SEO For Jobseekers: How to Search-Optimize Your Resume

SEO For Jobseekers: How to Search-Optimize Your Resume

Job seekers have a matter of seconds–two or three to be exact–to impress recruiters and human resources representatives with their resumes.  That translates into a moment when dealing with the Internet and the latest resume-reading technology. spoke with Kenneth L. Johnson, president of East Coast Executives (ECE), Vice President of Public Relations at Monster Worldwide, Matthew Henson, and Senior Editor of and Hot Jobs, Charles Purdy, on how to create a search engine yielding document, the importance of using strong key words throughout and why even the document style can make-or-break your chance at obtaining a job.

Customizing your resume is key — It’s easy to create a resume, then email or post the same copy on several job search sites, however, you’re doing yourself a great disservice. Applicant tracking systems use technology that specifically searches for certain words and/or phrases either in the job description or skills sets associated with the position. For the sake of search engine optimization (SEO), you have to think like a recruiter, suggests Johnson.  


Use key words taken from the job posting throughout — Familiarize yourself with the job posting verbiage so you can infuse these key words in sentence form within the body of your resume. They should comprise about three to seven percent of your resume, says Johnson. For example, if you originally wrote ‘supervised 10 employees,’ but the job duties include managing people, then change supervised to managed. “Many times your resume is being scanned by resume-reading software or even applicant tracking software; it’s looking for specific words in your resume and if it doesn’t find them, it will get into the NO pile without ever even being seen by a human,” reminds Purdy.

If you want to ensure you’re using specific key words in your resume, visit The site can analyze how many times you use a certain word or phrase.

Lastly, using a keyword summary at the top of your resume sums up your experience and what you bring to the table so be concise and efficient. “Typically a lot of positions are looking at revenue–how you saved the company you’re with money or how you made money,” adds Johnson. For recent graduates or entry-level candidates the summary is more of an option rather than a requirement.

Document style can dock your chances —There’s nothing wrong with handing in a more stylized resume during an interview or face-to-face encounter with a recruiter, but when uploading it online stick with a Microsoft Word document. If you’re in the creative or art professions, then, by all means, turn in a graphically appealing resume, however, uploading an Adobe pdf file into the resume section of a job search site has proven problematic in certain instances. Some sites can’t accommodate this document type or, if they do, the system displaces information within categories. Purdy advises applicants to format their resume in rich text, without special characters, and then placing it in a Word document. When it’s time to save make sure the file name includes your name and the word ‘resume’ (i.e. Resume_yourname). This ensures it won’t get lost amongst a collection of unrelated computer files.

Refresh your information — Go into an applicant tracking system and update your resume. “You may have a 90-day cycle before you even come in for an interview,” says Johnson. Within that time-frame you may have acquired additional applicable skills, which you should add in. Henson advises Monster users to refresh their resumes every 30 days so that it will continue to come up in the recent searches.

For more resume resources, read:

So You’ve Been Fired…Now What?: How to Get Back in the Game

Since You Asked: How To Be A Stand-Out Job Candidate