How to use keywords on a resume

Exactly How to Use Keywords on a Resume (Examples Included) – Zipjob

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Keywords on your resume are important if you want to get your resume noticed. Most people skip this important step in the job search and wonder why their resume isn’t getting callbacks. In this brief guide, we’ll outline what keywords are and exactly how and where to use them.

Later in the post, we’ll also cover the best hack for getting your resume noticed using keywords.

What are keywords in a resume?

Keywords in a resume are both crucial to getting your resume past applicant tracking systems which the majority of employers use, and for when a human reviews it.  Keywords are specific words or phrases on a resume that either catch the attention of the hiring manager or help an applicant tracking system (ATS) understand who you are. ATS delete over 75% of resumes so you need to ensure your resume is optimized for them correctly.

How to Include Keywords on a resume.

For example, say a resume for a book keeper has the following phrases throughout the resume:

  • Accounting
  • Bookkeeping
  • Management

The applicant tracking system may develop the following summary based on the usage of those keywords on a resume.

Applicant tracking system keywords

As you see, this is how an ATS analyzes a resume and optimizing yours is important because over 90% of employers use an ATS.

You can see how your resume does in ATS scan with our Free Resume Review.

What keywords should you use on your resume?

You want to ensure that you include the correct keywords in your industry on your resume. The first thing you should do is make a list of keywords that you usually see in a job posting related to your industry.

You also want to ensure you add all your certifications and the major qualifications that are listed in the job postings. For example, a nursing position usually requires a RN certification and a bachelor’s degree. You would need to use the terms Bachelors, BA, RN and “Registered Nurse”.

You should spell out the acronyms because the ATS may be looking for “BA” or “Bachelors” so it’s always a good idea to have both in there.

So for example, an accountant may include the following keywords on a resume as they appear in many job descriptions:

  • Accounting
  • Accountant
  • Microsoft Excel
  • Journal entries
  • Balance sheet
  • CPA (Certified Public Accountant)

As you see above, these are common words that appear in most accounting job postings. A person may be qualified for the job but if they don’t include the correct keywords, the applicant tracking system won’t pass it along for human review.
You should go through a few job postings and see what words come up frequently and include those words on your resume.

Here are the keyword groups you need to include on your resume.

  • Technical Skills
  • Certifications and licenses
  • Soft skills – (e.g. – time management, communication)
  • Action Keywords – (Achieved, implemented, increased)

We’ll get into this in more detail. Don’t worry, we made it super easy to read and follow along!

What other keywords are important for a resume?

You also want to add in some soft skills on your resume. Soft skills are personal traits that allow someone to work effectively and efficiently. They include things like communication, time management, problem solving and teamwork.

You can check out this post for more information on Hard and Soft skills to include on a resume.

Even though an applicant tracking system focuses more on technical skills, it also weights these soft skills. You also have to remember that you want to impress the hiring manager.

There are certain soft skills that are important for each industry as well. For example, good communication, time management and confidence are very important for a salesperson. An accountant may have different soft skills that are important like problem solving, being analytical and organized.

Let’s put this information into action with an example of how to include keywords on a resume. We’ll take Megan who is a Nurse and show you how and where she applied these keywords.

Keywords on resume example

So here are some resume keyword examples:

  • RN
  • Medical Nursing
  • Surgical Nursing
  • Physical Rehabilitation Nursing
  • Compassionate
  • ASN
  • BSN
  • Success

As you see, most of these keywords are hard skills, also known as technical skills. These keywords will probably be found in most nursing job descriptions.

So we included technical keywords related to the industry as well as some soft skills. The last thing is to include action verbs which are also important keywords that need to be included on your resume.

As with soft skills, action verbs aren’t weighted as heavily as hard technical skills but they do have some weight to them.

Action verbs on a resume are more important during a human review. When used correctly, they bring power and strength to your experience. A CareerBuilder Survey of over 2,200 hiring managers found what action verbs they liked to see on a resume.

Here are great examples of the best action keywords to include on a resume:

  • Achieved
  • Improved
  • Trained/Mentored
  • Managed
  • Created
  • Resolved
  • Volunteered
  • Influenced
  • Increased/Decreased
  • Ideas
  • Negotiated
  • Launched
  • Revenue/Profits
  • Under budget
  • Won

These are just a few examples you could use. Here is a great list of more action keywords to include on your resume.

Where to include keywords on a resume?

You should include keywords practically everywhere on your resume. They should be included in your summary, work experience, skills and anywhere else that contains information related to your hard and soft skills.

Remember that the ATS is scanning your resume to see if you have the core qualifications that the job posting is asking for. The candidates that it feels are a good match are sent forward to the hiring managers for human review.

Including a core competencies section is the best way to utilize keywords on a resume. It allows you to easily swap keywords in and out when applying for different positions. Here is a good example of a resume utilizing keywords via a core competencies section:

 

Core Competencies Resume

 

How many keywords should you include on a resume?

There is no correct number on the amount of keywords to use but remember that a human will also review your resume. Your resume should be written for a human with the ATS in mind. Include those keywords that are found in the job descriptions of the positions you’re targeting.

By the way, here is an article we wrote on getting your resume past applicant tracking systems which is really useful.

Some job seekers make the mistake of over-stuffing their resume with keywords in hopes of getting past an applicant tracking system. This won’t work and will usually get your resumes deleted before anyone ever reads it.

Including keywords on a cover letter

Your cover letter is also searched for keywords so this is also a great opportunity to get in some of those awesome keywords.

The problem is that many people use the same keywords from their resume on the cover letter.

While you do want to mention the position and some of your qualifications, make sure you keep it at a minimum. A few of the same keywords won’t do any harm but ensure you don’t use many of the same keywords.

Take a look at the following example of keywords on the cover letter.

Keywords on cover letter example

As you see there are only a handful of keywords here. Keep the usage of keywords short and try not to repeat the same exact words on your resume. You should also check out our awesome article on writing the perfect cover letter.

Tailoring keywords for each job

The last thing we’re going to discuss is the best method for really getting your resume past the systems and into the hands of a hiring manager.

You should always customize each resume to the specific job listing. No, we don’t mean writing a new resume for each posting. What you should do is switch out some of the keywords from the posting into your resume.

You may see that you are qualified for the position but the words they use in the listing aren’t really in the resume. This is where you can switch out some words to include the ones you see in the listing.

For example, if a graphic designer position says their qualifications are:

  • Knowledge of illustrator
  • Strong image retouching abilities
  • Dynamic individual who has energy and enthusiasm

Considering you have the qualifications, you should add some of these keywords into your resume if they’re not already there.

Some of the keywords you would want to add are:

  • Illustrator
  • Image retouching
  • Dynamic
  • Energy or enthusiasm

Remember, you don’t want to copy every keyword but you should definitely mention a good number of them on the resume.

Here are 5 quick tips to remember when choosing your resume keywords:

 

  1. Industry Keywords – Always include keywords that are common in your industry. This should include certifications, licenses and programs you’re familiar with. This ensures that the system understands you are a match for the position you’re applying to.
  2. Keyword stuffing – Avoid using too many keywords in hopes of getting through an ATS. This is considered “keyword stuffing” and may set off a red flag to the ATS.
  3. Use action verbs – The use of action verbs can please both the ATS and a hiring manager. Be sure to use a lot of action words as we outlined above.
  4. Finding keywords – The best place to find keyword ideas are in the job description itself. Look for both hard and soft skills that are desired in the job description and include those on your resume.
  5. Tailor your keywords – As we just mentioned, you want to customize each resume to the job listing. Find the keywords in the listing and mention them in your resume.

Closing thoughts – Keyword usage on your resume and cover letter is very important today. The use of these automated resume scanners has sky rocketed to the point where the majority of midsize and large companies use them.

Look for keyword ideas in the job description itself and remember not to overdo it. ZipJob offers resume writing services that are guaranteed to land more interview. You can check out our services page here.

As always, good luck with your job search!

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