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Should You Fill Your Resume with Hidden Keywords?

Job seekers are experimenting with any and every possible avenue to getting noticed (and hopefully singled out) by computer screening programs that have replaced human beings in the job candidate selection process.  Screening programs, such as Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS), scan resumes for keywords that best match a job’s stated qualifications.  The most highly qualified candidates are selected based on the experience, job skills and other attributes an employer is seeking, and ranked based on the results. 

Sound simple enough?  Well, for every computer screening program, there’s a scheme to get around it or exploit its possible weaknesses.  One current trend, known as “white-fonting,” involves embedding every conceivable keyword a screening program might look for in white type in the margins of a resume—keywords hidden, that is, from the naked eye.  Plant enough hidden keywords, so the theory goes, and your resume gets selected to go to the top of the screening pile.

Some recruiters call it fair game, if you can get away with it.  Basic keyword-matching software programs used by many companies won’t detect white-fonting, in which case, the ploy may result in getting your resume noted above hundreds of others.  Why not try every possible way to rise above the competition?  Others call it a sign of personal initiative and a mark of technological savvy.  Among employers, these are definitely characteristics worth identifying in a possible job candidate.

But there are equally compelling reasons to avoid this “under-the-radar” strategy.  First off, more sophisticated screening programs, including ATS, are programmed to find hidden or “spam” keywords and reject them outright.  Worse yet, some screening programs can detect white-fonting and ban your email address and/or telephone number from the system forever.  Kiss your chances of ever applying for another position with the same company goodbye.

Most recruiters advise against trying to game the system.  Instead, they say, focus on more credible strategies:

Work off the job description.  Since hiring managers often use the same language found in the written job description, there’s no harm in copying those keywords on your resume, as long as they apply.  If you claim certain skills and experience you don’t have, the most you can hope for is a foot in the door.  After that, any hiring manager worth his or her salt will uncover the truth in no time.

Make your resume relevant.  It can’t be said often enough.  The one-size-fits-all approach to resumes doesn’t work these days.  Pay close attention to the job description.  Rework your job experience and skills set in a way that’s truly relevant to the specific position.  A standard, boilerplate resume gets noticed by no one.

Write a good summary of your skills.  The best place to insert keywords, some recruiters say, is in the summary of your skills at the top of the resume.  This is often the first thing a hiring manager reads (maybe the only thing) and there’s nothing sneaky or underhanded about placing appropriate keywords in this summary paragraph.

Employers are looking for resumes that are a 90% or better match with the job.  Being upfront and open in the use of keywords is still the best way to get singled out for that all-important interview.

High Profile Staffing knows what makes a resume work without tricks or gimmicks.  Learn more at “Tips for Success”.

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