Three Ways to Optimize Keywords for ATS and Database Success | Jobs In MD

Three Ways to Optimize Keywords for ATS and Database Success


By Shawn McGowan,

If you've ever submitted a resume online - either through a job board's resume database or by applying via an employer's Applicant Tracking System (ATS) - your resume has been entered into an elaborate electronic filing cabinet that can be searched by recruiters looking to hire.

Keywords 101

Employers search these databases for candidates with exact specifications for a job. Even if you are qualified for a job, if your keywords don't match a potential employer's keywords, your resume may not appear in their search result.

So, what keywords are we talking about? Basically, buzzwords and phrases used by recruiters and industry insiders that describe a position. These words could be job titles, responsibilities, software knowledge, skills, certifications and more.

Getting Started

Here are three ways you can get started on optimizing your resume's keywords:

1. Identify Your Keyword List

  • Find similar job postings to the one you are applying to and save a few examples. What are some recurring words and phrases that you could add to your resume? Make a list.
  • What skills or knowledge do you possess that is most critical in performing a particular job successfully? Be sure to include words and phrases that tie directly to these job requirements.
  • Search LinkedIn profiles for members who have similar jobs. What keywords are they using?
  • Check out your professional associations' directories. What words do peers use to describe themselves?

2. Include These Words and Phrases in Your Resume

  • Don't just add a list of keywords at the end of your resume. Instead, include a "Specialties" or "Professional Summary" section in your resume, listing common, relevant phrases.
  • Include words from your list and repeat ones used in your summary throughout your resume as it makes sense, in context.
  • In addition to using abbreviations and acronyms, always spell out the entire word or phrase. For example: Certified Nursing Assistant (CNS). Recruiters or ATS criteria may be looking for any or all of those words in their search.
  • Use keywords in your cover letter.

3. Make Your Keywords a Part of Your Personal Brand

  • Add keywords to social profile bios and taglines. Building a cohesive message across all your profiles helps create a personal brand and says, "I am what I say I am."
  • This is especially important on your LinkedIn profile, where more and more recruiters are searching for and screening candidates.

The more you become familiar with the buzzwords associated with your industry and career, the better you'll be able to include such language in your electronic resume, and the greater your chances of an employer finding you in the crowd.