How to Keyword Optimize Your Resume (Even If You Aren’t a Perfect Match)

emptyboxIf you’re looking for a job these days, chances are you’re spending the majority of your efforts online. And if you’re applying to openings online, your resume must be keyword rich. Those keywords have to correspond with the specific skills listed in a job ad in order to appease an applicant tracking system (ATS), if that potential employer is using one. But what can a job seeker do if they don’t have all the qualifications listed in the ad?

First, let’s discuss the “don’ts.” Don’t throw skills into your resume willy-nilly just to trick the ATS. A human will read your resume eventually, and if you land an interview, you’ll have to back up your claims. Don’t try the old hidden or white text trick, either. A simple click of the “Show/Hide” button or CTRL+A can expose your lame attempt. Finally, if you don’t have at least some of the qualifications listed in the job ad, consider applying to another opportunity that’s more appropriate for your background.

So, are there any “honest” ways to add skills to your resume that you don’t have? Here are a few ideas:

  • Create a section titled “Areas of Interest” or something similar. Make sure these are highly specific and relevant to the job you’re applying to (not to be confused with hobbies). Or, mix skills you have with skills you’d like to have in a “Skills & Interests” section.
  • Add a line to your summary paragraph that states, “Eager to expand proficiencies in [missing skill 1], [missing skill 2], and [missing skill 3].”
  • Take a class (perhaps even a free MOOC) with the missing keyword in the title, and list the course title on your resume in your “Education & Professional Development” section.

Note that none of the steps above are better than actually obtaining the desired ability. Simply working the right words into your resume won’t guarantee you an interview or equal ranking among candidates who DO have the preferred qualifications, but it should at least increase your chances.


3 thoughts on “How to Keyword Optimize Your Resume (Even If You Aren’t a Perfect Match)

  1. Adding keywords is surely beneficial. I can see the reasons why you have stated such line. Actually, even if the client is not using ATS, they can still manually find particular skills that they want to see on your resume through some keyboard codes. Thank you for your input. I am currently working on my college resume format and I still don’t know if I am doing things right for me to acquire a job after graduation. I hope you could create more entries similar to this.

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