How to Strategically Pick Keywords for Your Resume

Catherine Tabuena
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Did you know employers receive between 75 to 250 resumes per job opening? With so many applicants, most companies - including 98 percent of Fortune 500 companies- use software known as Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) like Oracle Taleo and Workday to assist human resources, recruitment, and hiring processes.

When you apply for a job online, your resume doesn’t go directly to a recruiter. An ATS scans and processes your application first before importing it into a company’s recruitment database. Whether a human recruiter sees your application depends on the quality and density of keywords in your resume. These are words or short phrases that relate to specific job requirements and professional skills. So how do you get your resume past these vexatious ATS robots? The secret is to select and optimize the correct keywords on your resume. Below are ways to strategically pick keywords for your resume.

Identify keywords important to the employer. A Google search may give good descriptive words for resumes, but it will miss out on employer specific ones. You can find the most important keywords on the job listings.

Identify important industry keywords. Build up more keywords by doing industry research. Do a Google search on areas-of-expertise resumes online. If you’re applying for a retail job, search keywords for a retail sales representative resume. Need keywords for skills on an engineering resume? Find them by Googling.

Don’t forget to add your education. Among all the resume keywords, education-related keywords can be what ATS will construe with the most weight. Most job listings require a specific bachelor’s degree or professional certifications. For example, a job post for an accounting manager might ask for a bachelor’s degree in accounting and a CPA license. Not finished with your degree? There’s a way around that, just add accounting-related resume phrases. You can put ‘Completed 6 semesters of Bachelor’s requirement’; ‘Majoring in Accounting’; “Studying for CPA licensure exam”; “Expected graduation in 2021”. By doing this, ATS will pick up on your educational credentials.

Use different names for the same thing. There are many variations of job titles based on company culture, experience levels, and industry.  Some companies even use job title buzzwords to attract creative and younger talent.  Unfortunately, creative job titles are not always optimized for search engines.  It’s perfectly fine to change your “official” job title on your resume.  For example, my previous job was “content creator” for a ghostwriting company, but I wore “content writer” on my resume instead. It’s the same job, but I changed the wording to increase my resume’s searchability. Just be sure the title you choose is closely related and not a stretch. “Content writer” was a good alternative to “content creator”, but “content director” would not have been.

Be as specific as you can. Hiring managers want to know exactly who you are, what you’ve done, and what you can offer. Words like “accounting” and “programming” are too broad.  It’s better to use specific keywords because recruiters will most likely search industry-specific terms, not general ones. Try keywords like tax preparation, accounts receivable, database programming, or GUI design.

Once you’ve picked the right keywords, sprinkle them throughout your resume. Add them to your current and target job titles, location, summary, skills, and experience section of your resume. While you may have to impress a computer software first, you will ultimately deal with real people after scoring an interview. 




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  • Franklin O.
    Franklin O.

    thank you

  • Allvace m.
    Allvace m.


  • Maria R.
    Maria R.

    Thanks you

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