How Resume Keywords Can Help Your Job Search

by Julie Rutherford


During some downtime due to COVID-19, maybe you should consider sharpening up your resume and LinkedIn profile? Have you fully optimized your resume with the right keywords to get noticed by recruiters and hiring managers?

Resume keywords are crucial because recruiters rely on AI-driven internal recruiting systems (otherwise known as Applicant Tracking Systems or ATS) to match candidates for a given job based on these terms. Our team has been using an ATS for many years and we can offer some tips on ways to get your resume to the top of the list of applicants—and hopefully get that job!

How do resume keywords help me with my job search?

After you apply for a job on a company job site…

  • Your resume is likely to run through a parser. This removes the styling and breaks the text down into recognized words or phrases (like “marketing automation” or “B.A. in Communications”).
  • The parser then sorts that content into different categories: education, contact info, skills, work experience, and others. If your resume has strange or unusual formatting, it may not pick up this info at all.
  • The ATS compares keywords from your resume with keywords specified by employers for the job.
  • Your resume is scored on how well the keywords match. A recruiter then reviews relevant resumes. If your resume doesn’t match the criteria, it likely won’t make the candidate list.

How do I choose the best keywords for my resume?

  • Integrate keywords in a summary statement and/or list of competencies, and include specific keywords throughout your resume.
  • Look at keywords in the job description and include ones that apply. Category keywords include “client relationship management”, “revenue growth” and “risk mitigation. “Email marketing” and “social media marketing” represent effective skill-based keywords.
  • Integrate “semantic” or related terms as well for specific skills. Example: If SEO is in the job description, include “organic search”, “keyword optimization” and “search marketing”.

Where do I place target keywords on my resume?

  • Create a separate section in the top third of the first page that includes resume keywords related to relevant category expertise (like “contract negotiation” or “partnership management”). It can also include some specific skill keywords and use bullets to list them. We recommend no more than 6-8.
  • Use specific skill and competency keywords throughout your entire resume. Your resume needs to read naturally so 2-3 mentions of a given keyword are usually enough.

Is there anything else I can do to make sure my resume is correctly parsed by a company’s internal recruiting system?

  • To make sure your resume is optimally “read” by the system, avoid using photos or graphics and submit your resume as a pdf (without images) in Word or another text program.
  • Depending on how the job description reads, you may want to adjust your keywords to reflect a specific job of interest.
  • Use standard formatting since the ATS is programmed to read more traditional resume settings. If you put your name and contact info somewhere other than the top, it’s not likely to parse correctly.

We hope our advice helps you fine-tune your resume keywords and give you the best shot at getting in front of recruiters. Please upload your updated resume and one of our recruiters will get back with you if we have an open position that fits.

Posted in Job Search TipsResume tips