How to use keywords in your CV

When it comes to your CV, there’s no such thing as one size fits all. After all, you need to tailor it to every job you apply for. And that’s why using keywords in your CV can help to make it as relevant as possible; while also showing you have the appropriate skills for the job.

But what are keywords? Well, they’re the terms that people use to search for content on a specific subject. Recruiters and employers will use them when looking for relevant candidates via a CV Database or Applicant Tracking System (ATS).

As a job hunter, it’s important to ensure that the phrases in your CV and job application match up to what employers include in their job adverts and searches. These should cover:

  • Skills you have that relate to the job, profession or industry
  • Technical industry terms, such as software, products and services
  • Relevant job titles
  • Qualifications and other certifications
  • Industry buzzwords and jargon
  • Company, college and university names

By using the right terms, you communicate your core qualifications and expertise for immediate impact. So, how should you use these keywords in your CV? Here are some tips to help you.

Where to use keywords in your CV

An obvious place to add these phrases to is your personal profile section; this is where you describe what you do and your current situation. This usually sits right at the top of your CV and will instantly attract potential employers.

You’ll also want to add them into a skills section (if you have one). You could put them in bold so they stand out at a glance. Also, try to sprinkle them throughout your employment history and education to show your relevance to the vacancy.

How to find keywords

The easiest way to find them is to search for similar jobs online. Keep an eye out for any reoccurring words in the job advert. These buzzwords will often fall in a specific section of the advert; for example, under ‘qualifications’ or ‘responsibilities’.

If any of these buzzwords apply to you, then ensure that you use these keywords in your CV. You can also check out the company’s website for possible phrases to use; this helps to show you’re a good fit for the business.

The ‘about us’ pages usually tell you about the organisation’s identity; so have a look through to see if you relate to anything.

Use the job advert

Alongside this, remember that the employer will list out the skills they’re looking for within the job advert. Pick out any that you have and make sure you demonstrate them clearly under your job history.

Although it’s a good idea to mirror the language used in the job advert, never copy it word-for-word. After all, you need to put your own stamp on it and demonstrate how you gained these skills.

Specific keywords

Include keywords in your CV that focus on the particular job role and industry. For example, if you’re applying for a Digital Copywriter role, you should highlight your previous experience by using words like editing, proofreading and blogging etc.

General keywords

It’s equally important to emphasise your other skills. These might not necessarily relate to the role or industry, but should describe your character.

This doesn’t mean you should inundate your CV with descriptive terms such as ‘passionate’, ‘focused’, and ‘creative.’ A survey of online CVs and LinkedIn profiles reveals the buzzwords that are more cliché than being a good keyword; so it’s wise to avoid these types of words if you want to stand out from the rest.

Aim for more generic terms which emphasis other useful qualities. For example, your analytical, leadership and organisational skills. You can use keywords in your CV like budget management, project managing and administrative duties etc. to show your business acumen and competency.

Keep it consistent and include a variety of keywords

Don’t just use a few terms in one paragraph and leave it at that. Remember to incorporate as many appropriate words as possible throughout your whole CV.

It’s also important to use phrases that show off your soft skills, hard skills and industry knowledge. By using a wide range of keywords in your CV, you’ll demonstrate that you have all the diverse qualities required for the job.

Don’t go overboard

As important as it is to have plenty of relevant phrases in your CV, you want to be careful you don’t overdo it. Write your CV so it flows naturally and grabs the reader’s attention; as opposed to being a random collection of keywords just strung together.

Only add keywords in your CV where it makes sense to do so. You want to aim to use them frequently yet strategically.

Remember to never list any skills just because you know they’re good words to use. You want your CV to be a true reflection of your professional background and experiences.

This is why it’s good practice to always review your CV before submitting it; this it ensures that you incorporate the keywords that are relevant to the job and industry and that you’re are 100% true to yourself.