top of page

Keywords and ATS: Your CV's Secret Weapon

Job seekers face a unique challenge: not only must their CVs (or résumés) impress human hiring managers, but they must also pass through the virtual gatekeeper known as the Applicant Tracking System (ATS). This automated system can either be your ally or your foe in the job search and understanding its inner workings means the difference between success and spending more time job hunting. At the heart of this digital gatekeeper's operation lies a secret weapon: keywords. In this blog post, we'll discuss keywords and ATS in depth, exploring how you can harness them to give your CV the competitive edge it deserves.

Plan to beat the scan
Beat the ATS scanner

The Rise of ATS: Why Keywords Matter

As job markets grow increasingly competitive, employers receive a deluge of applications for each job posting. The challenge is sifting through this massive pool of candidates to find the best fit. ATS emerged as a solution, streamlining the initial screening process.

Keywords have become the linchpin of ATS.

When you submit your résumé, the system scans it for specific keywords and phrases that match the job description provided by the employer. These keywords are a reflection of the skills, qualifications, and attributes that the employer seeks in an ideal candidate. The ATS's algorithm is finely tuned to recognise the relevance and significance of these keywords within your CV.

For job seekers, this means that understanding the role of keywords in the hiring process is paramount. By incorporating relevant keywords into your résumé, you not only increase your chances of passing through the ATS but also demonstrate your alignment with the role's requirements. It's your secret weapon for standing out in a sea of applicants.

The Anatomy of Keywords

To make keywords work for you, it's essential to understand their anatomy. Keywords can be categorised into two main types:

  1. Industry-Specific Keywords: These are terms and phrases directly related to the specific job or industry you're targeting. For example, if you're applying for a marketing role, industry-specific keywords might include "digital marketing," "SEO," "content strategy," or "email marketing."

  1. Action Keywords: These are action-oriented terms that convey your accomplishments and contributions. Action keywords showcase what you've achieved in your previous roles. Examples include "increased," "improved," "achieved," "developed," and "managed."

Including both types of keywords in your CV is a winning strategy. Industry-specific keywords demonstrate your understanding of the role's requirements, while action keywords underscore your ability to make a tangible impact.

Crafting an ATS-Friendly CV

To write an ATS-friendly CV, consider the following best practices:

  • Tailor Your CV for Each Application: Don't rely on a one-size-fits-all CV. Customise your resume for each job by incorporating relevant keywords from the job description. Carefully study the posting and identify the specific terms and phrases the employer is seeking.

  • Prioritise Keyword Placement: Place important keywords near the top of your CV, especially in the summary or objective section. This ensures that ATS quickly identifies your qualifications.

  • Use Synonyms and Variations: ATS systems are designed to recognise synonyms and variations of keywords. For example, if the job description mentions "project management," you could also include "project manager" to cover all bases.

  • Avoid Keyword Stuffing: While keywords are essential, don't overdo it. Excessive keyword stuffing can make your CV sound unnatural and may not impress human reviewers.

  • Be Honest and Relevant: Include keywords that genuinely reflect your qualifications and experiences. Don't add keywords just for the sake of it, as this can backfire during the human review process.

The Human Review: Beyond ATS

While optimising your CV for ATS is important, it's equally important to create a document that resonates with human hiring managers. Remember that ATS is the gatekeeper, but it's not the final decision-maker. Resumes with high ATS scores proceed to the human review stage, where recruiters or hiring managers assess your qualifications in more detail.

To excel at this stage, your résumé should tell a compelling story. It should not only include the right keywords but also provide context and substance. Highlight your achievements, experiences, and the unique value you bring to the table.

A well-written CV with a blend of keywords and a compelling narrative can set you apart.

Tools and Resources

To identify relevant keywords, several tools and resources can be immensely helpful. Here are a few to consider:

  • Job Descriptions: Study job descriptions carefully to identify keywords that employers are seeking. These descriptions are a treasure trove of relevant terms.

  • LinkedIn: Explore the LinkedIn profiles of professionals in your desired field. This can give you insights into the keywords they use to describe their roles and experiences.

  • ATS Software: Some ATS software tools offer keyword analysis features. These tools can help you identify which keywords are most important for a specific job posting.


Remember that the job application process is a two-fold journey. ATS is the first hurdle, and keywords are your secret weapon for successfully clearing it. However, it's crucial to recognise that ATS is just the beginning. The human element, represented by recruiters and hiring managers, plays a significant role in your ultimate success. Your CV should strike a balance between being ATS-friendly and human-friendly.

So, the next time you're thinking about updating your CV, think about it as a dynamic document that not only aligns with keywords but also tells a compelling story. The right keywords can open the door, but it's your unique experiences and achievements that will truly set you apart in the competitive job market.

Embrace the power of keywords, optimise your CV for ATS, and get ready to shine in your job search. Your dream job is within reach, armed with the secret weapon of keywords! 


bottom of page