll be competing against a smaller number of applicants
- You may be working with a recruiter, who will ensure your CV gets into the right hands
How to Tailor Your CV to a Job
One of the easiest ways to optimise your CV is to read through the job description, identify relevant keywords, and naturally incorporate them into your document.
Step 1: Highlight the most important elements of the role that would be important to include on the CV.
When reading through the job description, focus on two key sections:
- Key Responsibilities
More specifically, you'll want to focus on hard skills and industry terminology.
Step 2: Incorporate keywords related to those we identified in the job description.
Make sure to:
- Incorporate a few keywords that were exact matches in a natural manner to avoid the perception of keyword stuffing
- Include similar terminology that wasn't explicitly stated on the job description
- Avoid directly copy and pasting long phrases from the job description
- Avoid discussing any experience that the candidate didn't actually have just for the sake of "optimising" the CV
In today's hiring environment, recruiters are swamped with high application volumes, and applicant tracking systems help bring order to the chaos.
By taking intentional steps to keyword optimise your CV, you'll help it pass initial scans and get into the hands of a recruiter.
That said, be conscious not to over-optimise by focusing too much on keywords and not enough on human readability.
Also, remember that the most effective ways of finding a job involve networking and human interaction.
About CV Pilots
CV Pilots is an award-winning executive CV writing, career coaching and outplacement firm. Our previous clients include CEOs and senior executives at the world's leading companies.
Here's how we can help you:
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