The importance of keywords in job ads

More than a third of candidates are using keywords to find the most relevant roles for them. So, what are keywords and how can they help ensure your job ad attracts great candidates?

What are keywords?

Keywords are the words or terms that candidates use when they are searching for a job. By typing in specific keywords about a role, skill or industry, candidates automatically narrow down their job search and relevant matches are displayed.

“We have a specific place for candidates to enter keywords on the SEEK homepage,” says Hamish Coutts, SEEK’s national client training manager. “Candidates then use keywords in conjunction with classification and location to set their job search.”

Why keywords matter

Keywords are important to job ads because they allow candidates to search for relevant positions. When hirers and recruiters include key terms and phrases that are relevant to a particular role, appropriate candidates are more likely to find the job ad.

Using keywords with confidence

When developing a job ad, it’s worthwhile for hiring managers and recruiters to brainstorm what terms job seekers might be searching for.

Ask yourself whether candidates will use industry-specific terminology in their searches (for example, are there software or acronyms that are important to the job and your business?). Also think about whether there are alternative job titles that candidates may use to search for the same job.

How to include keywords when you develop a job ad

Keywords should be used throughout your job ad to indicate to candidates that your position is a good fit with what they are looking for. Coutts says the key to creating an appealing job ad with relevant keywords is to start with a job title, the role and description, whether it’s full time or part time and the benefits (such as flexible working hours). 

While keywords play a vital part in attracting candidates they are only one part of the job ad puzzle, says Coutts.

“A well-structured job advert has critical information such as role purpose and company information, together with specific skills and the experience that is required,” he says.

“This means you are including a broad range of information that will potentially be found in a wider range of keyword searches.”

Be keyword savvy

To see if you have repeated keywords too many times, it’s a good idea to read through your job ad aloud. If it’s hard to read or you notice you have overused a word or phrase, go back and edit the ad to get rid of repetition. 

It’s also important not to fall into the trap of keyword stuffing - this is when you include so many keywords in your job ad, or repeat the keywords so many times that it isn’t easy for candidates to read.

“Hirers need to avoid keyword stacking a job ad to the point where it doesn’t make sense,” says Coutts.

What are the best keywords to use?

Depending on the industry you are in the top keywords will differ. Examples from the SEEK Top Search Terms for 2017 were:

Accounting: accountant, graduate, accounting, bookkeeper, analyst, finance manager, tax, financial controller, accounts payable, financial accountant

Banking and finance: project manager, customer service, banking, business analyst, finance, financial planner, risk, credit, operations, bank

Advertising, arts and media: marketing, communications, design, media, account manager, graphic design, events, writer, journalist, fashion, event

Construction: project manager, supervisor, labourer, electrician, construction, estimator, carpenter, FIFO, project engineer, site manager, electrical, safety, engineer, contract administrator

Hospitality and tourism: chef, hospitality, barista, kitchen hand, head chef, café, housekeeping, hotel, bar, waitress, retail, travel, customer service

ICT: business analyst, java, security, testing, network, IT, test analyst, IT manager, sql, oracle, IT support

It’s worth noting that keyword terms such as ‘graduate’, ‘part time’, ‘junior’ and ‘manager’ are popular keywords across almost all industries.

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