Before we go any further looking at how to write and develop a CV, it is worth talking about keywords. As mentioned previously, it’s not enough to have one generic CV for each job you apply for. Each CV needs to be tailored to each role, and employers will spot a generic CV a mile off.
Nowadays, large companies employ Applicant Tracking System (ATSs). These screening systems are introduced to cut the labour costs of manually reviewing the thousands of CVs submitted for each position. So, your CV may be rejected before a human eye has even looked at it if it is not tailored appropriately for the role you are applying for!
Keywords are therefore needed to strengthen your CV. Have a look in the job description to find them. Use the same keywords and phrases used in the job description, and repeat them as frequently as possible throughout your CV whilst remaining logical. This will give a better result within systems that use this software, and boost the chances of your CV being seen. These are effectively the same as SEO engines, however don’t just add in keywords without your CV making sense. So for example, if your CV stated you were a customer service assistant, and the particular job specification states ‘customer service executive’, change the appropriate word in your CV to reflect this. Other examples include:
• Use specific nouns; instead of ‘word processing’ use ‘Microsoft Word,’ or ‘MS Office.’ Again, check the job description to see how the company words it. ‘Work experience’ may change to ‘career or professional achievements.’ Always check.
• Don’t use any special fonts or characters. Use a standardise font such as Arial or Times New Roman.
• Spellcheck! An ATS will automatically reject spelling errors.
• Never send your CV in a pdf format. ATSs can misread these. A Word doc or docx file is best.
• Career History section – ATSs look for names first. So list the name of the company, job title, then date.
• Create a listed summary – list your achievements and skills, relevant to the job description. You can include buzzwords here, which will be discussed under Key Skills, Knowledge and Expertise.
Personally, I am not a fan of ATSs. Including specific words just for the sake of it is, in my opinion, not good practice and certainly not good writing. However, I can understand why companies have these. Sometimes, the rules have to broken to get a foot in the door!