For many job seekers, recruiters and hiring managers, matching keywords is the name of the game, resulting in resumes and CVs that are stuffed with keywords that often doesn’t match the actual requirements or aptitude to be successful in any given job role or position. While scanning for keywords is often a good initial path towards finding the right job opportunities and candidates, it’s only the first step. Too many times, however, keyword matching is ALL that is done to determine fit, resulting in poor matches, frustrated hiring managers and quick turnover.

Why isn’t it enough to just match keywords?

  1. Keywords alone don’t show the full picture – Listing a series of keywords in either a resume/CV or in a job description really only provides the most basic view of a resource’s actual experience, skills, capabilities and aptitude. Employers don’t want people with just skills, they want people with the right skills that can be immediately integrated into teams and producing results. Keywords alone don’t capture the ability of a job seeker to perform under pressure, or get along with team mates, or be responsible or well-organized.
  2. Keywords can be gamed – Savvy job seekers know how to stuff their resume/CV with keywords, much like an SEO specialist does with content on a web site. Studying which keywords are being researched by hiring managers and recruiters offers smart job seekers an advantage that pushes their resume or CV above other, potentially more qualified, candidates. Don’t underestimate the ability, or ease, in which this can be done; countless blogs and similar sources explain, step-by-step, how to do this. The flip side of this argument is that many very well qualified and experienced resources don’t know how to optimize their resume / CV to perform well in keyword searches. The final result is that the gamers go to the top, but the true talent lies below, buried below less qualified and successful candidates.
  3. Keywords don’t address cultural considerations – One of the most important components of matching the right person to the right job requires a careful alignment of corporate culture to person. Some people thrive in organizations that are tightly packed into a corporate campus with plenty of people-to-people contact whereas others wither in such an environment. Some resources do better working remotely and are more productive without the constant distractions found in many contemporary corporate settings. None of this is captured in keyword on resumes and yet, this is arguably the number one reason that people don’t work out in new jobs.
  4. Keywords don’t take into consideration what other people think of the candidate – One of the most powerful aspects of LinkedIn is the recommendations feature found on most people’s profile page. Looking at how other people who have worked with a job seeker reveals many subtle and very useful data points to consider. Recommendations from others reveal what customers, bosses and other team mates think, based on real interactions with the candidate. While a certain amount of gaming occurs around recommendations, they still represent a truly unique layer of additional context and insight.

Keywords are still an essential component of matching potential candidates to job roles and should still be a first step towards identifying appropriate personnel. But don’t make the mistake of thinking that is all that is necessary in order to find the right match. Developing and following processes that allows you to curate a list of candidates, invest time to actually leverage a human being’s perception, review third-party recommendations and feedback and then leverage a compelling screening and interviewing process to ensure that matches are well aligned will produce quantifiable results.

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