Resume Keywords - Understand the Automated Resume Screening Process to Land a Job Interview

by Quest Outplacement

Would you like tips on how to land more job interviews?  To land more job interviews, you need to gain an understanding of how resumes are screened by employers in today’s electronic age.

As you’ll learn, the key to your success is to develop a resume using resume keywords to score well with this automated resume screening process.  

What happens after you submit your resume for position through an employer’s website?

Employers use of Resume Keywords with an Automated Resume Screening Process

Due to the large volume of resumes they receive, most employers today utilize an Applicant Tracking System or ATS software application to manage their recruitment process. 

With this software application, an automated resume screening process based on resume keywords is used to initially screen resumes to narrow down the 100’s of resumes received for a particular opening to the handful that are then actually viewed by a person.  

With an ATS, employers enter appropriate keywords and keyword phrases for a particular position and have the ATS search the database of all resumes submitted for that position. 

Resumes are automatically ranked by the ATS based on how well they match the keyword search criteria. 

This initial screening process is used by employers to eliminate the vast majority of applicants from consideration for the position without the applicants’ resumes ever being viewed by the employer.   

This resume screening process employers use to search for resumes is similar to the process you use when you enter a keyword or keyword phrase into Google and Google then presents you with ranked results for your search. 

As you’ve learned when conducting searches on Google, the sites that make it to the top of the results page aren’t necessarily the ones that are the strongest, but the ones that have been ranked highly by having content that uses the appropriate keywords.

How to have your resume rank highly to land a job interview

This same situation holds true with resumes.  For your resume to do well in an employer’s initial keyword-based, automated screening process, your resume needs to be focused on a target position and include resume keywords appropriate to that target position. 

Content-rich resumes focused on a particular target position have a better chance of ranking well with an ATS. 

You may have many different types of target positions that you plan to pursue, but if the job postings for these different types of positions have different requirements and responsibilities, you will need a different version of your resume to target each unique target position you plan to pursue. 

To land a job interview by having your resume rank highly:

  • Develop a resume that incorporate keywords appropriate to your desired target position
  • Review job postings for your target position to build this resume keyword list
  • Incorporate these keywords into the content of resume itself
  • ATS’s used by employers are now sophisticated enough to discount or ignore the keyword list section of resumes that were in vogue in the past, so don’t include this section in your resume 

Spend less time on resume formatting and more time on resume content

The way a resume looks or is formatted is of no importance to the ATS in terms of how well a resume will rank. 

Regardless of what format you use to submit your resume to an employer, it is likely that the ATS will convert your resume to format that removes bolds, underlines, italics, headers, page breaks, tables, columns, and tabs. 

An ATS ranks you as a candidate for a particular position based solely on your resume’s content.

What if you submit your resume for a position through a major online job site such as Monster or CareerBuilder?

All the major job sites have partnerships with ATS software providers to migrate resume data from their sites to an employer’s ATS. 

So a targeted, keyword-rich resume is equally important when applying for positions through online job sites.

What if you email your resume to an employer as an attachment?

If the employer has an ATS, the resume is imported into the ATS to enable the employer to use keyword searching to initially screen resumes.  

What happens if you submit your resume to an employer that doesn’t have an ATS?

Your resume will likely be screened initially by someone in Human Resources (HR). 

Since this HR representative isn’t likely to be personally familiar with the job you are applying for, they will screen resumes exactly like an ATS would by comparing the keywords listed in the job posting to the resumes they have received to determine the best matches. 

Only the resumes that pass this initial HR screening process will be forwarded to the hiring manager.

Importance of having a resume focused on a target position with appropriate keywords

Your resume will likely be one of 100’s submitted for a single job opening. 

To do well in the initial resume screening process used by employers and land a job interview, you need a keyword-rich resume with content focused on your target position.


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About Quest Outplacement

For over 20 years, Quest Outplacement has helped downsized employees throughout the U.S. successfully manage career transitions.

We contract with public and private companies as well as non-profit organizations and educational institutions to provide outplacement services for all types of downsized employees from entry-level to C-level executives. 

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