The Secret to Finding Keywords in Job Descriptions

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The Secret to Finding Keywords...
Making a great resume boils down to knowing how to read a job description and extracting the right keywords from it. See how.
Sep 8, 2022 8 min read

Quick Answer:
To pass the Applicant Tracking System (ATS) and attract the attention of hiring managers, it's important to include job-specific keywords in your resume. Start by reading the job description carefully and looking for repeated skills or software requirements. Use reference job descriptions and online keyword finders to guide your choices and format your resume to distribute keywords across the document. Use rule-of-thumb guidelines to select appropriate hard skill-based words and tailor them for the position you are applying for.

Looking for a job is tough, and it gets even harder when you are trying to get your resume just right.

It may seem like you are just sending out resumes, and you get nothing but automatic replies in return.

The main reason for that may be how you find keywords in job descriptions, and how effectively you use them in your favor.

In the hiring process, your resume would either go through an Applicant Tracking System (ATS), or it would receive a quick scan from the hiring manager when doing their pre-selection of candidates.

And even though one is done by software, and the other by a human, they have one great similarity – both looking for keywords or skills from the job description.

And so, to make your resume go further in the hiring process, you need to use your keywords wisely.

To help you, we are going to explore the essential questions on the matter:

  • Why is finding keywords in job descriptions so significant?
  • How to find keywords in job descriptions?
  • How and where to use keywords in your resume?

Before we proceed, you can read our guide on what you have to put on your resume if you aren’t 100% sure. And if you struggle with your resume layout feel free to take our resume builder for a spin. People from Facebook, HotJar, and Microsoft have loved it!

Why is finding keywords in job descriptions so significant?

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You might have already figured out the main pros of using keywords from the job description in your resume.

But just in case, we are going to go through them really quick.

Pass the ATS test

In the past, Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) were used mainly by big companies which received hundreds, or even thousands of applications on a daily basis.

But ATS quickly became the preferred method of candidate pre-selection by companies of all sizes.

If you are applying for a job right now, it is quite likely that an ATS would decide whether your resume would see the eyes of a hiring manager or not.

And if you don’t include all the right keywords, the ATS would simply decide that you are not qualified enough for the job.

So make sure you take your time to examine all the keywords in the job description.

Catch the hiring manager's attention

Even if the company you are applying for does not use any ATS, you will be up against the same challenge with the hiring managers.

They have very limited time to go through each job application. Typically, a hiring manager spends around 7 seconds scanning a resume, and most of that time is focused on finding all the right keywords.

All in all, no matter if you are up against an ATS, or a hiring manager, you will most likely be initially judged by your keywords.

How to find keywords in job descriptions?

Finding keywords in job descriptions may seem like an easier task than in actually is, but once you get going, you might stumble upon some issues.

But to get it done right, you need to follow just 3 easy steps.

Really read the job description

Keywords in job descriptions are most typically certain skills or software that companies want you to understand how to use.

Keep an eye out for any specific program that is required, as well as any language proficiency, or any other skill like supervising staff.

A sure sign of a skill being considered a keyword in the job description is if you find it a couple of times in the listing.

And don’t forget, keywords can be in any part of the job description, so don’t skip over any parts.

Go through many job descriptions

A great way to improve your keyword usage in your resume is to have some reference.

To do so, you should scan through other job descriptions for similar jobs and find the similarities.

When you see a skill or software pop up often in job descriptions for similar positions, that means companies are looking for it and you have to have it in yours.

Another thing you can do here is browse through the LinkedIn profiles of people who hold similar positions to that you are applying for. You can check the words they use to describe their accomplishments and use them in your own resume.

Consider using a keyword finder

Last but not least, there are many online tools that can help you out when preparing your keywords for your resume.

Typically, you simply need to paste the job description in the designated spot, and the online tool would provide suggestions for the most significant keywords it can find.

It can not only save you some time, but it can also help you spot any essential keywords you might have missed.

How and where to add keywords in your resume?

Finding the keywords in the job description is just half the job.

Let’s dive into the hard part.

Where to add keywords in your resume?

To get the best out of the keywords in your resume, you need to make sure they are evenly spread all throughout.

That way, no matter if the pre-selection is done by an ATS software or a human being, you will always get a great result.

The places where you can and should use keywords are:

But don’t limit yourself to these three, use keywords in any place that seems appropriate.

How to add keywords in your resume?

Now that you know that keywords are important all throughout your resume, it’s important to know what makes them really powerful.

To get the best results, you need to follow just 3 rules.

Rule #1: Use the same language as the job description

As we mentioned, there are two options for the pre-selection for every open job position.

Your resume will either be scanned for keywords by an ATS that would determine how suitable you are for the position depending on the number of keywords it has found.

In the other case, a hiring manager would look through your resume, but with hundreds of resumes they have to go through on a daily basis, they will most likely only look for keywords as well, in order to lower the number of candidates for the job.

If your resume goes through an ATS, it is crucial for you to use the exact wording that is used in the job description, as most software would not be able to catch synonyms that you might want to use.

On the other hand, if your resume goes through the eyes of the hiring manager, you have a much greater chance to pass even without using the exact same wording.

However, keep in mind that with the limited time they have to go through each resume, many of your skills may be overlooked, as the hiring manager might miss them, looking for an exact match.

So, just to be on the safe side, it is always better to use the exact same wording that is used in the job description for the keywords in your resume.

Rule #2: Use keywords for your hard skills

When it comes to your skill keywords, you need to carefully determine which are the important ones.

Typically, what both ATS and the hiring manager would be looking for are hard skills, rather than soft ones.

That may include:

  • Software skills
  • Technical knowledge
  • Certifications
  • Other quantifiable skills

Even if you find soft skills to be keywords in the job description, it is much less likely the hiring manager would be interested in them.

It is best to mention your soft skills in your resume summary or objective, and save your skills section mainly for hard skills.

Rule #3: Make your keywords specific

When picking your keywords, you need to make sure you get the best ones. Make sure you choose keywords that are as closely related to the job you are applying for as possible.

The better job you do with this task, the better chance you have to pass the ATS test or the initial scanning by a hiring manager.

If you want to really nail it, you can check out the company’s website or LinkedIn profile. That way, you can find out how is the company described and use some more keywords that would make you a perfect match.

Furthermore, you can also look at their employees and see how they describe themselves as part of the company.

All that can help you optimize your keywords in your own resume.


We are all done, now you know how to find keywords in job descriptions, and how to use them to get the best results with your own resume.

Let’s go through a quick recap.

If you want to effectively find the keywords in a job description, you need to:

  • Read carefully the job description in order to understand which keywords are really important for the position and use them throughout your resume
  • Go through many job descriptions for similar roles, so that you would have a better understanding of what is valued in that particular industry
  • Consider using a keyword finder to strengthen your resume even more, as it can find some important keywords that you may have missed

And to use keywords effectively, you need to:

  • Spread them throughout your resume
  • Use the same wording used in the job description because ATS would be looking for an exact match, and the hiring manager would most likely do the same
  • Focus more on your hard skills, as they are what ATS and hiring managers would initially be looking for
  • Make all your keywords specific and relevant to the job position you are applying for. You can also do some extra research for keywords on the company’s website or LinkedIn profile

Now that you know how to find and use keywords effectively, you are ready to get the job you have always wanted.

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Evgeni Asenov
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