How to Write a Resume
Don't know where to start writing your first resume or need some help improving your current one? This tutorial will go over the basic steps of resume writing, and highlight the key points to remember at each step.
Resume FAQ

How to Choose the Right Keywords for Your Resume

Updated: July 2023

The ideal resume is well-organized and succinctly provides the qualifications and skills you possess that demonstrate your ability to do the job.  However, choosing the best language to convey this information is important.  Identifying and including Keywords from the job description onto your resume will maximize the likelihood that both the ATS software and the hiring manager will want to advance your candidacy.  Many companies depend on the computer algorithm to select viable candidates for a specific position. Recognizing that your resume matches their stated requirements will likely gain recognition. 

However, even if your resume goes directly to a recruiter or hiring manager, they will only spend seconds scanning the relevant background information. Highlighting the Keywords and phrases will make their job easier and potentially set you up for the next step in the recruitment process.  Without the right Keywords, the resume may be passed over.

Learning how to choose the right Keywords to include in your resume is vital.

The question is "How do I choose the right keywords?”

Keywords are specific job-related nouns that describe both the Hard and Soft Skills and qualifications for a job. Often, the most important desired skills will be listed at the top of a job description. Using these Keywords combined with an Action Verb is the best way to demonstrate your accomplishments, and is what both the ATS software and the hiring managers are screening for.

The best approach to identifying actionable Keywords is to analyze the job posts/descriptions for repeated required skills. Analyze job ads for similar jobs.  Review the company’s website, and identify the skills and experience of more senior positions or professionals in similar positions on Linkedin.

Choosing Keywords to describe skills

The Keywords that describe the important skills for the position are those that you will want to incorporate on the resume - assuming they match your experience.  

There are two types of skills-keywords: Credential/Experience Keywords or Hard Skills, and General Skills Keywords, or Soft Skills.  Hard Skills represent the technical experience required to successfully perform the job.  Language such as: Bookkeeping; Programming; Data Analysis; Graphic Design; Bilingual; Financial Analyst; Engineering, are examples of Hard Skills.  They will include typical job titles within the industry and related experience.

General skills, or Soft Skills, are not industry specific words. Typical keywords include: communication, multitasking, teamwork, problem solving, critical thinking, adaptability, work ethic, conflict management, and interpersonal skills.  Most job descriptions will not only list the hard skills required for the job, but also several soft skills.  Assess your prior experience against these words and phrases and include, when appropriate, on the resume.  It is also a good idea to use synonyms of the Keywords, so that you are not always repeating the same word.  Both the ATS system, as well as the Hiring Manager, will easily see your relevant proficiency when you organize the resume properly, and list the skills that match their requirements.

It is never a good idea to simply copy language from a job posting, or exaggerate your expertise, without demonstrating your results. 

Choosing Action Keywords

The verbs you use to describe what you have accomplished in your previous work experiences is the language that will attract the reader. Action verbs show effort plus results.  For example:  "balanced" the budget; "capitalized" on the economic downturn; “led” team to organize seminar; “Reduced expenditures”; “Developed” marketing plan”.

Some Action Keywords and Keyword phrases can be overused.  So carefully choose your language to represent, accurately, the specific responsibilities of your current and past jobs.  Many times, you can express the same idea using different words.  Your goal in choosing Keywords and Keyword phrases for both the ATS and hiring managers is to ensure that your resume meets the stated requirements in a clear, concise and organized format.