Are Keywords Overrated?

Are Keywords Overrated?

There’s a lot of talk about keywords and how they can help your job search. Job seekers are told to load up their resumes with keywords so that applicant tracking systems (ATS) will “find” them.  In fact, some resumes feature a huge block of keywords.

The reality is that keywords are just one of many tools in your job search.  Here is where keywords bring the most benefit:

  • Online profiles such as LinkedIn. Many recruiters search such sites using keywords.
  • Resumes posted at big job search sites. These resumes are also often searched using keywords.
  • Resumes submitted to companies using ATS.

Here are some general rules on using keywords:

  • Include relevant keywords to avoid being filtered out by ATS.  But don’t cram your resume full of keywords, leaving human readers wondering why it lacks human touch.  If your reader can’t clearly and quickly see your qualifications because keywords are taking over, it defeats the purpose.
  • Never count on keywords to do your work for you. Always assume your resume and cover letter will be viewed by a real human. (And remember that viewing may be just a few seconds long!)  So, make them as reader friendly as possible.
  • Remember, no amount of experimenting with keywords will bring as much benefit as networking.   A resume submitted through an inside contact will certainly get more attention than one “found” through ATS

The bottom line is that keywords should not be ignored, but you should not expect them to get you found, give you a job lead or land you an interview. Those things happen when your cover letter and resume are

  1. Customized to the job
  2. Accomplishment based
  3. Clearly bring out our match for the position
  4. Present you as a person who can solve problems and bring value to the company
  5. Keywords are woven in naturally.

So go ahead and use keywords where they make sense.     Focus on networking to develop great contacts who will be more effective than keywords at getting you “found”.


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