Mastering Keywords: Ensuring Your Resume Gets Past Automated Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS)

  • Hiring
  • Published on July 22

Navigating the modern job market can feel like steering through a maze filled with jargon, buzzwords, and acronyms. One such acronym that's crucial to your job hunt success is ATS - Automated Applicant Tracking Systems. In today's digitized world, understanding ATS and how to tailor your resume to them can make the difference between landing an interview or getting lost in the shuffle. One of the key strategies for success? Incorporating relevant keywords into your resume.

Understanding ATS

Before we dive into keywords, let's understand what an ATS is. An ATS is a software application that helps companies manage their recruitment process. It is designed to filter applications automatically based on given criteria such as keywords, skills, former employers, years of experience, and schools attended.

The Power of Keywords

Keywords are words or phrases that describe specific job requirements. They are the skills, abilities, credentials, and qualities that a hiring manager looks for in a candidate. When a hiring manager first starts looking for candidates, they will input specific keywords into the ATS, and only the resumes that contain those keywords will pop up in their search.

Here's where the power of keywords comes into play. By strategically incorporating relevant keywords into your resume, you increase the likelihood of your resume making it past the ATS and into the hands of the hiring manager.

Identifying Relevant Keywords

Identifying relevant keywords for your resume begins with thoroughly reading the job description for the position you are applying for. The job description is a treasure trove of information, including the skills, experiences, and qualifications the employer is seeking. Look for specific words or phrases that describe what the job requires.

For example, if you're applying for a digital marketing role, keywords could include "SEO," "Content Creation," "Google Analytics," and "Social Media Management."

Incorporating Keywords

Once you've identified the relevant keywords, the next step is to incorporate them into your resume naturally. Here are a few places to consider:

  • Skills Section: This is perhaps the most straightforward place to insert relevant keywords. List out all your skills that match those identified from the job description.
  • Work Experience Section: Use action verbs to describe your responsibilities and achievements, aligning with the keywords where relevant. For example, "Managed a successful social media campaign," or "Improved website visibility through SEO optimization."
  • Summary/Objective Statement: This is a great place to incorporate keywords and make a strong first impression.
  • Education/Certifications Section: Include any degrees, certifications, or courses that match the job description keywords.

Balancing Act: Relevance and Truth

While it's important to include relevant keywords to get past the ATS, it's equally critical that these keywords genuinely reflect your skills and experiences. Do not include keywords for skills or experiences you don't possess; if you're called for an interview or get the job, the truth will come out.

Examples to get your started.

For a Digital Creative, here are some potential examples:

  • Graphic Design: This term is often used in job postings for digital creatives. Be sure to include it if you have such experience.
  • Adobe Creative Suite: Mentioning specific software such as Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator, and InDesign can help your resume pass ATS.
  • UX/UI Design: User experience and user interface design are crucial skills for digital creatives.
  • HTML/CSS: Even if you're not applying for a web development position, understanding the basics of coding can be a strong selling point.
  • SEO (Search Engine Optimization): This is a key skill for digital creatives working on online content and websites.
  • Social Media Management: If you have experience managing social media channels, be sure to include this keyword.
  • Content Creation: This can apply to a variety of mediums - text, graphics, video, etc.
  • Video Editing: If you have experience with video editing software such as Adobe Premiere or Final Cut Pro, mention it.
  • Animation: Skills in animation software like Adobe After Effects or Blender could be relevant.
  • Project Management: Even if you're not applying for a managerial role, showcasing your ability to handle projects can make you stand out.
  • Brand Development: If you have experience in developing or maintaining a brand's identity, be sure to include this.
  • CRM Platforms: Experience with Customer Relationship Management software like Salesforce or HubSpot can be a plus.

For a Marketing Professional, here are some potential examples:

  • Digital Marketing: This is a broad term that covers many areas of marketing in the online space.
  • SEO (Search Engine Optimization): This is a key skill for digital marketing professionals involved in content creation, website management, or overall marketing strategy.
  • SEM (Search Engine Marketing): If you have experience with paid search marketing platforms such as Google Ads or Bing Ads, be sure to include this keyword.
  • Content Marketing: This keyword is crucial if you have experience creating and managing content strategies to engage an audience.
  • Social Media Marketing: If you've managed a brand's presence on social platforms like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, or Snapchat, mention it.
  • Email Marketing: If you have experience with email marketing campaigns or platforms such as MailChimp, this is an important keyword to include.
  • Analytics: Whether it's Google Analytics, Facebook Analytics, or any other platform, demonstrating your ability to analyze and interpret data is vital.
  • CRM (Customer Relationship Management): If you're familiar with CRM platforms like Salesforce, HubSpot, or Zoho, be sure to include them.
  • Inbound Marketing: This term refers to a marketing methodology that attracts customers by creating valuable content and experiences tailored to them.
  • PPC (Pay-Per-Click): This is a key term to include if you have experience managing paid advertising campaigns.
  • Brand Strategy: If you have experience in shaping a brand's direction and public perception, include this keyword.
  • Lead Generation: This is a crucial aspect of many marketing roles, especially in B2B companies.
  • Market Research: If you have experience conducting research to better understand customer behavior, market trends, or competitor analysis, this is a crucial keyword.

For a Technical Professional, here are some potential examples:

  • Programming Languages: Java, Python, C++, Ruby, JavaScript, Swift, etc. Be sure to list all the languages you are proficient in.
  • Web Development: Highlight your skills in front-end, back-end, or full-stack web development.
  • Frameworks and Libraries: React, Angular, Node.js, .NET, Django, etc. Make sure to include the ones you have experience with.
  • Databases: Oracle, MySQL, PostgreSQL, MongoDB, etc. are important to mention if you have worked with them.
  • Cloud Technologies: If you have experience with AWS, Google Cloud, or Microsoft Azure, be sure to mention it.
  • Version Control: Mention Git or other version control systems you have used.
  • DevOps: Terms like Continuous Integration, Continuous Deployment, Jenkins, Docker, and Kubernetes are valuable in many technical roles.
  • Machine Learning/AI: If you've worked with technologies like TensorFlow, Keras, PyTorch, or have experience in data science, be sure to include those keywords.
  • Cybersecurity: Keywords could include encryption, firewall, intrusion detection, penetration testing, etc.
  • Agile/Scrum: If you've worked in an agile environment or have scrum certification, include these terms.
  • System Administration: Linux, Windows Server, network administration, etc. can be important to list if relevant to the job.
  • Software Testing/QA: Automated testing, manual testing, Selenium, JUnit, and other testing tools and methodologies can be relevant in many technical roles.
  • Project Management: Mention any project management methodologies you're familiar with, such as Agile, Scrum, or Lean, and any related certifications like PMP.
  • Problem-Solving: This is a soft skill that's valued in almost every profession, but it's particularly important in technical roles.

For a Advocacy and Nonprofit Digital Professional, here are some potential examples:

  • Digital Marketing: A broad term that emphasizes your skills in online promotion and advertising.
  • SEO (Search Engine Optimization): Critical for increasing the visibility of your organization's website or campaigns online.
  • Social Media Marketing: Essential for any digital marketer, and particularly useful in advocacy and nonprofit roles for spreading messages and engaging supporters.
  • Email Marketing: Experience with platforms like MailChimp or Constant Contact, or managing email campaigns in general, can be very valuable.
  • Content Creation/Content Strategy: The ability to create engaging content that informs, inspires, and motivates is crucial.
  • CRM (Customer Relationship Management): Skills in platforms like Salesforce or other CRM software are beneficial for managing and analyzing interactions and data about supporters.
  • Fundraising/Donor Relations: Highlight any experience with online fundraising platforms or strategies, and maintaining relationships with donors.
  • Community Outreach/Engagement: A crucial part of advocacy and nonprofit work is the ability to connect with and engage your community.
  • Data Analysis: The ability to analyze and make decisions based on data can be very valuable.
  • Public Relations/Communications: The ability to effectively communicate your organization's message to the public is crucial.
  • Brand Strategy/Development: Your skills in shaping the public perception and growth of a brand can be beneficial.
  • Event Planning/Management: Whether it's organizing a fundraiser, webinar, or awareness campaign, this is a valuable skill.
  • Volunteer Coordination: If you've coordinated volunteers, particularly in a digital context, this can be relevant.
  • Advocacy/Campaign Strategy: Keywords about your experience in advocacy campaigns or developing advocacy strategies can be important.
  • Nonprofit Management: Broad understanding of the nonprofit sector, including governance, funding, and legal regulations.
  • Grant Writing/Proposal Development: A skill that is often needed in nonprofit roles.

Mastering the use of keywords in your resume is a science and an art. It requires understanding the ATS, scrutinizing job descriptions, and presenting your qualifications in a way that matches those requirements. With the right balance of these elements, your resume stands a much better chance of landing on the 'yes' pile, and you'll be one step closer to your next career opportunity.