How to Use Resume Keywords and Phrases

In this digital age, it’s more important than ever to effectively recognize and use keywords. This is especially true with your resume. So, if you’re currently applying for jobs, take a few moments to read about resume keywords and how you can use them to land your dream job.

What Are Resume Keywords and Phrases?

If you’re familiar with SEO, you probably already know what keywords are. In the context of resumes, keywords are the language you use to describe your skills, abilities, qualifications, and experience.

These are the words and phrases that recruiters will be looking for when screening applicants for a particular position. For an editing job, for example, you might expect to come across keywords like these:

  • Detail-oriented
  • 2+ years’ experience
  • Communication skills
  • IT competency
  • CIEP-accredited
  • Experience using Google Workspace

Of course, the specific keywords and phrases you use will depend on the exact position you’re applying for.

Why Are They Important?

Keywords and phrases play an important role in your resume because employers are increasingly relying on Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS).

These systems scan every application for multiple job-relevant keywords. They even measure factors like the importance and frequency of keywords used, which allows them to rank resumes based on how skillfully the keywords have been integrated.

Even if the business or organization you’re applying to doesn’t make use of an ATS, keywords are important, as they enable recruiters to quickly identify whether or not you possess the skills they’re looking for.

They also show an employer that you’ve thoroughly read and understood the job description, which is where you’ll find most of the necessary keywords and phrases.

How to Identify Relevant Keywords

The first step to identifying relevant keywords is to look at the job listing. As you read, make a list of any:

  • Skills described in the first paragraph or section, as these will usually be the most important or relevant ones.
  • Specific, powerful verbs that relate to a skill, employer expectation, or previous work experience (e.g., “We’re looking for a brand leader who can champion our cause,” “Candidates must have experience coordinating remote teams”).
  • Combinations of nouns and verbs that act as key phrases.

Once you’ve found keywords and phrases from the job description, repeat the process with similar job adverts. This will allow you to identify keywords that are repeated or come up most often, and thus are the most important within your desired line of work.

How to Incorporate Keywords into Your Resume

Once you’ve identified the keywords you should be using, it’s time to include them in your resume. Here are our top three tips on how to do so:

1. Spread Your Keywords Out

Ignoring keywords will cause your resume to get lost in the crowd. On the other hand, overfilling it with as many keywords as you can (or keyword stuffing) is frowned on by most recruiters and will likely result in your application being sent to the bottom of the pile.

Instead, scatter your keywords and phrases throughout your resume, and refer to them in your introduction, skills, achievements, experience, and qualifications sections.

2. Make Your Keywords Specific

Recruiters rely on specific rather than broad phrases to identify the right candidates. An online marketing company, for example, will be looking for someone who can “produce website copy in line with the brand voice,” not just “write content.”

For this reason, you should narrow your keywords down to something specific, such as your full job title or exact role in a project. The job description will help you here.

3. Match the Keyword Wording

In addition to using the keywords you’ve identified from the job description, it’s also important to use the same exact tense, spelling, and wording of those keywords. This is because ATS scanners look for the exact wording they’ve been programmed to identify and won’t recognize synonyms or other ways of saying the same thing.

For example, if the job description states that you must have “SEO experience,” don’t write “experienced in search engine optimization.”

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