Why Stuffing Your Resume With Keywords Will Get You Rejected

Carefully choosing the best words to include in your resume can make a huge difference to how successful your application is.  Make no mistake about it, keywords are important.  But using them in the wrong way could do more harm than good.

When a company creates a new job posting, the Human Resources department will select the attributes that best describe their ideal candidate for the role.  In the case of cabin crew we have learnt that some of the biggest airlines in the world value qualities such as:

  • Empathy
  • Professionalism
  • Confidence

Airlines are also looking for key skills which often include: customer services, teamwork, communication skills and being friendly and positive.

See: The Best Qualities to Highlight in Your Cabin Crew Application Resume

Here’s how it works – When you submit your application via the airline’s recruitment website it will be scanned by a computer called an Applicant Tracking System (ATS).  The ATS then decides whether you have the qualities and skills for the role as cabin crew by matching the words you have used in your resume against the pre-selected words chosen by the Human Resources department.

Some experts in resume writing argue that you should create a bespoke resume for each job you apply for – Carefully matching the keywords you find in the job description and replicating them throughout your resume.

In fact, the website Jobscan offers a resume scanning tool that will compare your resume against a job description to determine a ‘match’ rate against identified hard skills, education, soft skills and other keywords it has distinguished from the job description.

Jobscan suggests that a match rate of 80% using its system would likely result in your resume being shortlisted by an ATS.  However, even Jobscan cautions against trying to match every single keyword you find.  The website asserts: “Do not feel the need to include every single one of those skills in your resume. Rather, focus your efforts on hard skills…”

A few years ago, before ATS systems became so widespread and sophisticated, there was a resume hack that promised to get your resume shortlisted by the ATS.  The hack worked a little like this – You simply identified all the keywords from the job description and then typed them in a tiny font at the bottom of your resume.  You then changed the colour to white so that a recruiter couldn’t see them on the page if they ever printed a hard copy of your resume.

You could keep your generic resume that you used for every application.  It was quick, easy and seemed like a surefire way to ensure success.

Whatever you do – Do not try this hack!  The software used in today’s Applicant Tracking Systems will identify this type of trick and reject your resume immediately.

A lot of ATS systems now use ‘contextual search’ when scanning your resume.  This means that the computer isn’t  just looking for keywords but trying to identify the circumstances that a particular keyword has been used in and how well this matches the job description.

There is no fast or easy trick to avoid this.  You might sometimes have to sacrifice some keywords.  Tools such as Jobscan can be incredibly useful but avoid trying to get a match on every keyword at all costs.  You’ll know when you are trying to force a keyword when it just doesn’t work.

This process will take time but your efforts will help to secure an interview for your dream job with the airline of your choice.

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Mateusz Maszczynski

Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently relied upon by some of the biggest names in journalism.

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