How to optimise your CV with key words

CV Keywords to stand out

Writing a strong professional CV requires the use of relevant key words. Nothing new there. However, how do we decide which key words to include in our CV? Many online articles on the subject rightly point out that there are thousands of key words associated with any one profession. A good starting point - one that seems to be missed by enough people to make it worth mentioning - is the job description and person specification of the role to which you are applying. I recommend either printing off a copy or using an online mark-up tool to clearly highlight the key words. So how do you identify the key words? Initially, focus on the words that are essential. For instance, if the job description demands that you must have +5 years experience as a project manager, then ensure you state that clearly in your opening profile. For example, change ‘extensive experience’ to a more specific ‘+15 years’ experience’. Also, should you have been a project manager in all but your job title for some obscure reason, add Project Manager in brackets, next to your official job title.

Next, look for the areas of the job description that mention any specific skills - Agile, Lean, Six Sigma, PRINCE2, PMP, Oracle, ERP etc. If they are listed ensure they are included in context within your CV three or four times if possible. Then move onto the next level of key phrases such as budget management, multidisciplinary team leadership, multi-site experience and so on.

Once you have highlighted the key words in the job description, next turn to your CV. If you have this open as a Word document or PDF, you will be able to use the in-document search tool. On my system, it is on the top right hand corner of the Word document. Type one of the key words into the document search tool, which will then appear highlighted in the text. Go through each of the key words you have identified in the job description and person specification and check that they appear within your CV.

No key words equals no interview! I highly recommend going through this exercise for each role to which you apply, and making minor adjustments prior to submitting your CV. With practice, you can make a substantial difference to your chances when applying for your target roles. Good luck and do feel free to contact me should I be of any assistance with your CV.

I have helped clients to secure interviews with leading organisations including ...

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