How to Use Key Words In Your Resume

Employers are busy, and for every position they advertise, they receive hundreds of resumes.  Since nobody has time to carefully review that many resumes, employers use keywords to help sift through them.  In some cases, they manually go through the stack of resumes and pull out those with relevant skills and experience.  In other cases, the employer will have an automated screener to do it for them.  With so many employers today trying to save time and money, it is more important than ever to make sure that your resume is keyword rich.

How do you find good keywords?  

Each industry and position has its own keywords.  The best way to identify ideal keywords is to pull ten job advertisements for the targeted position and  highlight words that are repeatedly used.  These words are usually nouns that refer to your hard skills.  They can include certifications, technical terms, computer programs, or industry buzzwords.  By using these keywords, you are communicating to the employer that you have a good understanding of the industry.  Remember to keep your keywords focused on what the employer is looking for, as it may be different from the skills that you value the most.

How should you work keywords into your resume?

Some job seekers fall into the trap of dumping keywords into their own section, without any context or explanation.  Since you are mentioning skills without providing any additional information, the employer may assume that you don’t actually possess the skills.  Also, it is obvious that you have included a keyword section to target the automated screeners.  If the rest of your resume does not support the skills that you listed in your keyword section, this approach can appear tacky, and even dishonest.  It is better to work keywords into your descriptions of job duties, your objectives, or a detailed skills summary.    

What are action words?  

Action words are verbs that make your skills and experiences sound stronger and more dynamic.  For example, you could say: “Worked with different departments”, or “Collaborated with different departments”.  While both statements essentially have the same meaning, the second sentence has a little more sizzle.  Visit the link below, and compare the list of action words with your resume.  See if there are any boring terms in your resume that can be replaced with action words. 

What are quantitative accomplishments? 

Quantitative accomplishments provide enough detail so that the employer is able to evaluate your successes.  Some examples of quantitative accomplishments are:  “Increased website traffic by 50% over a 6 month period.”, “Received an ‘extremely satisfied’ rating from 95% of respondents”, or “Modified the system to save three work days per month.”  Anybody can say that they have strong marketing skills, excellent customer service skills, or that they are great problem solvers.  However, by providing supporting details, you will stand out by proving it.  It is always better to show the employer your strengths, than it is to tell them.

Looking for a job is always tough, but today’s job seekers have the additional challenge of creating a resume that is effective for both a human and an automated screener.  The secret is to never lose sight of the employer’s perspective.  If you are always thinking like an employer, you will stay on the right track.

(Written by: Karen Bivand, Photo From: StuartMiles/


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