Savvy job seekers use ATS keywords to help recruiters find them.
A Common Mistake People Make with the ATS & Keywords
Here’s the problem:
Many people don’t stop to think about the possibility of 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.
Multiple Versions of 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 ATS Keyword
But not every recruiter does that.
So when I write resumes, I check LinkedIn for the most common versions of keywords and use those.
I try to think of all the permutations recruiters might use.
Here are some examples:
- Nonprofit yields 1.8 million “people” results.
- Non-profit gives 321,000 hits.
- Not-for-profit gets 290,000 results.
I would go with nonprofit in the resume and most of the LinkedIn profile. However, I would also put non-profit in the Skills section of the LinkedIn profile or use it in the About section.
- CPA yields 1 million people results.
- Certified Public Accountant gives 75,000 hits.
I would use CPA in a CPA’s resume.
- Attorney yields 2.9 million people results.
- JD delivers 1.7 million results.
- Lawyer gives 1.2 million hits.
I would use all 3 of those keywords in an attorney’s resume.
Scrum Master Keywords
- Scrum Master delivers 571,000 people results.
- Scrummaster gives 185,000 hits.
I would use the Scrum Master keyword in a Scrum Master’s resume.
BTW, there’s a good story about that down this page a bit.
- Health Care yields 5 million people results.
- Healthcare gives 9.6 million results.
I would use healthcare in healthcare resumes.
Call Center Keywords
- Call Center yields 1.2 million people results.
- Contact Center yields 322,000 results.
I would use call center in a call center resume.
- Recruiter is the winner with 2 million results.
- Talent Acquisition is next with 380,000 results.
You’ll find several more recruiter resume keyword options here.
The Best ATS Keyword
You get the point. Recruiters might not build a search string to find all the versions of a particular resume keyword.
Because of that, you have to identify the keywords they’re most likely to use. Then you can put them in your resume and LinkedIn profile.
Always use the most common keyword. It’s the best.
Then look for ways to weave other keyword versions into your resume and LinkedIn profile.
Note: When responding to a job posting via an ATS, be sure to use keywords mentioned in the posting.
A Happy Keyword Tale
Al Smith, co-author of Hired! Paths to Employment in the Social Media Era (not an affiliate) suggested I write this post.
Al said he looked for one of his clients by typing “Scrum Master” into LinkedIn. He couldn’t find him in his search results. Most recruiters will search on “Scrum Master” because there are 571,000 of them on LinkedIn.
It turns out Al’s client was using “ScrumMaster,” a keyword on about 185,000 LinkedIn profiles.
Consider if a recruiter looking for Scrum Masters hasn’t had any coffee. They might not think to check ScrumMaster.
Al had his client replace ScrumMaster with Scrum Master. After the change, his client ranked #15 in Al’s LinkedIn search results for Scrum Master.
I promised a happy tale. Yes, Al’s client got a job.
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Updated February 2022
© 2015 – 2022, Donna Svei. All rights reserved.
Donna Svei, an executive resume writer and former C-level executive, retained search consultant, and CPA, authors all of AvidCareerist’s posts.
She is a Fast Company Contributor and has written for and been quoted by 100+ business and general media outlets, including Forbes, Inc., Entrepreneur, CNBC, the New York Times, USA Today, Time, US News & World Report, CBS, the BBC, Lifehacker, Social Media Today, IT World, and Business News Daily.
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