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2. Start Your Hunt for CV Keywords from the Job Listing
Prepare your targeted CV with the job ad in front of you and use its language as your CV keywords.
Let’s look at this sample job description snippet for an operations associate:
Experience with MS Office Bachelor's Degree preferred Experience using Hubspot, Xsellco or other CRM software Experience using back-end for Amazon, Walmart, eBay or other similar online marketplaces Experience in a similar position preferred or experience managing a small team
To be qualified for this position, the candidate needs to have and mention their experience with CRM software and the largest online marketplaces. That’s in addition to expertise in managing a small team.
Have this experience but fail to include it?
It’s like you never had any experience at all—they’ll toss your CV.
Use wording that matches the job description so you have the best chance of appeasing the ATS scan.
To succeed in this particular example, on your CV you’d have to include the knowledge of “MS Office,” instead of separating it into “Word,” “Excel,” etc.
Don’t copy everything!
They want a CV from a well-qualified candidate, not a plagiarised version of their original job ad—32% of employers auto-reject applications that copy too much text from the ad.
That above example lists some easy-to-follow nouns to add here and there in your CV.
But now, let’s look at another sample text for a project coordinator:
Position Summary: The Project Coordinator will provide integral support to the office through implementation of all logistics as they pertain to Early Childhood project meetings, professional development support, communications, and other office-related work. Will provide ongoing resource management to ensure all program resources are efficiently utilised and maintained. Will ensure project transparency with timely and effective project communication, escalating issues and risks as appropriate. Performs related work.
Paragraphs like these are harder to parse, but they’re just as rich in CV keywords as any list of responsibilities or qualifications.
For keywords such as “timely and effective project communication,” use that phrase in your heading statement (objective or summary).
Alternatively, talk about this in your job experience section from a past position.
Expert Hint: Keywords should never be repeated in a CV? Untrue. You can highlight your expertise in a given skill or task by using it more than once as a keyword on your CV. This increases the keyword density and will help you to match better. But only do this on the most crucial keywords!
3. Discover More CV Keywords on Your Own
Sometimes the job listing won’t give you all the powerful keywords for CVs.
In these cases, you just have to find them on your own.
But it’s easy—
Here are the best places to find power words to use as your CV keywords and industry buzzwords:
Wikipedia — Search your prospective job title to find tools of the trade, general responsibilities, and more.
Industry organisations and trade websites —You’ll find lots of relevant industry jargon in case studies and interviews with experts in your field.
The company’s website — Your future CV keywords sleep in the company’s scope of operations, values, future plans, etc.
Other job listings — Other job ads for similar roles will give you a lot of ideas for words to use in a CV.
TripSuggest is seeking a competent travel booking agent with at least two years’ experience. Expert knowledge of Sabre CRS is required. Ideal candidate will have strong interpersonal skills and communication skills. Familiarity with Microsoft Office a plus.
Let’s dive in.
Most keywords you’ll take from a job listing like this will fit into your CV skills section.
Your skills section is a great place to add both soft skills they’re looking for (e.g., interpersonal skills, communication skills) and hard skills (e.g., Microsoft Office, Sabre CRS).
If it is more crucial to the position, give it a boost by speaking of these also in other areas, such as your CV summary or work experience.
Here’s a sample CV summary:
Competent travel booking agent with 3+ years experience with both Amadeus and Sabre CRS…
We brought your CRS expertise out of the depths of the skills section to the heading statement—which is sure to get more eye time.
On top of that, we satisfied the experience length requirements, and we used their wording mentioning the specific position being applied for.
Expert Hint: How many CV keywords should you use? 25 to 30 is a good number, all parts of a CV included. Make it a healthy mix of words from the job ad and words you come up with yourself (with the help of Wikipedia, Google, etc.).
5. Reuse Your CV Keywords in Your Email & Cover Letter
The CV is not the only document you’re writing or handing in.
Therefore, to additionally boost your chances of winning that job interview invitation, you have to reuse your CV keywords in your email to the recruiter and in your cover letter.
The cover letter is often read prior to the hiring manager getting around to your CV. On top of that, they could choose to use the ATS to parse your cover letter for keywords, as well.
Do it especially with those CV keywords you feel are most important to determining your fate.
You can also use your cover letter to reword and explain particular keywords from your CV.
Also, try to “speak the company’s language” on your cover letter by using their tone and energy. You can get the gist of it on the company’s website. Also, check out our best cover letter tips to tweak your letter of application even more.
Finally, make sure to include one email keyword that appears on many job ads:
If you’re interested in the job, please use the phrase “Sales Position 34SK-T Application” as your email subject line.
Never miss it!
Use the required phrase as your email subject. Don’t rephrase it. If you do, your application may never reach the recruiter.
Expert Hint: One keyword you might have overlooked—the company name. Adding the company name to your cover letter and email (and even your CV objective statement) shows you took the time to customise your application just for them.
6. How to Honestly Add Keywords You Might Not Qualify For
Never lie on your CV.
That being said, what happens if you are on the fence about including a particular keyword?
Let’s look at this job ad example for an accountant:
Qualifications and Skills:
Bachelor’s degree in Accounting or related field
You are finishing up your last semester at university.
Want to try a different look? There’s 18 more. A single click will give your document a total makeover. Pick a cover letter template here.
Expert Hint: When adding keywords on a CV, copy their naming conventions. If they use “BA,” you use “BA.” If they say “bachelor’s degree,” you say “bachelor’s degree.” This will get you covered for the exact keywords they’ll enter into the ATS.
Here’s a recap of all the important things you have to know about CV keywords:
CV keywords are important words or phrases employers search for in your documents.
The applicant tracking systems reject CVs lacking keywords.
Use the job ad as your guide to find the best words for your CV.
Search for a list of CV keywords on Google, Wikipedia, etc.
Add keywords all over your CV, not just the skills section.
Reuse the keywords in your email and cover letter to round it all out.
Don’t be dishonest by adding keywords for skills you don’t qualify for.
Have any questions on how to use keywords on CV? Not sure how to describe your skills using powerful words and action verbs? Get at us below in the comments, and thanks for reading!
Christian Eilers is a resume expert and a career advice writer at ResumeLab. His insights and career guides have been published by Business Insider, FitSmallBusiness, Business News Daily, OppLoans, First for Women, and UpJourney, among others. Christian offers comprehensive advice on career development and each step of the job search, from start to finish and beyond. His guides cover looking for new jobs, sending application documents such as resumes and cover letters, acing interview questions, and settling into the new position. Since 2017, he has written over 200 in-depth, meticulously-researched career advice articles in collaboration with the most renowned career experts in the world. Hundreds of thousands of readers visit Christian’s articles each month. Christian majored in Communication & Culture, Anthropology at the City University of New York. In his spare time, he enjoys traveling and learning about cultures and traditions from around the world.
A CV job description is a CV section where you list your professional experience, usually in reverse-chronological order. It means you start with your most recent position and proceed backwards. Each entry should contain 3-6 bullet points. It is recommended to include 10-15 years of work history on your CV.