More and more job seekers are using “résumé optimization” to create — or “optimize” — a résumé loaded with terms that will capture the attention of powerful computerized systems that today sift through applications flooding employers. Many employers now rely on computers to initially scan résumés for particular phrases and to narrow down which candidates they will consider.

While the language is fancy, the practice of résumé optimization is not. All it means is to write your resume to fit the job description for the position you want. You would do that applying for any job.


Start by recognizing that these computer systems are designed to knock candidate out, not to unearth the best and the brightest in the avalanche of resumes inundating the employer. Write your résumé to escape the computer’s elimination sweep. Realize that these computers are using pattern-recognition software.

What does that mean to you when you are crafting a résumé? It means you should employ the familiar best-practice résumé structure. Remember that the first thing employers care about is whether you have the skills they need. Start with a summary, then outline your skills, and then follow up with a list of your employment history.

Anticipate the computer, and emphasize right up at the top that you have the skills the employer is seeking. Actually label the section “Skills.” List those desirable skills in specific and plain language. Make it easy for the computer to let you through its knockout net. The computer system is designed to recognize terms and phrases based on the employers’ priorities.

Specify the companies you worked for and the length of your experience. Be sure to add relevant details such as the employer’s size and a description of the customers. Use key phrases from the job listing at hand to tie these details of your past experience to the job you are seeking.

Avoid vague generalizations and broad language that will escape the computer system designed to recognize specific phrases. You can claim that you can do everything, but employers aren’t looking for a jack of all trades. They’ve told you in their job description the kinds of skills they are seeking.

Targeting a résumé for a specific opening takes time and effort, but it is ultimately much more effective than throwing a general, catchall resume at a ton of listings that aren’t a good fit for your job search. Load your résumé, as much as possible, with the keywords an employer would use to search for someone with your skills.

Don’t shy away from “résumé optimization” because the concept sounds intimidating. Make “résumé optimization” work for you. It can be an effective tool in your arsenal to help land the job you really want.