How to Keyword Optimize Your Resume for Applicant Tracking Systems & Tailor It to Specific Jobs
You may have heard about the importance of keyword optimizing your resume for applicant tracking systems (ATS), but how exactly do you go about doing so?
Jobscan's ATS research study revealed that 98.8% of Fortune 500 companies use applicant tracking systems.
As such, keyword optimization is now a crucial element of your resume to keep in mind (especially if you are applying for jobs at large corporations that receive high application volumes).
In this article, we provide:
- A free keyword optimization tool
- An ATS optimization checklist
- An example of how to keyword optimize your resume
Resume Keyword Optimization Tool
If you are unsure whether your resume effectively incorporates target keywords, we encourage you to use the tool below.
Simply copy and paste your resume and a job description into the boxes below.
You'll then receive a percentage match score to let you know whether your resume is sufficiently tailored to your target role.
Don't get caught up in achieving a perfect score!
Remember that this tool provided by Jobscan is meant to serve as a benchmark: always use your best judgement.
You shouldn't force additional keywords into your resume just to increase the match percentage.
Although doing so will result in a higher percentage match, we don't recommend listing soft skills on your resume, for example.
Soft skills such as the following are best communicated during the interview or by providing concrete examples of how you demonstrated them on the job:
- Effective communicator
- Strong team player
- Results-oriented executive
- Excels in high-pressure situations
- Proven ability to negotiate
- Adaptable, driven, and motivated leader
Without concrete evidence to back them up, such phrases can come off as empty buzzwords!
While you want to effectively optimize your resume for applicant tracking systems, your resume still needs to read naturally and be truthful.
At one point or another, a human will read it, and "keyword stuffing" is very easy to detect.
If you find that your score is low and agree with the scan's outcome, you'll learn how to naturally incorporate additional keywords below.
ATS Optimization Checklist
Keyword optimization is not the only thing that applicant tracking systems (ATS) care about!
As you'll notice from the checklist below, the key to getting your resume past initial ATS scans is to:
- Keep your formatting simple (avoid any gimmicks)
- Use conventional section titles
- Align your content with the job description requirements
Note that if you are a senior executive, making sure that your resume meets all of these requirements becomes a bit less critical, as:
- You'll be competing against a smaller number of applicants
- You may be working with a recruiter, who will ensure your resume gets into the right hands
Example: How to Tailor Your Resume to a Job
One of the easiest ways to optimize your resume is to read the job description, identify relevant keywords, and naturally incorporate them into your document.
Let's look at a practical example to help you understand what we mean.
Below, we'll analyze two documents:
- A job description for a hotel development posting
- A sample resume tailored to that posting
Step 1: We started by highlighting the most important elements of the role that would be important to include on the resume.
When reading the job description, focus on two key sections:
- Key Responsibilities
More specifically, you'll want to focus on hard skills and industry terminology.
We evaluated a job description for a Head of Hotel Development position with Sonder and highlighted key terms that would be worth incorporating into the resume.
We encourage you to follow a similar approach.
To make the process easier, simply print the job description on paper and grab a highlighter!
Step 2: We incorporated keywords related to those we identified in the job description.
Now that we identified key terms, we added them to the resume.
In doing so, we made sure to:
- Incorporate a few keywords that were exact matches in a natural manner to avoid the perception of keyword stuffing
- Include similar terminology that wasn't explicitly stated on the job description
- Avoid directly copy and pasting long phrases from the job description
- Avoid discussing any experience that the candidate didn't actually have just for the sake of "optimizing" the resume
We highlighted the key terms on the resume below.
In today's hiring environment, recruiters are swamped with high application volumes, and applicant tracking systems help bring order to the chaos.
By taking intentional steps to keyword optimize your resume, you'll help it pass initial scans and get into the hands of a recruiter.
That said, be conscious not to over-optimize by focusing too much on keywords and not enough on human readability.
Also, remember that the most effective ways of finding a job involve networking and human interaction.
About Resume Pilots
Resume Pilots is an award-winning executive resume writing, career coaching, and outplacement firm. Our previous clients include CEOs and senior executives at the world's leading companies.
Here's how we can help you:
Resume, Cover Letter, and LinkedIn Writing: After a one-hour phone consultation, one of our expert writers will prepare your top-quality personal marketing materials from scratch.
Career Transitions: A powerful combination of our document writing and career coaching services helps position you to secure a new role.
We're a proud member of the Professional Association of Resume Writers and Career Coaches. All of our writers have studied in the Ivy League and other top-tier universities and have solid industry experience.