Resume SEO: Get Your Resume to the Top

More job seekers than ever before are finding jobs and applying to them online. In most cases, job seekers apply for opportunities by completing online applications and pasting and/or uploading their resumes on the employer databases or applicant tracking systems of job search engines and/or company websites. With so many candidates applying for the same positions, employers and recruiters often search these databases using keywords to simplify the selection process and identify top candidates for interviews. This means that those candidates whose resumes best fit the employers’ keyword searches rise to the top and are often those selected for interviews and/or for further consideration. Therefore, hypothetically, you could be the perfect candidate, having all of the right experience, education and skills for specific job, but not even get considered by the employer due to the poor positioning of your resume in the database search results.

Well, just as search engine optimization (SEO) is applied to websites online to optimize their positions in Google and other search engines’ search results with respect to specific keywords, SEO can be applied to your resume to help it rise to the top and help you get the interview.

When it comes to Resume SEO, keywords are “key” and the right keywords will increase your visibility in employer databases. Now, the obvious question is, “how do I come up with the right keywords?”

Here are some of the best ways to start:

  • Carefully scan the company’s website and the description of the job(s) to which you are applying for potential keywords and phrases. What employers use to write a job posting is almost always what they will use in a search. So stand in the employers’ shoes and write down what you think they will be searching for when hunting through their databases for candidates. Consciously work them into the relevant parts of your resume, assuming you have the experience, education or skills to support them.
  • Make sure to concentrate on adding keywords linked to your individual skills, experience and the industries in which you have worked, as well as other likely alternative words, phrases or abbreviations. For example, using full job titles as well as the initials, like “Chief Financial Officer” and “CFO” may be advantageous since a recruiter may search for one or both versions. Do not add too many “soft skill” keywords, such as teamwork, attitude, enthusiasm, etc. as these are rarely used in searches.
  • You should create a master resume that you edit in response to specific job postings. The more closely your resume reflects what the employer is seeking in each case, and this definitely means using the same language and terminology, the easier you make it for the employer to find it and pass it to the decision maker for further consideration.

It is important to remember that keywords are what will get you to the top of the search results.

However, they are not necessarily what the employer or recruiter is going to be looking at when it really comes down to making final selections for interviews and for hire.

  • Do not pack your resume with too many keywords and do not add keywords that your background and skills cannot support as this will be apparent when read by the employer. The most important thing you can do is to submit a resume that accurately reflects your skills, education and experience as they specifically pertain to the exact job requirements listed in the job description.
  • Be smart about it and find appropriate and relevant places to add keywords. You might even decide to add a section at the very top of your resume, just beneath your name and contact information, which has a short description of yourself and your objective, as well as a list of your core competencies. This section will provide your master resume with an ideal place for adding/editing keywords that pertain to specific job postings.
  • Don’t worry if this makes your resume longer than one page. For mid-to-higher-level job positions, you can use as many pages for your resume as you need. The days of the one-page resume are gone. A slightly longer resume also allows you to add more relevant information about yourself as a candidate and may offer more opportunities for keywords.
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