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Resume Keywords: How to Find the Right Words for Your Resume

By Meaghan Marshall, Nov 21 2014 11:51AM

Following our recent post Words to Leave off Your Resume, here we discuss how to find the right words to include on your resume.

What are Resume Keywords?

Resume Keywords are specific words or phrases used to describe skills and experiences. Keywords are mostly nouns or noun phrases. Keywords may be general for example “attention to detail” or “management” but can also be specific to the position or industry for example “profit and loss statements” or “social media marketing”. Keywords have become important as employers are relying increasingly on Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) to complete initial screening of applications. You can read more about writing for the ATS here.

An employer when reviewing your resume will be looking for specific keywords. These keywords will be related to the position or industry and may include:

Skills required

Job titles


Industry jargon

Technical terms

Product Names

Company Names

Professional Organizations

Software or Hardware Packages

How to Find the Keywords for Your Resume

Finding the right keywords will require some research and information gathering.

You should obtain a copy of both the job advertisement and position description. It is these documents that will provide the best clues to the keywords the employer will be looking for.

Make a list of key words for your resume. (You may like to download our Keyword Worksheet from our Career Resources section)

1. Review the job advertisement. Write the important skills, experience, qualifications and qualities the employer is seeking. You need to include these in your resume.

2. Visit the organisations website. Read their mission statement. Write down any phrases, lingo, concepts, products, or services you can use.

3. Expand your research to include job advertisements for similar positions and organisations within the same industry. Include any commonly appearing skills, qualifications or phrases.

How to Use Keywords in Your Resume

Writing a successful resume doesn’t mean simply including a list of keywords. You should be focusing on quality content and then working your keywords in naturally and in context. A resume that is poorly written in order to load with keywords is unlikely to impress. You should also never list skills and terms that you have identified as keywords unless they are a true representation of your experience and skills.

Here is an example of how to use your keywords:

Currently your resume lists the achievement:

* Increased website traffic by 70% over 4 months through changes to social media strategy.

You are applying for a Social Media Marketing role and included on your list of keywords is: digital presence, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram,

* Increased website traffic by 70% over 4 months by strengthening Company X’s digital presence. Achieved a strong and visible presence across Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram that resulted in greater brand awareness, engagement and traffic.

Don’t forget that your keywords will change for each application you make. You should update the terms to reflect the language used in the position description.

For example, you are now submitting your application for a Social Media Manager position and note that the terminology of the ad differs slightly. You note the use of “online presence” and “social media platforms”

* Increased website traffic by 70% over 4 months by strengthening Company X’s online presence. Achieved a strong and visible presence across all social media platforms that resulted in greater brand awareness, engagement and traffic.

If you found this helpful you might also like:

Resume Writing: Smarten Up with Synonyms

14 Tips for Proof Reading Your Resume

Resume Myth Busting

8 Tips to Make Your Resume Stand Out

Need additional help finding the right words for your resume? We offer resume writing and review services.

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