In a world where digital content is increasingly becoming the norm terms like keywords and search result optimization are not unheard of. However, did you know that resume keywords are just as important? When a job posting attracts hundreds of applications, your resume keywords, and how you optimize them are what will give you an edge over the competition; especially if you want to get past the Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) used by most companies. Did you know: Around 70% of resumes are rejected by ATS. Even without them being read by human eyes. Quite a number isn’t it? Makes you realize just how important it is to pepper your resume with relevant keywords.
What are Resume Keywords
Simply put, resume keywords are words, phrases, and action verbs that describe specific jobs and their requirements. These words and phrases can be used to describe expertise, skill sets, credentials, qualities, abilities, and experience that recruiters might be looking for in an ideal candidate. These keywords are usually fed into the ATS by recruiters and hiring managers and the software then scans resumes for the relevant terms.
If a resume fails to throw up the required number of keywords, the ATS does not consider it for further processing. Considering most job postings attract hundreds of applications, recruiters run resumes through the ATS to shortlist the most relevant ones. Once shortlisted, recruiters then go through these resumes to further shortlist candidates for an interview.
Here’s the catch: Given the volume of applications each recruiter has to sift through, he/she spends only about six seconds perusing a resume. How then, do you ensure that your resume manages to get past the ATS as well as catches a recruiter’s attention?
Resume Keywords is the answer.
Types of Resume Keywords
Now that you know what keywords are and why they are so important, you are probably wondering what types of resume keywords you should be using to optimize your resume for your next job search. The answer is that the resume keywords differ for each job posting. Typically, resume keywords will be embedded in the job posting itself. For instance, senior accounts executive, deputy editor, senior manager, pricing analyst, etc. Here’s an example of a resume summary filled with relevant keywords.
‘A detail-oriented and experienced pricing analyst with over 15 years of experience in developing pricing models, leading a team, and working on large infrastructure deals.’ – Resume keywords here are detail-oriented, experienced, 15 years of experience, pricing analyst, pricing models, leading a team, and large infrastructure deals.
When creating your resume, keep in mind terms that are relevant to your industry and those that have been listed in the job posting. In fact, the job posting itself will throw up some of the keywords you should be including in your resume. The ATS will scan your resume for these keywords and accordingly pass it or eliminate it.
However, it is not just the ATS that you need to get past in order to land an interview call. You also have to impress the hiring manager, who is going to spend less than 10 seconds browsing through your document. How do you do that? With the relevant resume keywords. Because when a hiring manager goes through your resume, he/she is going to quickly scan it for these words and phrases to determine whether you fit the bill or not.
Think of it like shopping for a product online. Before you shortlist and add a product to your cart, you are going to want to read about its features and what it can offer you. If you find insufficient data on this, you are bound to skip to another seller or e-commerce websites. Resume keywords are like that; a sort of product features list that will convince the hiring manager to consider you for a role.
Keywords are broadly categorized into the following:
- Skill Keywords: These keywords show employers that you have the required ability to carry out certain tasks relevant to a role and succeed. Recruiters often pay quite a bit of attention to skill keywords to determine if you might be the right candidate. Examples of skill keywords: active listening, communication, interpersonal skills, customer service, leadership, management skills, editing, problem-solving, and time management.
- Results-oriented Keywords: These are keywords that showcase your achievements and responsibilities in your past jobs and how it can translate to your success in your new role. Examples of results-oriented keywords: executed, led a team, orchestrated, achieved, developed, accomplished, created, managed, and spearheaded.
- Recognition Keywords: These are keywords that are usually industry-specific and indicate the past distinction you might have held. Examples are asset management, digital content marketing, and pricing analyst. Recognition keywords could also include terms such as Fortune 500 and the names of big companies to show that you are in the big league and know what it takes to work in a company of such stature.
Where to Find Resume Keywords
Well, the best place to find the right resume keywords is in the job posting itself. Recruiters would have peppered their posting with keywords that they are looking for and these are also the keywords that they would have keyed into the ATS that will be scanning your resume. These keywords will usually appear under sections like ‘An ideal candidate will be’, ‘Desired qualifications’ or ‘Responsibilities’.
You can also get an idea of the action verbs you should be using from a job description. Other apt resume keywords will be industry-specific that you can include as well. Another way to find resume keywords is by going through the company’s website. You could use keywords the company uses to describe itself to further demonstrate your candidacy.
Your Guide to Picking the Right Resume Keywords
Job Posting: As aforementioned, this should be your first step when looking for the right resume keywords. Simply scan the job posting to see what the recruiter has listed out under qualifications and responsibilities. Recruiters usually look for job-related keywords and action verbs. Job-related keywords refer to your hard and soft skills such as social media, photoshop, writing, editing, and design. Action verbs, on the other hand, demonstrate your accomplishments. For eg: managed, developed, led a team, designed, and executed.
Your next question is, where do you slot these keywords? Typically, job-related keywords will be slotted under the Skills section, while action verbs will go under Work Experience and Education. When it comes to job title descriptions, these should go under your resume summary. Here’s something you might want to remember: When using resume keywords don’t overdo it. And definitely don’t use terms just for the sake of it. While the ATS may not be able to spot overuse or redundancy, the recruiter or hiring manager can. You certainly don’t want to waste your precious few seconds ruining the impression you’re trying to create. Use keywords in the right context to reflect your actual skills and qualifications.
Example of How to Pick Resume Keywords
Here is a sample job posting for a technical writer with the keywords highlighted.
Looking for a senior tech writer with at least 10 years of experience.
- You should have prior experience in tech content writing.
- You must be able to research and write technical content.
- You should be good at copywriting.
- You must be able to pay attention to detail and work with tight deadlines.
- You must have a good attitude and know-how to work with a team.
Keywords on a Resume Sample (Text-Version)
Here is a sample job posting for a technical writer with the keywords highlighted.
Phone: (123) 456 78 99
Address: 1737 Marshville Road, Alabama
Senior technical writer with over 12 years of experience with excellent writing and editing skills. Fluent in technical writing and related jargon. Seeking a position at a reputed tech website.
Tech writing, Research, Time Management, Interpersonal Skills, Reporting, Creative writing, Copywriting, Detail-oriented, Communication skills.
XYZ Magazine, NY
Technical Writer, September 2018-2019
- Curated and wrote articles for the XYZ Tech magazine covering a spectrum of topics including gadget reviews.
- Proven ability to research and write well thought out tech content.
- Worked with tight deadlines.
ABC UNIVERSITY, California
Bachelor of Arts, May 2008
Major: Journalism; Minor: Creative Writing; Overall GPA: 3.875
Honors and dean’s list every semester.
Served as the editor of the college newspaper.
Keywords on a Resume – Sample
How to Use the Right Keywords
Now that you’ve got your basics about resume keywords right, it’s time to learn how to use them. Here’s a handy guide just for you.
- Avoid Images: ATS usually can’t decipher images. So cut them out. Anyhow, a resume is a professional document and it’s best to stick to a formal tone overall unless you want to present a creative resume.
- Standard Fonts are Best: While it might be tempting to use one of the fancy fonts available, it’s recommended that you stick to standard fonts; especially since an ATS can only read resume keywords if they are written in common fonts. Stick to fonts like Times New Roman, Arial, Calibri, Georgia, or Cambria that come preloaded on most computers. Definitely avoid fonts that you’ve downloaded from the internet.
- Use a Mix of Skills, Qualifications, and Industry-Specific Keywords: Make sure you pepper keywords throughout your resume and not just in the summary. Sections such as skills, employment history, educational qualifications, and any additional certifications are other areas to bring in resume keywords. Also, use synonyms for keywords to maximize the keyword search. For instance, a programmer could also refer to himself/herself as a coder.
Tips to Include Resume Keywords
- Ensure your resume keywords and experience are formatted to reflect the company’s brand.
- Include keywords that are related to a specific job to better your chances of showcasing how good a match you are for the role.
- Check the company’s LinkedIn page and website for additional keywords and phrases.
- Use as many keywords are possible without overdoing it. In the process do not end up using keywords that are not relevant to you or those that describe skills that you don’t possess.
- Use a good mix of keywords: soft skills, hard skills, and industry-specific terms. This will showcase your diverse qualities.
- Don’t restrict keywords to just your summary. Be sure to include it under various sections like qualifications and skills as well.
Resume Keywords List by Industry
- Account management
- Financial reports
- Risk analysis
- Quantitative analysis
- Data entry
- Microsoft Office
- Office supply inventorying
- Schedule management
- Business analysis
- Structured Query Language (SQL)
- Client outreach
- Budget management
- Market insights
- Lesson planning
- Classroom management
- Child development
- Hazard assessment
- Bid preparation
- Technical drawings
- Prototyping methodology
- Patient care
- Checking vital parameters
- Emergency treatment
- Physical examination
- Visual Basic
- Market Analysis
- Data mining
- Data Protection
- Back end programming
- Search engine optimization (SEO)
- Google Analytics
- Marketing Strategy
- Social Media
- Financial forecasting
- Business development
- Vehicle maintenance
- Route planning
- Vehicle inspections
- Time management
Resume keywords are crucial to help you get past the ATS and impress a recruiter or hiring manager. Use resume keywords to optimize your resume. Scan the job posting for some pointers and do include industry-specific keywords as well. Don’t overuse keywords in a bid to ensure your resume is picked up by the ATS. For once it gets past the applicant tracking software, a recruiter will be looking at it and it won’t create the best impression to have words repeating unnecessarily throughout the document.