Smart job seekers use resume keywords to help recruiters find them in applicant tracking systems and on job boards.
A Common Mistake People Make with the ATS & Resume Keywords
The problem is, many people don’t stop to think about the possibility there might be more than one version of a keyword.
Consider the words I’ve written so far in this post:
- Keywords could be key words.
- Job seekers could be jobseekers.
- Applicant tracking systems could be ATS or ATSs.
Not All Recruiters Compensate for Multiple Versions of Resume Keywords
When I recruited, I tried to think of all the possible versions of the keyword I wanted to find. For instance, if one of my keywords was nonprofit, then my search string looked like this: Nonprofit OR Non-profit OR Not-for-Profit.
How to Find the Best Version of a Keyword
When I write resumes, I check LinkedIn for the most common version of my clients’ keywords and use those. For example:
- CPA yields 1.3 million results while Certified Public Accountant gives about 500,000 hits.
- Attorney yields 2.4 million results; lawyer gives 1.2 million hits.
You get the point, right? Recruiters might or might not build a search string to find all the possible versions of particular resume keywords via the ATS.
BTW, if you want to see all of the keyword possibilities for recruiter, check here.
Easily Mistaken Resume Keywords
I’ve noticed these categories of easily mistaken keywords:
- New-ish compound keywords (like keywords).
- Abbreviations (MBA or M.B.A., CPA or C.P.A.).
- Synonyms (recruiter, search consultant, headhunter, etc.).
If you can think of other categories, or good examples for the listed categories, please share them in the Comments section below.
A Happy Keyword Tale
Al Smith, President of Transition Sherpa, and co-author of Hired! Paths to Employment in the Social Media Era (not an affiliate), suggested I write this post.
He said he looked for one of his clients by typing “Scrum Master” into LinkedIn and couldn’t find him in his search results. Most recruiters will search on “Scrum Master” because there are over 900,000 of them on LinkedIn.
It turns out Al’s client was using “ScrumMaster,” a keyword that’s on about 200,000 LinkedIn profiles. Consider, if the Scrum Master seeking recruiter hasn’t had any caffeine yet, s/he might not think to check ScrumMaster too.
Al had his client replace ScrumMaster with Scrum Master. After the change, his client ranked #15 in Al’s LinkedIn’s search results for Scrum Master.
I promised a happy tale. Yes, Al’s client got a job.
BTW, if you can’t stop typing a word or term the “old way,” check out this post for how to autocorrect your errors.
Audit Your LinkedIn and Resume Keywords for the ATS
Pull up your resume and your LinkedIn profile. Look for keywords that might have alternatives. Ask a friend to check too.
Then search LinkedIn for each possibility. Go with the most common version of each of your keywords because those are the ones recruiters will likely use to find you on LinkedIn and in their ATS.
Per Renee’s comment below, it’s a good idea to use the less common version(s) too.
Note: When responding to a job posting via an ATS, be sure to use keywords mentioned in the posting. If you’re not sure what they are, ask yourself, “Which words in this text would I search on to find people like me in a database?” That should get you there.
Let’s Connect on LinkedIn
Please don’t hesitate to invite me to connect on LinkedIn here. The more I know about my readers, the better I can make my blog.
Updated September 2019
© 2015 – 2019, Donna Svei. All rights reserved.
Donna Svei, an executive resume writer and former C-level executive, retained search consultant, and CPA, writes all of AvidCareerist’s posts. She has written for and been quoted by leading business, general, and career media outlets, including Forbes, Mashable, Fast Company, Entrepreneur, Business Insider, Lifehacker, Ask.com, Social Media Today, IT World, SmartBrief, Payscale, Business News Daily, and the Muse. Let her background and experience inform your job search strategy and decision making.