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Make Resume Keywords Work for You

Resume keywords can make a big difference in the success of your job search.

Keywords are a critical part of writing a good resume. Companies use application tracking software to review resumes and online applications. This software looks for keywords within your resume or application to filter out applicants who may not be qualified.

Below are common keyword types. In bold are example keywords an employer from the retail industry might use to select resumes:

  • Job titles (sales assistant - retail)
  • Business functions (sale order processing)
  • Responsibilities (analyze sales order data)
  • Required strengths (strong analytical skills)
  • Degrees or diplomas (associate degree in business)
  • Computer applications (SAP Sales and Distribution module)

Why Are Keywords Important?

The correct use of keywords in your resume can be the difference between it being noticed or overlooked, especially when employers use electronic application tracking software. Using good keywords shows prospective employers that you might be a good fit for the company. It shows that you are knowledgeable about your field. For example, listing a specific software skill is stronger than saying you have “good computer skills.” 

How Do I Find the Right Keywords?

A good way to find keywords to use is to review the resources below. Note the keywords used in each item you review.

  • Job Descriptions: First, you need to know the type of position you are applying for. Look for ads with the job title you want.  Online tools, like Jobscan, can help you do this. 
  • Company Job Boards: Next, make a list of companies with whom you would like to work. Review the job postings on their website that appeal to you.
  • Networking Websites: Visit online networking sites, such as LinkedIn. Review user profiles that have jobs similar to the type you are seeking.
  • Professional or Trade Associations: If you are a member of an association, visit their website to review position descriptions.
  • Industry Blogs and Websites: Read blogs and popular websites in your industry.

How Do I Use Keywords?

Make a list of keywords that fit your career goals. Review this keyword list with each new job application. Include keywords throughout your resume and application, but don't make a specific section where you list all of them.

Here are some additional tips for using keywords.

  • Include keywords from your current and past jobs.
  • Use the same keywords in your cover letter, application, and online profiles.
  • Make keywords part of your online brand or image.
  • Include a geographic location in your resume. Employers may be looking for someone in a certain area.
  • Try not to use acronyms. Spell out any that you use so people and software can easily read them.
  • Don't get carried away. Limit your keywords to eight to 10 per resume or job application.
  • Follow standard resume formats. Use effective resume writing strategies, use active verbs, show your accomplishments, and proofread for spelling and grammar.