Smart job seekers use applicant tracking system (ATS) keywords to help recruiters find them in databases.
A Common Mistake People Make with the ATS & 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.
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/People search results for the most common versions of my clients’ keywords and use those.
I try to think of all the permutations recruiters might use.
Here are some examples:
- Nonprofit yields 4.1 million results.
- Non-profit gives 3.1 million hits.
- Not-for-profit gets 285,000 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 show it as an alternative in the About section.
- CPA yields 1.6 million results.
- Certified Public Accountant gives 660,000 hits.
I would put both of those keywords in a CPA’s resume.
- Attorney yields 2.4 million results.
- JD delivers 1.6 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 1.6 million results.
- Scrummaster gives 334,000 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 19.7 million results.
- Healthcare gives 11 million results.
I would use both of those keywords in healthcare resumes.
Call Center Keywords
- Call Center yields 2.9 million results.
- Contact Center yields 2.1 million results.
I would use both keywords in a call center resume.
- Recruiter is the winner with 646,000 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 and put them in your resume and LinkedIn profile.
Always use the most common keyword. It’s the best.
But as you can see from the examples, I also look for ways to weave other keyword versions into resumes and LinkedIn profiles.
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, click on the link in this paragraph. It will get you there.
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.
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 1.6+ million of them on LinkedIn.
It turns out Al’s client was using “ScrumMaster,” a keyword that’s on about 335,000 LinkedIn profiles. Consider, if the recruiter looking for Scrum Masters hasn’t had any caffeine yet, they 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 search results for Scrum Master.
I promised a happy tale. Yes, Al’s client got a job.
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Updated February 2021
© 2015 – 2021, 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 has written for and been quoted by 100+ business and general media outlets, including Forbes, Mashable, Fast Company, Inc., Entrepreneur, CNBC, the New York Times, USA Today, Time, CBS, the BBC, Lifehacker, Social Media Today, IT World, SmartBrief, and Business News Daily.
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