How to Get Your Resume Read by Using Keyword Research

Conducting adequate keyword research during your job hunt is key to ensuring your resume is read by employers. According to ERE, each job opening receives an average of 250 resumes with recruiters spending on average only 6 seconds reviewing each application.

The majority of applications are screened by a digital Applicant Tracking System (ATS) that scan resumes for keywords to indicate a match for a particular job. At this stage, if you haven’t used the appropriate keywords, the chances of your resume making it in front of a hiring manager dramatically decrease.

Even if an organisation doesn’t use automated screening software, a recruiter or a hiring manager will use a database or professional networking sites to look for potential hires. It is only by understanding their search behaviour and the language they use to look for candidates can you make your resume more visible and increase your chances of getting found on the system.

Identifying the right keywords employers are looking for is the most crucial step in creating your resume. You can find keywords by looking not just at the job posting you are applying for but also at similar jobs in your area of expertise.

Keyword research methods:

As an example, take a marketer who is deciding whether to optimise his resume for ‘online marketing’ or ‘digital marketing’.

Indeed indexes a huge number of jobs online, aggregating job postings from employers and job boards alike. This means we can use their Job Trends tool to compare the popularity of both terms across job advertisements in the US.

We can see from the results that the percentage of job postings that contain online marketing is currently on par with those that have digital marketing. However there has been a steady increase in the usage of digital marketing over the last few years.

To get a better gauge of what the job market looks like, run a search on Indeed using the ‘With the exact phrase’ field under advanced search.

Exact text matches on (USA) 25th April 2014:

Keyword Jobs returned
online marketing 6’099
digital marketing 9’072

From this we can see that there is a larger number of employers advertising for ‘digital marketing’ roles compared to ‘online marketing’. Taking the growing popularity of the keyword over the last few years and the number of jobs advertised, it would be reasonable to conclude that employers will use the keyword digital marketing as they search for potential employees.

If you’re a developer with HTML5 skills, what job title are employers using to find people like you? It’s not enough to rely on your skills as your primary keywords. In most cases, recruiters will use a combination of skills and job titles to narrow down their candidate pool while searching for people on databases. Since recruiters spend such a short amount of time looking at resumes, you need to make sure that you catch their attention by using job titles with the closest match to their requirements.

We can use Indeed’s resume search to find out what professionals in your space are calling themselves. Using the search term HTML5 we can see that the most popular job titles among your peers are web developer, software engineer, software developer, senior software engineer and web designer.

Resume advanced search screenshot

Going back to the advanced job search, enter HTML5 in the ‘With all of these words’ field and one of the job titles above in the ‘With the exact phrase’ field.

Advanced job search screen shot

Matches on (USA) 25th April 2014

Keyword Jobs returned
HTML5 with web developer 2’131
HTML5 with software engineer 1’977
HTML5 with software developer 817
HTML5 with senior software engineer 434
HTML5 with web designer 336

It’s clear from the results that as an HTML5 developer, you should try and use ‘web developer’ at least once or twice within your resume or online profiles to maximise your visibility to recruiters, hiring managers and search engines. Using ‘software engineer’ and ‘software developer’ would make sense too.

A word of caution though, finding the right keywords is only half the battle. Make sure that you are using the most appropriate keywords to describe and give context to your skills. At the end of the day, stuffing your resume with keywords might get you past the ATS but it will still end up in the NO-pile if the contents do not make sense to a hiring manager.

By Maebellyne Ventura

Maebellyne Ventura is the Digital Marketing Manager at Experis Switzerland, an IT recruitment specialist. She is also one of the founders of Clever Biscuit, a technology start-up creating simple and innovative products. Follow Maebellyne on Twitter @Maebellyne.