Building a list of Key Words

Building a list of Key Words for your “Key Word” CV

Why do we need to go down this route?
What is a “Key Word” CV for?

Because sending a CV by email is so easy, employers are being inundated with CVs from Job Seekers. Rather than read through every document they receive they are adding them to keyword searchable databases, sometimes even scanning in those received on paper, and using software to search through the CVs for keywords that relate to vacancies they have.

They will also search the many databases of CVs uploaded to Job Boards. The question is, how many pages of results will they be willing to look at?

Think of you searching the internet for a given item, let’s say, even for a job.  How many pages will you look at, and how many of the items on each page will you open up for the full results, before you give up or are sidetracked down a more interesting alley. Chances are, not much more than three or four.
On this basis, if your CV doesn’t appear within the first fifty or so in any particular list of results, it isn’t going to be seen.
We need to apply the rules or skills of Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) to the CV. What this really means is we have to use, within the CV, the words the recruiter will type into the search engine to find matching CVs.

What are these words? If we knew what they were, life would be easy. But we don’t and to make things worse, the key words will be different for each job and, in some respects, for each person searching the database.

So, are we on a hiding to nothing?
No, we can make some intelligent guesses as to what words are used.

Let’s put ourselves in the shoes of the recruiter.

Think what the recruiter wants.

What are his requirements

The first hurdle we have to overcome is that the recruiter will be typing in nouns to the search engine and in all the CVs we have produced we have concentrated on verbs, good strong action verbs. So we need to think outside the box. What words in our CV follow the verbs? Amongst others nouns. Brilliant, we’re thinking in the right direction. But are these nouns the best we can use to match the search engine list?
Thinking caps on again!
What does the recruiter want? We need to get inside his mind.

First is the job title – list every combination of job titles you want to be considered for and every permutation of the words of the job title

Then location – not just where you live but where you have worked or will work – list town, county, area region, and country.

Then look at every job advert you can find for job similar to the one you want, it doesn’t matter about salary, type of company, private or public sector, location or even country – all you are looking for is the shopping list.

Analyse these adverts, you’ll find a list of common words and those that aren’t so common, put them all in your key word list.

Look for technological terms and descriptions including computers and software, training courses and certificates, names of products and services, industry buzzwords and even jargon. Normally you need to stay clear of jargon in a CV but here using it can assist your CV match needs.

Go onto company and organisation web sites, look for more keywords, join LinkedIn groups and see what the main topic of conversation is, look for key words in each post.

Keep building this list, every day you’ll come across a word and wonder if it should go in, if in doubt add it to the list.

Once you have the list, what do you do with it?

There are two things to be aware of.

The first time the key words will be used is when the computer scans through the document and lists them all.
The second scan of the CV will be by a human, so it has to be inviting, if not exciting!

Originally the software used for the first scan wasn’t very sophisticated. Sometimes only the first hundred or so words were searched which meant the keywords needed to be up front, as a list between the name and address and profile section. This looked terrible but the human reviewer knew the computer had flagged up this CV so was prepared to pass over that section very quickly, if even looking at it at all.

Then the software improved and scanned the whole document, the keywords could then be left to the back of the CV, even as a third page. This was much better for human reading as the back page could be discarded.
Some enterprising Job Searchers, sending in their CVs by email or uploading them to the job boards, even hit upon the idea of setting the font colour of the back page to white so that it might appear to be a printing error in delivering a blank page (the computer could still “see” the keywords as it wasn’t bothered what colour they were printed in). A further advance to this was to add the keywords in every white space in the body of the two page CV, setting them in extremely small font size, so the final printed CV could retain the superb looks and layout the writer was hoping to achieve.

Nowadays the software is even more sophisticated and “realises” when these tricks are being played, so we’re only left with the option of including the keywords in the profile and bullet points. Yes, it means rewriting the CV to ensure these are used in the correct context and, more to the point, changing the CV for every target it’s aimed at.

As we can’t be lazy and simply add a full list of every keyword we’ve come up with to every CV we send, we now need to stop and think again, “Which are the most important keywords?”

Analysis of the job advert and surrounding documentation will help us with this.  We also need to realise the software will apply “weighting” to each hit, some being essential and others desirable. The essential words will be those that relate only to the specific job or industry, the less important ones are those that apply to the job generally across many industries.

We also need to think of synonyms and abbreviations, using both in the CV means you won’t be missed out.

Once you have your key word rich CV, check it over. Compare it with the list of key words you prepared. Highlight the “hits”. How many do you have?
On a two page CV aim for around thirty or so and try to get as many as you can on the first page. This way you should satisfy both the computer and the human reader.

Finally, do bear in mind the proportion of the total job market you are aiming at with this approach. The advertised market makes up fifteen to twenty per cent of total jobs.
Many more jobs are available in the unadvertised or hidden market.
The owners of the job boards will argue that they can give you access to this section of the market too.
That may be true.
However the recruiter will probably only use this approach after he has exhausted his current list of candidates.
Where is that list?
Inside his head!
That’s where we need to be!

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