Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is the science that digital marketers in all industries use to maximize their presence on top search engines, like Google. They use a variety of tools and strategies to ensure the content on their website is of top quality and the topic is clear to the search engines. The more a search engine trusts that page to answer a user’s question, the more likely it is to display a website at the top of the results.
When searching for candidates, nearly all staffing agencies use an Applicant Tracking System (ATS) that scours through a database containing thousands of resumes. It uses intelligent algorithms to read through the content and return the candidates who best match a specific search — much like Internet search engines. So, if you want to get to the top of a recruiter’s search when they look for IT contractors with your skillset, then doesn’t it make sense to apply the same strategies a digital marketer uses to make their website appear at the top of a relevant search?
Perhaps the oldest but still extremely relevant SEO tactic is the use of keywords. Marketers plant relevant keywords and variations of them throughout their content and you should do the same with your resume. Continuously writing a specific skill throughout your experience or ensuring all of the titles in your past experience match what a recruiter would search will help boost your profile to the top of ATS results.
There are of course best-practices to adding keywords. When digital marketers fail to follow them, they quickly suffer negative results. The same can happen to an IT contractor who doesn’t properly think it through with their resume. A recent post on Recruiter.com by James Hu, the CEO of Jobscan, provides five types of keywords that will hurt your resume’s search results:
Too-Soft Soft Skills: The generic, cliché keywords that mean nothing, nor separate you from others (ex. Hard Working and Team Player).
Keyword Variations: Yes, above we mention that digital marketers use variations of keywords throughout their content, which helps capture the different ways people search. But search engines are intelligent enough to recognize all of these variations and connect them with different searches. Unfortunately, many Applicant Tracking Systems are not, meaning if you type “Project Managed” and the recruiter searches “Project Manager”, you may not appear.
Almost Right Keywords: Again, Applicant Tracking Systems’ minimal intelligence compared to a large search engine means they don’t recognize your spelling mistakes. While your entire resume should be spellchecked, pay careful attention that your keywords are spelled correctly.
Not-True-at-All Keywords: Unethical digital marketers stuff keywords onto irrelevant pages to get results. While this worked in the early years of SEO, search engines quickly caught on and blacklist these websites. Recruiters will do the same if you start putting keywords in that don’t even apply to your experience. It goes back to some of the best advice we can give: don’t lie on your resume.
Out-on-an-Island Keywords: These keywords aren’t lies, but they do water down your relevance. Ensure the bulk of your content is related to the job to which you’re applying. A recruiter searching for a Business Intelligence Specialist probably won’t be running a search for “Horseback Riding” so you’re safe to remove that hobby from your resume. We promise.
We recently provided some additional resume tips for formatting and saving your resume to end up at the top of a recruiter’s search, and more specifically, to succeed in being found for government IT job opportunities. Do you strategically add keywords to your resume or take any other measures to ensure you end up at the top of a recruiter’s search? If not, you could be missing out on top IT contract opportunities.