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Can keywords really help your CV?

What are the magic words that will increase your chances of getting an interview?

If you've ever suspected the job application you spent hours working on wasn't even read before being cast aside, you could be right. Increasingly, recruitment agencies are implementing scanning software to do a first cull of job applications, and if certain keywords aren't found then the application is automatically rejected.

Even if your application does get into the hands of a real person, they too are likely to quickly scan it and, once again, discard it if they don't see certain words. So what are the magic words that will increase your chances of getting an interview?

CV power words

The first place to look for must-use words is in the job ad you're replying to. Be sure to check the information package so you directly respond to the job ad and the selection criteria, which is mandatory for many government and private sector jobs. If, for example, you're applying for a PR manager position where it's stated applicants must have experience in budget management, direct marketing and people management, it's safe to assume you should have the words ‘budget management', ‘direct marketing' and ‘people management' in your cover letter, CV and your responses to the selection criteria.

As you don't know exactly what keywords the software or recruiter might be scanning for, it's a good idea to try and cover as many bases as possible. If a job ad specifies knowledge of HTML is essential, you might want to include words such as ‘web design', ‘programming' or specify if you hold a ‘HTML certificate'.

Be a man or woman of action

Action words in the context of CVs and selection criteria responses are verbs in the past tense (they are in the past tense to convey you've already achieved significant things rather than just aspiring to). The machines and humans who process job applications are inclined to be impressed by those who have directed, established, improved, managed or streamlined something.

It doesn't matter what impressive TAFE NSW qualifications you've earned, how much relevant experience you possess or how glowing your references are if your application doesn't clear the first hurdle. So take the time to consider what keywords your potential employer is looking for and make sure to work them into your CV, response to any selection criteria and your cover letter.