Resumes

Top Resume Keywords

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Applicant tracking systems, or ATS, have changed the way employers look at resumes. With a massive pile of resumes to look through, hiring managers often don’t have the time to personally examine each one. Instead, they’ll narrow down the list by using applicant tracking systems to search for important keywords. Only resumes with the appropriate keywords will be examined further. Learn about the top resume keywords you can use to ensure your resume survives the applicant tracking system.

What are resume keywords?

Resume keywords are the important words that employers search for when scanning resumes for the best candidates. Resumes containing these keywords will be up for further consideration, while those without will be set aside. This saves employers time and shortens the hiring process, so it’s becoming a more common practice. Resume keywords often reference hard skills, but soft skills may also be included for certain jobs.

Related: Words to Avoid and Include on a Resume

Popular resume keywords list

Here is a list of some of the most popular keywords that employers search for:

Design

Design is one of the most common keywords employers are looking for. Whether you use this word to describe a job title or an accomplishment you achieved at a previous position, it will demonstrate your ability as an innovator, especially when you frame it as a redesign.

Operations

The word ‘operations’ can be used in a variety of contexts. You could describe your managerial skills in overseeing operations or your design skills in crafting an operations procedure. Either way can be beneficial to include depending on the details of the job description.

Technical

Technical skills and technical job titles can be useful to include for positions looking for someone with specific hard skills. The word itself can be applied to a variety of skills and accomplishments, so use it when it’s relevant and is true to your experience.

Sales

Since businesses generally have goods or services to sell, many positions are at least tangentially related to sales. A candidate with experience in sales can be a great fit even for positions that don’t involve sales, as sales experience demonstrates effective communication skills.

Marketing

Using ‘marketing’ as a keyword demonstrates that you may have skills or experience in understanding what customers want. Being able to relate to customers puts you in a better position to excel at most jobs whether you’re marketing directly, providing support or even creating products.

Analytical

Using ‘analytical’ in your resume typically demonstrates that you’re a problem-solver. Employers want candidates who are able to find solutions to complex problems and spot potential issues before they get out of hand.

Budget

Employers need candidates who can bring value to their business, and that means finding candidates who can stay well within budget. You can implement this keyword by describing past accomplishments in which you solved a budget issue or completed a project within budgetary restrictions.

Customer service

Besides customer service positions, many other jobs look for ‘customer service’ as a resume keyword as well. Customer service skills translate to communication skills, which are effective in any working environment, even if it doesn’t require interaction with customers or clients at all.

Certification

Certifications go a long way with some positions, and you’ll find employers that won’t even consider candidates without the necessary qualifications. It’s always a good idea to list relevant certifications to the position you’re applying for.

Microsoft Office

Many jobs require a general knowledge of Microsoft Office programs, with Word and Excel being the most common. This is such a basic requirement in today’s job market that a resume scan for Microsoft Office that doesn’t turn up any results may disqualify an applicant outright.

How to find the right keywords for a job

Finding the right keywords to put in a resume depends on what position the resume is being crafted for. Your keywords must be specifically catered to the position you’re applying for in order for your resume to receive consideration. 

Here’s how to find the right keywords for a job:

1. First, determine what’s important to the employer

First, read the job description. The description will contain several important keywords that highlight exactly what the employer is looking for. It will often clearly state the skills and competencies applicants should have. By listing those among your other relevant skills, you’ll already be using some of the most important keywords.

2. Then, determine what’s important to the industry

It’s always best to go beyond simply regurgitating the expectations listed in the job description. Research resume keywords for the industry, and include the ones you possess in your resume. This will demonstrate you have a well-rounded array of skills and experiences suitable for the position.

3. Finally, remember to use active voice

Once you’ve found the keywords relevant to a position, implement them using active voice. Imagine the keyword in question is ‘designed.’ Use active voice to say something such as, ‘Designed new database procedure,’ rather than a passive statement such as, ‘New database procedure designed by me.’

Tweaking good keywords for a resume

When reviewing your keywords for a resume, it’s good practice to tweak the keywords you already have rather than focusing entirely on inputting more. This typically means utilizing synonyms for skills you already plan to list. For example, a job description may mention that it requires Microsoft Office skills. If your resume lists Microsoft Word and Microsoft Excel but doesn’t list the term Microsoft Office specifically, an ATS could eliminate your resume from consideration even though you actually meet that qualification.

You could also consider renaming your previous job titles if the job description calls for specific experience or is for a specialized position. Many job titles mean essentially the same thing, so consider how the job is worded on the description. For example, ‘writer’ can often be replaced with ‘creator,’ and ‘manager’ can potentially be replaced with ‘director.’ Think about what keywords the description is asking for, but make sure the word you select doesn’t misrepresent your actual previous work experience. 

By using great keywords for a resume, you’ll be in a much better position for making it past the ATS and leaving an impression on any potential employer.

Related: How to Write a Resume Employers Will Notice