Ever wondered how recruiters can process hundreds of resumes in only a few days?
It's through the use of applicant tracking systems (ATS) and resume keywords. Companies automate the screening process using keywords to filter out the most qualified candidates on the list.
The reason why you're struggling to land a job might be that your resume isn't optimized with keywords.
In today's guide, you'll learn:
- What resume keywords are and what makes them essential for getting you hired
- How to find the right resume keywords to impress recruiters and beat ATS
- Where to put keywords in your resume for maximum efficiency
- Three types of resume keywords to always avoid when applying for jobs
- +300 terms and keyphrases for resume keyword optimization
So, let's get to it!
What are resume keywords?
Resume keywords are any terms and phrases that you must use to enrich your CV and get yourself noticed. They differ depending on the job role you want to apply for and the industry you're in.
A keyword for your resume can be a relevant job title, duty, skill, degree, or certificate. But it could also be any hobby or interest the hiring company is looking for in an applicant.
Why do keywords matter when building a resume?
Creating a resume with strong skills and achievements is the best way to prove your worth. You can only convince headhunters of hiring you if you're qualified for the position.
Before you even start thinking of landing an interview, you first have to get your foot in the door. That's why if you ask any HR expert about resume keywords, they'll describe them as crucial for landing your dream job.
Here are two reasons why resume keywords are important for your resume:
Keywords in your resume help you pass applicant tracking systems
Using keywords in a resume is a relatively new trend in the hiring industry. Because decades ago, recruiters didn't pay a lot of attention to resume keywords as long as the applicant had experience.
Today, things have changed – 98% of Fortune 500 companies use ATS to screen out candidates and ease the hiring process. And thanks to ATS software, recruiting managers are no longer forced to read every single resume in their inbox word by word.
What headhunters will do instead is look for specific skills and qualifications by scanning applicant resumes using ATS. The tool will then shortlist a few final candidates that the recruiter can check manually and call for an interview.
So here's the deal – resume keywords are no longer a nice-to-have but a must-have for job hunters. If you want to maximize your chances of getting noticed, you need to optimize your resume with carefully chosen ATS keywords.
Engage hiring managers by giving them what they’re looking for
Having the right keywords in your resume is also vital for making your application more appealing.
As mentioned in the definition above, resume keywords can be skills, duties, achievements, certificates, etc. These are all relevant terms and phrases that recruiters expect to see even when not using ATS.
Also, companies are no longer considering just years of experience when hiring applicants. They'll always prefer an applicant who shows industry knowledge through the language they use in their resume.
So by including resume keywords you'll tailor your application specifically to the job offer. That's important for keeping recruiters excited about you and fully engaged with your resume.
How to find industry-specific keywords to build a better resume?
The best way to beat resume screening software is to reverse-engineer the hiring process.
How do you come up with the best keywords to use in your resume?
Start by skimming through the job ad to hunt for interesting terms and key phrases. You must read each section carefully — especially the job description, responsibilities, qualifications, and requirements. Take as much time as you need with this step so that you don't miss any important ATS keywords.
Once you have your final list, you may start adding these keywords to different sections of your resume. We'll get into more details about that in a moment.
Another way to research resume keywords is by doing a quick Google search. You can find hundreds of keywords to use in your CV and pick the ones that are most relevant to your application.
The reason this approach works is because you’ll be using the hiring company’s own words and terminology. You don’t have to guess which terms to use or how to describe yourself.
Let's think about what the recruiter does when he’s asked to hire for a new position:
They imagine the ideal employee they want to employ in terms of qualifications, skills, and personality. Based on that, they write a job offer detailing all their demands and expectations.
In that job posting, the hiring company will include industry-specific keywords to use for resume robots. Once the job is posted and candidates start sending their CVs, the ATS will begin the screening process.
Any resume with an outdated layout and a low keyword score will be rejected. The remaining candidates are ranked based on qualifications and relevance to the job position.
How to use keywords in your resume
So far, you've learned what resume keywords are, why they're important, and how to find them. But now, it's time to jump into some practice and teach you how to use job-relevant keywords in your resume.
Finding good keywords to use in your resume is only the beginning. Because that leaves you with a list of terms and phrases that you have to add to an existing resume.
Here are three rules to always keep in mind when adding keywords to a resume:
Spread Keywords Through Different Sections
First things first, your resume should have keywords all over it from start to finish. Simply because you can never know which section recruiters are going to read first.
In addition, sprinkling keywords everywhere on the page makes it easier for you to include as many terms as possible. You can find a place to put words, phrases, personality traits, skills, and technical terms anywhere depending on the section format.
The most important sections to use keywords in are:
Still have certain keywords that you can't put anywhere in your resume?
Add a specific section just for that!
Creating a new resume section is an easy way to include keywords that don't fit with the rest of your resume content. For example, if you've won any awards worth mentioning, you could add a small "Awards and Honors" section to the page.
Make sure your resume content flows
Many keywords will naturally appear in your writing when describing your skills and experience. In fact, your current resume may already be optimized for lots of keywords even if you don't know that.
But in other times, it may be hard to find a way to use some keywords when they don't fit with your content. And that's when keyword placement on a resume gets tricky.
You should use keywords in resume sections and sentences where they flow naturally. The summary and experience sections are a good place to start.
For keywords that you can't fit into sentences, you can always create separate sections and add them. This can work for single-word terms — such as talents, character traits, certificates, projects, and awards.
As a rule of thumb, you should mainly prioritize the human reader's experience. Because beating ATS will eventually put your resume at the hand of the recruiter. Resumes with the highest job success rates are the ones that find a perfect balance between human-appealing and ATS-friendly.
One of the most common mistakes for beginners when making a resume is over-optimization. A job seeker learns about keywords and thinks "the more I optimize my resume, the higher my chances of getting interviews."
The thing is, while keyword density does matter in your resume, providing an optimal reading experience is more important. You don't want to include too many keyphrases just to beat ATS. That might leave a negative impression on hiring managers.
The best way to optimize a resume for keywords is to reorder your list based on relevance and importance. Feel free to leave away keywords that you can't fit anywhere on the page.
You shouldn't use a single keyword more than once or twice in your CV. But if necessary, you should look for synonyms and related terms that you can use interchangeably to avoid repetition.
3 types of keywords you must avoid in your resume
Throughout this guide, we've defined good resume keywords as expressive and relevant to the job position. They're enough to portray who you are to the hiring company within a relevant context.
What if we told you that there are keywords that match that description but are bad for your resume? You see, good keywords aren't always about relevance but also about how they make the headhunter feels.
The exception to the rule occurs when a job hunter uses one of the following keywords types:
At first glance, buzzwords seem like the best way to shine and bring your resume to life. But in reality, this type of keyword is only good for making yourself look like the average Joe that's never getting hired.
Do we even need to ask why?
The recruiter handling your application has read thousands of resumes in their lifetime. They've evaluated enough candidates to see every single clichéd description or overused term anyone can use.
So when they see buzzwords in any resume, they'll be quick to form a negative impression.
Jargon keywords are industry-specific terms that are impossible to understand for outsiders. They're bad for your resume because they leave both ATS and hiring managers confused about the meaning of your sentences.
That's when an attempt to show off can turn into a weakness in your resume.
To make sure that you're not using jargon language, ask a friend or a family member to read your resume. Even if the use of jargon terms is necessary, you should try and use more popular terms or easier synonyms that anyone can grasp.
It's one thing to show what you're capable of and the potential you'll bring to the table. But another to only speak of individual career wins and individual glory.
The thing is…
Bragging on your resume can easily make you look overqualified for the job. That's especially true if you focus too much on personal achievements in the experience section.
As soon as recruiters sense your arrogance, they'll be more likely to second guess your teamwork and collaboration skills. You'll shoot yourself in the foot by displaying narcissistic traits all over your resume.
So how do you find a good balance between competence and arrogance?
The right way to show off when applying for a job is to mix individual success with company achievements. You want to prove your worth as an employee by establishing clear causality between your input and your previous employer's growth.
300+ excellent resume keywords to always use in your application
In this part, we've collected some of the best keywords that will make your resume more attractive and memorable.
The truth is:
There's an unlimited list of key terms that may be worth including in your resume. But it all depends on your line of work, position, industry, and country of residence since you want to stay relevant.
There is a bit of overlap between most jobs in the language you can use to write your resume. Some action verbs, personality traits, core skills, and accomplishments are shared between a lot of industries.
When it comes to technical jobs, however, we found it impossible to make an all-inclusive keywords list in a single guide. So we collected the most in-demand technical skills to help get you started with resume keyword optimization.
- A resume keyword is any term or keyphrase that makes your resume more appealing to recruiters and applicant tracking systems (ATS).
- To find job-specific keywords, scrutinize the job description carefully and look for any sought-after duties, soft and core skills, degrees, certificates, or awards that are worth featuring in your resume.
- Having a good keyword density is important for beating ATS — but including too many keyphrases can make your resume illegible for humans.
- Use keywords in different sections of your resume and be sure to avoid over-optimization.
- Buzzwords, jargon, and bragging keywords do the opposite of what resume keywords are meant for. Avoid them as much as possible to keep your chances of landing an interview high.