A resume without resume keywords is like playing musical notes on an instrument alphabetically. You may be playing the music, but there’s no strategy or value involved.
Filling a resume with technical jargon and filler words is simple, but can you make them sound like music to the recruiters’ ears? Yes, but only if you use resume keywords.
We show you the significance of resume keywords and how to use them carefully to tailor your job application. We’ve also provided examples below for you to follow.
What are resume keywords?
Resume keywords are buzzwords relating to a specific position, industry, or profession. Resume buzzwords are usually nouns but can also include action verbs.
Powerful action verbs like “spearheaded” and “created” improve your resume to a great extent. So use them to present your accomplishments and qualifications because they show your ability and drive to succeed in your career.
Optimizing your resume keywords is essential
Modern hiring managers scan every resume for specific keywords. In addition, companies use an applicant tracking system (ATS) to screen candidates for job profiles. Therefore, using the right keywords in your resume helps you get shortlisted by the recruiting software.
Here’s how an ATS works:
- beginning with the recruiter entering in the best keywords for resumes based on particular job openings and allowing applicants to submit resumes for a job
- scanning the submitted resumes for the specific keywords
- sorting and grading the resumes based on the resume keywords
- giving a detailed score and helps the hiring manager decide on the applicants’ capabilities before scheduling the interview
How to find relevant resume keywords and phrases
These are some of the ways you can discover the best keywords and phrases to list on your application:
1. Analyze job posts to find relevant skill sets
Reading through job posts gives you a good idea of which keywords and phrases you can include on your resume and in your cover letter.
Employers list their criteria for an ideal candidate and mention the most desired skills for a resume in the first paragraph of their job description. so try highlighting all of the relevant keywords while reading through each description.
2. Study job ads by looking for the same job title
You should also assess the best keywords and phrases for your resume by examining several other job descriptions relating to your job position.
Start by reviewing at least ten relevant job descriptions and choose the most popular keywords and phrases from each one.
3. Research the company’s website
Next, browse the organization’s website to find keywords that reflect its brand and values. Including these keywords shows that you’ve done your research about the company which conveys your dedication and skills.
4. Study the skills and experience of higher-level positions
Looking at jobs posted for positions that are a step above your level is a great idea because the process is similar to analyzing job ads. So search for common skills you possess listed throughout any job description meant for higher-level positions and then add the relevant ones to your resume.
Then, include some advanced skills you want to learn in an “Areas of Interest” section on your resume. These skills show hiring managers that you’re a constant learner and strive to grow and develop professionally.
How to use the best resume keywords and phrases
This is a 4-step process to help you include resume keywords and phrases in your application:
1. Use keyword variations
Never stick to a single keyword or phrase for your resume because you’ll tend to overuse it and cause keyword stuffing. Make a habit of using several synonyms and acronyms for keywords.
When you include a wide variety of words and phrases, it demonstrates your diverse qualities. Using keyword variations also increases your chances of an applicant tracking system shortlisting your resume out of a large pool of applicants.
2. Include location-based keywords
Location is a crucial factor for non-remote positions, so including your city and state in your resume helps recruiters identify you as a potential candidate for roles specific to a location.
Most candidates list their addresses at the top of the resume, but we recommend including them along with the job title in your resume introduction.
3. Use hard skills to your advantage in resumes
Soft skills are better assessed during phone and in-person interviews, so spend more time detailing your technical skills, academic training, and overall job experience in your resume and cover letter. The ATS prioritizes hard skills because they’re more easily quantified and directly relate back to the role in professional settings.
4. Incorporate resume keywords and phrases throughout your application
You can distribute keywords evenly in the four main resume sections, like so:
1. Resume objective
Your resume objective is a 2–4 sentence summary that establishes the value that you bring to an organization. A resume summary also presents keywords in context to potential employers, so this section must include the top two keywords for any resume: the job title and the company name.
2. Work history section
Include resume keywords that associate you with additional skills and experiences. You can also create a combination of an action verb and a keyword noun such as “managed software development projects.”
3. Skills section
Include not only your top skills but also your software and hardware abilities. Make sure to use only the most relevant terms to keep your resume readable by the applicant tracking software (ATS). You can also organize skills into categories for further clarity.
There are three types of skills keywords:
1. Credential or experience keywords
Experience keywords emphasize the crucial skills for your target industry or job profile. For example, an SEO writer would use resume keywords relating to digital marketing certifications or SEO management.
The skills keywords are examples of hard skills. They include job titles, skills, and buzzwords recognized by the industry.
2. General skills keywords
These resume keywords are not industry-specific. Some common examples are computer skills, management, multitasking, communication skills, organizational skills, leadership, etc. These skills generally fall under the soft skills category.
3. Actionable keywords
You can use action verbs to showcase your achievements in your previous or current work profiles. Action verbs portray your efficiency and productivity because they convey an image of you physically accomplishing tasks. Writing strong action verbs also increases the likelihood of you getting an interview so don’t shy away from using them.
For example, you can mention that you:
- “Balanced” the budget
- “Managed” backend operations
- “Integrated” Payment Gateway
- “Achieved” sales of USD 1.3 M
4. Education and training section
Some employers screen for applicants with specific educational qualifications, so be very specific with your qualifications and check for spelling errors. Moreover, highlight all of your internships and co-curricular activities because they add value to your resume.
Always show your highest degree first on the resume. Follow the reverse-chronological order to expand on all your degrees. Keep in mind that there is no need to include your high school majors if you have the necessary work experience.
You should add the following information to your resume education section:
- type of degree you received
- your major/minor in the respective degree
- name of your school or institution
- brief description of your school or institution
- location of your institution or university (e.g., city, state)
- year you graduated
Also, try aligning your college location and year of graduation on the same line to the left and right of the page and add your GPA to the resume only if you scored 3.5/4.0.
Here are some additional tips to optimize the use of resume keywords in your education section:
- Spell out your degree. For example, use “Masters of Science” instead of “M.Sc.”
- If you want to use initials, separate them using periods. For example, write “M.S.” instead of “MS.”
- If your degree isn’t directly relevant to the desired job profile, focus more on the university than on the course.
- Maintain a consistent format (e.g., font, size) for all the entries.
How to include keywords on a cover letter
Recruiters also scan your cover letter for keywords, so use keywords to your advantage.
One common mistake of candidates is that they copy the keywords from their resume on the cover letter. While you can mention the qualifications and job title, keep the repeated keywords to a minimum.
Take a look at the following example of a cover letter that uses relevant keywords throughout the page:
Customize resume and cover letter keywords for each job
Customizing keywords is the best method to get your resume past the applicant tracking system and into the hands of a hiring manager.
Always customize each resume you submit when applying to a specific job listing. No, we do not mean writing a new resume every time. But what you can do is swap out and shuffle some of the keywords in your resume.
For example, a graphic designer job description expects the following qualifications from a candidate:
- Knowledge of Adobe Illustrator
- Strong image retouching abilities
- Dynamic individual with energy and enthusiasm
Based on the above job description, you can add the following new keywords:
- Image retouching
- Energy or enthusiasm
Last but not least, resume keyword optimization is similar to conventional SEO. Research, shortlist keywords and use these keywords in the best possible way to land your dream job. And remember, you can always use valuable tools like Resume Companion to create the perfect resume for your next application.
Author Bio: Rahul Jade is passionate about making a positive impact on the career of ambitious individuals through his articles. His areas of interest include Recruiting Software, Resume Writing, HR Management, CRM, ERP, and others. When not writing, he reads fiction and flies away to exotic destinations!