SEO your CV

An article on applying the techniques of SEO to your CV or resume

I had just finished writing an e-Book on SEO (Search Engine Optimisation), the art of optimising web pages to increase traffic from search engines, and was about to start looking around for some more contract work, when I had a thought: "Would SEO work with CVs?".

Some time ago I was having a conversation with a consultant friend of mine and he was explaining how he had worked on an application for a recruitment agency. The application allowed agency staff to enter keywords associated with a position they wanted to fill, and the application would use these keywords to search the agency's database and retrieve CVs containing matching keywords. The more the keywords appeared in each CV, the higher the CV would appear in the returned list.

So recalling this conversation, and with my recent knowledge of SEO techniques, I decided to see if applying SEO techniques to my CV improved my chances of finding contract work.

I started by taking a copy of my CV and writing down a keyword list of all my key skills. I then entered these keywords into Google's keyword tool to find more keywords that I might not have thought about putting in my CV. As an example I had 'SQL Server 2005' and 'Oracle 11g', but had failed to use the obvious word 'database'. Agency staff are not guaranteed to speak IT (or the language of your profession) and so they are more likely to use generic terms in their searchs such as 'database skills' rather than the specific database type. My CV would probably not be among the search results for CVs containing 'database' skills.

With my list of keywords I SEO'd my CV. I also made sure that the most important keywords appeared more than once. This took my CV from two pages to three, which some CV pros will tell you is a no-no. This might be the case when applying for work directly, but not when submitting a CV to a job site or agency database. You can always optimise your CV for a particular role later, reducing it down to two pages, but right now more is better from the perspective of using the CV as a tool for getting agencies to contact you.

I submitted my optimised CV to the top four IT job sites and sat back to see what would happen. Remember that this was an experiment at first. If I got work out of it then that was a bonus.

The first thing that happened was I was spammed by a lot of agency bots. These subscribe to the job sites and are triggered by new CVs being submitted. They send you a standard email asking you to fill in a questionnaire or to submit your CV to them via their own web site. I deleted these emails.

After a few days I started getting a few calls from some agencies with the usual promise of adding you to their database and calling you back when they have something that matches what you are looking for. A few days later the calls slowed down to a trickle.

In the world of SEO you can't just apply SEO and leave it. You have to see what works and revisit it again and again. So once a week I would take a look at my CV and tweak it. By tweak I don't mean to lie or anything. Nothing on my CV is made up or untrue. There is no point in lying as the client will realise that you lied eventually. By tweaking I mean changing the order that the skills are listed in, adding or removing skills that you just remembered might be worth mentioning or no longer wish to offer or use etc. Once I was happy with the changes I would upload my CV again.

I recently did some work using an application that uploads job vacancies to job sites. One of its options was "How often do you want to upload the vacancy?". This explained why I often saw the same job advert appear over and over again in my job site RSS feeds. You could submit the same advert every 24 hours and have the previous one expire every 24 hours if you wanted. That way your vacancy always appears as 'new' and is pushed in front of more eyeballs more often (even though it is annoying and probably affects vacancy statistics).

Well, if agents can play that game then why can't us job seekers? So once a week (or whenever the agencies stopped calling) I would delete my old CV and upload and activate my new tweaked CV and sit back and see what would happen.

What did happen was I started getting more and more calls from agencies about contracts that actually matched my skill-set!

In summary, by using the method of applying SEO techniques to my CV, and uploading a new CV once a week, I ended up getting more calls from agents about suitable contracts, getting to the interview stage much quicker, and ending up with a new contract in the process.

SEO isn't just for web pages. The techniques can be applied to any digital information that can be searched!

Article date: 26th February 2010

Would you like to have a go at SEO yourself, but don't know where to start? David Flint, an IT consultant here at Mobile and Secure has written an eBook entitled "A Guide to Search Engine Optimisation" which is now available to download for free.

A Guide to Search Engine Optimisation (PDF 178k)

If you found this book useful then we'd love to hear from you.

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