Resume keywords 101

Elyssa Duncan
Community Specialist
April 28, 2020

Years ago, jobseekers would mail resumes to potential employers or stop by to drop it off. They would rely on things like a unique format or high-quality paper to "wow" a recruiter. Nowadays, things are quite different! Almost everything is done online and is usually handled (at least for the initial screening) by a computer. Typically, when a candidate submits a #resume online, it gets run through a database and digitally searched for specific resume keywords and phrases.

What ARE Resume Keywords??

#ResumeKeywords are descriptors of skills and qualifications that job seekers should use on resumes to describe their experience. These are what recruiters and employers look for!

Using Keywords to Avoid the ATS

Hiring managers will sometimes use a computer software program known as an Applicant Tracking System (ATS) to scan resumes for specific words and phrases that relate to the job description. The #ATS helps companies sort through thousands of applications by ranking resumes based on the keyword results. A higher score indicates to a hiring manager which resume they should look at more closely for an interview.

However, this means that even if you are qualified for a job but don’t have the appropriate keywords in your resume, it may get overlooked. If your resume doesn't pass the system, it will be pushed aside and likely never be seen by an actual person at that company - extending the length of your #jobsearch.

Say for example you are applying for a job as a customer service manager. A recruiter may search for phrases such as “customer service representative” or search for the word “manager.” Recruiters will not likely look for words and phrases such as “outgoing” or “hard worker.” Adding in the appropriate keywords will help your resume to be seen!

Click here for more resume-boosting tips!

How to Effectively Use Keywords in Your Resume

  1. Use the job description
    The first place to find relevant keywords is the job ad itself! If they are looking for someone with experience in using POS systems, be sure to include the phrase “experienced in using POS systems” in your resume.

  2. Use them in context
    Keywords should be sprinkled throughout your resume, not just in the skills section. Provide context whenever possible by using them to lead to an achievement!

    For example: Retail Sales: Helped an average of 50 customers per day in finding items and providing recommendations.

  3. Spell check
    The ATS is smart, but it can’t recognize misspelled words! Be sure to double-check your spelling before submitting a resume.

  4. Mix them up
    Include a mix of traditional hard skills, soft skills and industry-specific buzzwords! Try to use synonyms when possible so that you can increase the variety of keywords throughout your resume.

Practices to Avoid

  1. Keyword stuffing
    Keyword stuffing refers to the practice of using the same keyword over and over again to try and “beat” the ATS system. Though it may help you get past the screening process, it could actually hurt your chances if a #HiringManager recognizes that you are just trying to push your resume through.

  2. Hidden keywords
    It’s a sneaky trick some applicants use to incorporate more keywords into their resume. It involves writing a keyword/phrase multiple times at the end of sentences, but doing so in a white font so that they are “invisible.” Yes, it may rank your resume higher in the system, BUT it will display as Plain Text to the employer, so they’ll see the extra words and may flag you as untrustworthy and dishonest.

  3. Misleading keywords
    If you don’t have the qualification, don’t include it. It’s tempting to include ALL the buzzwords you find in a job description, but a hiring manager will get suspicious if a resume is “too perfect.” Besides, if you lie on paper and can’t back it up in the interview, what’s the point??

So, now that you’re ready to take your resume to a whole new level - what jobs are YOU looking for?!



Andrea Mahfood

Customer Service Representative

1 Like
Jennifer Aurelius

Great article.

1 Like
William Randall

Very educational

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Stewart Rachel

Is there any sites that will build a resume for free