In a sea of potential candidates it’s imperative that your CV (or profile) surfaces to gain attention when you are job hunting. Often, due to lack of clarity in position descriptions or limited keyword searches, your CV (or profile) may be left out in the cold. Whether you have a 1 or 5 page CV doesn’t really matter if a hiring team is using simple Boolean searches and you lack the exact keywords they are using.

Additionally, their ATS (Applicant Tracking System) may have already categorised you based on keywords, potentially leaving you relegated to a dusty corner of their database.

Note: Boolean simply means either true or false. So a Boolean search just means checking for the absence of presence of a term, keyword, or group thereof. More complex searches may mean looking for something like A AND B OR C but essentially, if you don’t have exactly the right mix of keywords (or the hiring team have a suboptimal search combination for a role) you may not get over the first hurdle.

SEO(Search Engine Optimisation) for your CV

A simple way to optimise your CV for the domain you work in is to pad your CV with as many legitimate keywords as you can. Place them at the end of your CV in the smallest font possible (6 point?). Make sure the text is also white so it blends in with the background. When any automated search is performed across a batch of CVs (or the indexes thereof) your CV has a much better chance of surfacing for a deeper human review. Don’t forget to keep your main skills visible but any extended keyword lists should be invisible to the naked eye!

Note: Essentially this is what used to be called keyword stuffing in SEO(Search Engine Optimisation) for the web. Search engines don’t explicitly use meta tags any longer to determine content, yet for CVs you can still optimise and increase your chances of being noticed with in-house databases and ATS’.

Ethics

As long as your keyword list actually applies to your experience in whatever domain you operate in, there is no problem. The longer the list, the better the search surface whilst not being aesthetically off-putting for humans. Think of it as moving an unsightly list to a smaller corner of your CV (which is machine readable) so you can focus on telling the more human story about the impact you’ve made in each of your roles :)

Countermeasures

Irrespective of whether you use keyword stuffing or not, if a hiring team uses a technical screen such as Simulation Based Screening then you better be 100% honest and up-to-date on all the skills you list!!

PS
At PanSift we recommend that organisations request automated initial technical screens. By using a position description, CV, or candidate profile as a form of keyword currency, we then use ML (Machine Learning) and NLP (Natural Language Processing) to extract testable skills. From these skills we build custom simulations to test a practitioner's claimed skilling. Practitioners can even screen their own CVs and choose to join our data driven candidate pool. We call the process of testing candidates in real live scenarios "Simulation Based Screening". It allows for wider funnels and less bias whilst saving costs and reducing time-to-hire.