But, the reality is, that writing your resume is still a DIY task – and we’re here to prove it. Here we explain in detail – one of the most important components in modern resume writing: Resume Keywords.
This comprehensive guide contains everything about keywords for your resume including:
- Why you should use keywords on your resume
- How to find the right keywords for your resume
- Example keywords for different job descriptions
- Pro tips to pass the ATS test
Meantime, we have a complete solution here for you to write your resume. Our automated resume builder comprises ready-to-fill resume templates that put together your information into a modern resume in less than 10 minutes.
What is the Role of Keywords on Your Resume?
For the good or bad, today’s job market is way different than how it was 5 years ago – demand for all the jobs has gone up making recruiters receive hundreds of applications for each job position – compelling more companies to adopt applicant tracking systems to shortlist candidates.
Applicant Tracking System (ATS): is software that assists recruiters and employers in their hiring process. The main function of the software is to shortlist the resumes based on the set parameters – what we call keywords. In addition, ATS undertakes job description generation, advertising, shortlisting, and interview scheduling – a total recruitment solution.
For instance, if the recruiter receives 100 resumes for a particular job posting, they upload or scan them to the system. The ATS is first set up with the keywords based on the job description – keywords are also given weightage based on their importance – which we call keyword density.
If the recruiter expects only to check 20 resumes manually, before calling 5 candidates for interviews, the system provides the exact number of resumes that best suit the set guidelines – saving hours for the recruiter – also making the whole recruitment process faster.
Even if you have the required professional experience and academic qualifications, your resume might still not reach a human eye if it does not have the important keywords for the job – not that you’re not qualified for the job – just that your resume is not good enough to pass the ATS.
Now, forget the ATS if you’re applying for a local business that might not use a system for shortlisting. Hiring managers are busy people. They spend less than 10 seconds on a resume on average – the same document you spent days creating and optimizing.
Hiring managers don’t read – they scan. They are no better than ATS, to be honest. With years of experience, they scan your resume in a couple of seconds for the important keywords. Here you need to be extra careful to put the right keywords in the right places to make sure the hiring manager picks them.
Now, you should understand that you have to write your resume to satisfy both the robot and the human.
Type of Keywords on Your Resume
There are mainly two types of resume keywords you should be aware of:
- Primary keywords
- Secondary keywords
Primary keywords refer to those that are essentially the most important keywords related to the job listing – not including these on your resume would most likely toss your resume away from the ATS.
Secondary keywords refer to those that are related to the job listings but are having a lesser importance ranking. However, these are the keywords that make you stand out from the rest.
Where to Find the Relevant Keywords for Your Resume?
In this complete guide to resume keywords, you could find the most sought-after keywords by the recruiters for different professions.
Apart from that, you may use the following sources:
Job Ad or job description
Consider the following example job advertisement posted on LinkedIn.
Example job advertisement for a marketing manager (we have highlighted the keyword for your reference):Now, this example is a fairly detailed version of a job ad – it contains everything you need to include on your resume and cover letter. Do not worry if your job advertisement does not have such a detailed description – use other sources as well in such cases.
When you check the advertisement, make a list of all the keywords – and divide them into primary and secondary keyword categories.
You don’t have to include all the keywords – however, try to include all the primary keywords on the resume.
Company Website and the Internet
Go to the company website or their career blog and check the industry they are in, new projects coming up, and the trends in the market – also, check the vision, mission, and the about section to extract the values of the business and its future direction.
Google the position you’re applying for – you’ll find plenty of keywords, job descriptions, job advertisements, and forums where people discussed the topic.
Where to List Keywords on Your Resume?
Until the ATS tests your resume, it doesn’t actually matter where you put the keywords – but when it goes through the ATS and gets to the hiring manager’s hands, it matters.
For the safe side, we should know where to include the resume keywords in a way that is visible to both the system and the human eyes.
These are the sections you should consider:
- Resume Header
- Professional Summary
- Additional sections
It’s almost all the sections, right? That’s how powerful the resume keywords are!
Let’s see how we could incorporate keywords in each of these sections with examples:
1. Resume Header
The header of your resume contains your name and contact information – personal details – so what makes the header contain any keywords?
The header contains a valuable keyword: the job title. Include the title of the position you are applying for. Make sure you use the same position name as mentioned in the job advertisement.
Consider the following resume header for a retail manager position:
You could have used assistant manager or store manager instead of retail manager – just use the same title as they have.
2. Professional Summary
The professional summary is a two-sentence summary about the candidate – includes key achievements and accomplishments – and explains why you are the best candidate for the job.
Consider the following example professional summary for a truck driver (keywords are highlighted in BOLD)
Primary keywords: CDL-A/ CDL-A Certified, CDL-A Licensed, heavy vehicle, long-distance
Secondary keywords: clean driving record(s), client satisfaction, on-time delivery
3. Experience section
The experience section is typically the most important section on any resume. However, most experience sections candidates often write are no more different than the standard job descriptions.
You should write your achievements on the jobs instead of copying your roles and responsibilities listed on the job description – while doing this, include relevant primary and secondary keywords naturally.
Consider the following example experience section for a store manager’s resume.Primary keywords: retail sales, sales target(s), merchandising, visual merchandising, gross profit margin, profit margin
Secondary keywords: Assisted a team, led a team, website sales, web sales, lead time, customer satisfaction score (rating), floor planning, inbound and outbound logistics
4. Education section
The education section on your resume highlights the academic qualifications you have gathered over years. The job ad usually specifies the academic qualifications the recruiter expects for the position.
For certain high-skilled jobs such as medical professionals, engineers, and lawyers, these academic qualifications are mandatory – they fall into primary keywords on their resumes.
For most other professions, though the job ad mentions the ideal academic qualifications for the candidate, they fall under secondary keywords – not mandatory or deciding factors for the shortlisting.
Consider the following examples:
Example 01: Education section for a Medical Doctor’s resumePrimary keywords: Doctor of Medicine, Bachelor’s of Science in Biology
Secondary keywords: clinical procedures, human biology, disease process, genetics, molecular biology, human anatomy
Example 02: Education section for a secretary resumePrimary keywords: Bachelor’s degree, Microsoft office suite
Secondary keywords: business administration, database management, management accounting, management reporting, business strategy
5. Skills section
The skills section of a resume should comprise a mix of soft skills, hard skills, and IT skills relevant to the position. This is a great section to write a list of important keywords to increase the keyword density of your resume.
Consider the following example skills section for a Truck driver’s resume:
6. Additional sections
Additional sections on the resume are used to get extra attention from the hiring manager for the key information – they also provide the supplementary support required to get your resume shortlisted in case you’re lacking the core experience.
Additional sections could be anything that adds value to your candidacy – skill certifications, computer skills, interests, and languages are some of the commonly used sections.
For instance, for a truck driver’s resume, Commercial Driving License (CDL) class A certification would be considered a primary keyword. Even if you have included the same keyword in your experience section, repeating it under a separate section would get more attention while increasing the keyword density.
A Complete List of Keywords for any Industry or Job Position
Here we have created a job-winning list of resume keywords that you can use to create yours. Do not copy and paste them, but use them as a guide to writing your resume.
Keywords for Administrative jobs: secretary, administrative assistants, HR executivesCheck out these complete resume examples:
Keywords for engineers: mechanical, civil, electricalCheck out these complete resume examples:
Keywords for healthcare jobs: nurses, doctors, physician assistants
Check out these complete resume examples:
Keywords for food service jobs: hostess, cashiers, sales assistantCheck out these complete resume examples:
Keywords for creative jobs: graphic designers, photographers
Check out these complete resume examples:
Keywords for sales and marketing positionsCheck out these complete resume examples:
Keywords for IT professionals: Software engineering, data analyticsCheck out these complete resume examples:
Keywords for managerial positionsCheck out these complete resume examples:
Keywords for industrial operations: manufacturing, logistics, warehousingCheck out these complete resume examples:
Keywords for accounting and finance positionsCheck out these complete resume examples:
A List of Soft Skills You could Include on Your Resume
Hiring managers include a list of soft skills they’re looking for in the job advertisement and enter the same into the ATS.
Anyone can put up a list of soft skills on their resume. Then why do they care about soft skills?
The hiring manager expects the candidate to identify their skills and match them with what is required to outperform in the job.
Keywords You Shouldn’t be Using on Your Resume
You can seriously damage your resume score by using the wrong keywords.
Usually hiring managers do not include negative keywords in the ATS – in other words, they don’t provide instructions to the ATS to reject resumes. Therefore, wrong keywords wouldn’t damage your ATS score – but, it would affect the manual screening. The hiring manager would judge the candidate’s profile, personality, and attitude with the word selection.
Avoid Boss Positions
Don’t include CEO, Owner, Founder, Co-founder, or Entrepreneur – if you’re talking about your solo practice or the startup .
On one hand, these positions will make the hiring manager feel that the candidate is overqualified for the position – that the candidate would not be willing to work under a manager or not fit into a team if they’ve already held a top decision making role in a company.
On the other hand, being the CEO of your startup would look too fancy for the hiring manager if you haven’t reached that position through the ladder – step-by-step. For instance, if your experience section starts with 3 years of sales assistant work and all of a sudden you’re the CEO of your own hardware equipment company – it’s not impossible, but would attract the hiring manager’s negative thought.
Instead, you could put your position as a general manager, marketing manager, or operations manager in your own company which would bring more value to your resume.
Cut Industry Jargons and Acronyms
If you’re applying for a position in an industry that is different from your previous work, do not just include the acronyms or industry jargon.
For example, if you’re applying for a manufacturing or industrial environment, JIT would be a known term. Imagine, being a marketing manager in a manufacturing organization, now you are applying for an IT company. Instead of putting JIT, it would be more valuable if you put it as Just-in-time. Moreover, your resume would be checked by an HR manager in most cases – explaining the industry-specific keywords in detail would be beneficial.
Bragging is never going to help you
The American-style resume allows candidates to brag to a certain extent. However, excessive bragging would create a negative picture in the hiring manager’s head. Don’t call yourself the exceptional, professional, super-qualified, unparalleled candidate – let your experience and education talk.
Avoid These Keyword Mistakes
There was a practice among some candidates to hide important keywords on their resume with white text. This text wouldn’t be visible on your resume though help you pass the ATS test. You could put a couple of keywords that you’re not qualified to use without getting noticed by the recruiter.
This used to work.
But not anymore!
Now, the ATS is developed to identify white text and any unusual keyword activities on the resumes – instantly rejecting them from the system.
You should write your resume for a human to read, understand, and make a decision about your professional profile – not for a robot to count the number of keywords – stuffing your resume with keywords will do more harm than good.
Modern ATS is capable of identifying well-written resumes. More you optimize your resume for the industry, company, and the position you’re applying for, it would eventually be pushed to the top of the pile.
Identify the right keywords and include them naturally on your resume to get the full benefit of resume keywords.
- Having keywords on your resume helps you pass the ATS and the hiring manager’s manual screening to get more interviews.
- Primary keywords save your resume from rejection while secondary keywords make it stand out from the rest.
- The keywords you should include on your resume varies on the position you apply for, the industry you will be working on, and the company culture.
- Start your resume keyword research from the job advertisement and extend it to the company website, industry news, and online forums to create a comprehensive list of keywords.
- Include keywords in every section of your resume: header, professional summary, experience, education, skills, and additional sections.
Can I include an unfinished Bachelor’s Degree on my resume?
Yes, you can. You shouldn’t lie on your resume – but you can mention the level you have completed in your degree or the course. For instance, put the expected graduation year with the degree.
Should I include resume keywords on my cover letter?
Most recruiters do not run cover letters through ATS. They will first pick the ATS passed resumes and read the respective cover letters. However, including key phrases on your cover letter would help it align with the resume and further stimulate the hiring manager to meet you.
How many resume keywords should I include?
There’s no specific number as such. You may include as many resume keywords as you wish provided that you’re qualified to use them, they add value to your profile, and they are related. Prioritize natural variations overstuffing keywords.