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CV Keywords: Do You Have a Good 'Ctrl+F' CV?

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Most recruiters have a tiny amount of time to review a large number of CVs every day; many reports say just 6/7 seconds.

To process so many CVs in such a short space of time, recruiters use Applicant Tracking Software alongside a number of different methods to quickly whittle down the applications to a manageable level. One of those is the Windows command ‘Ctrl+F’ (or ‘Cmd+F’ on a Mac), they use this to search each CV for specific keywords relevant to the role. CVs that don’t contain the right keywords, unfortunately, drop to the bottom of the list.

So, when you write your CV, what keywords do you need to include to make sure you pass the ‘Ctrl+F’ test?

Technical skills

Every role has a minimum set of skill requirements; these act as a guideline for recruiters and candidates to identify who should and shouldn’t apply.

They also form the perfect template for a quick CV search. Make sure that any specific skills you have that are listed in the job spec are included in your CV. That may sound simple, but you would be surprised at how many candidates don’t do this.

Industry education or training

Another common requirement and search keyword is education. While every candidate includes education history on their CV, that doesn’t always include industry-related courses or training.

If you have engaged in any industry-standard training or relevant online courses make sure you include them, by name, on your CV. It’s no good to say you took part in ‘process improvement schemes’, for example, if the recruiter is searching for ‘six sigma’.

Systems

The same goes for computer systems or practical tools. Make sure that you list each system and tool you are proficient with, by its industry-recognised name.

Ideally, list the name alongside the generic tool category. Don’t just say ‘photo-editing software’ or ‘Photoshop’; say ‘Photo-editing software like Photoshop…’ etc.

Job titles

Be careful when listing your previous job titles. Don’t just list the title that was on your contract and don’t invent a ‘better’ title to inflate the importance of a previous role.

If a recruiter is looking for a quick overview of your experience, they will search for specific job titles. Again, the job spec will provide a good guideline here; if it lists ‘Sales manager’ experience, don’t lose out by listing a previous role as ‘Executive Team Lead, Sales’. You might think it sounds more impressive, but it could lose you an interview.

Variables

The same point applies across your CV. Think about variables and try to incorporate as many of the relevant keywords as possible, without compromising on the quality of the content.

There are many terms in each of the above categories that will differ from business to business. Avoid company-specific jargon and do your best to include the most common descriptions throughout your CV while maintaining a CV structure that’s easy to read.

While getting these factors right won’t guarantee you get the job, they will make sure your CV isn’t lost amongst 100s of other CVs. After that, you need to make sure it uses the other five seconds to secure that interview.

If you are still unsure about how to go about updating your CV download our CV Handbook or if you would like to chat about job opportunities, get in touch one of our recruiters would be happy to advise.