How To Find The Right Resume Keywords

Recruiters don’t spend all their time sitting in interviews or on the phone scheduling phone interviews (even though it seems that way). We first work with managers and create a job description that will be used to hopefully attract the best candidate for the job.

Candidates need to realize that job descriptions are very important. Most people read job postings and think it’s only use is to tell the candidate the name of the company and the job title that needs to be filled. Job postings are actually filled with keywords that are used when describing the responsibilities of the role and the qualifications of the candidate. It’s these keywords if used correctly can land you an interview.

What Are Keywords?

Most recruiters only take a few seconds, approximately 15-20 to read a resume and decide if that person should be invited to an interview. How do they decide so quickly? They look for keywords in resumes.

Keywords are words that hiring managers and recruiters look for when searching through hundreds of resumes.
They are words that are used in the job posting to describe the qualifications and experience such as:

  • A minimum of 3 years experience in accounting
  • Experience of managing multiple projects simultaneously
  • Background within an IT/Telecommunications company would be an advantage

Recruiters look for resumes that contain these keywords. Using these keywords increases your chances that your resume matches or fits the job posting and the recruiter will pass it on to the hiring manager.

How To Find And Use Keywords

In order for your resume to stand out from hundreds of others it will need to have keywords that directly targets the job you are applying for. This means you will have to change your resume for each job you apply to.

Before updating your resume you need to look at some job postings. Once you find a few that interest you, you need to find the keywords and use them in your resume.

You can find keywords under the responsibilities section of the job posting and the requirements section. You want to highlight skills, knowledge of specific computer programs, certificates/degrees and of course past work experience.

I’m using this YMCA job description to illustrate some keywords, which are highlighted in red, that can be used in a resume.

    Responsibilities include, but are not limited to:

  • Program planning and curriculum development
  • Workshop development and facilitation
  • Group Management
  • Program related administration
  • Reporting to funder and assisting with grant writing
  • Relationship building with ethnocultural communities
  • Community outreach and participant recruitment
    Qualifications / Requirements
    The person in this position should be/have

  • A post-secondary degree or certificate in a related discipline or equivalent work experience
  • A minimum of 2 years of experience working with youth
  • Experience with curriculum and workshop development
  • Excellent group management and facilitation skills
  • Previous experience working in a summer residential camp an asset
  • Knowledge of the YMCA an asset
  • Outstanding organizational skills
  • Demonstrated intercultural competence
  • Excellent communications skills, including verbal and written fluency in English
  • Excellent computer skills
  • Able to work independently and take initiative
  • A valid driver’s license
  • Fluency in languages other than English an asset
  • First Aid Training an asset

All you need to do now is to take these phrases and expand on them in your cover letter and resume. Highlight them so the company can easily see that you do have the exact qualifications that they are looking for.

Be Specific

When you are looking at a job posting it’s important to pick the keywords that are the best fit for your skills and qualifications. The more specific you are the better chance your resume will be found by the recruiter, passed onto the hiring manager and then you’ll be invited to an interview.

Photo by: janetgalore

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5 thoughts on “How To Find The Right Resume Keywords

  1. February 17, 2011 at 11:31 am

    Lots of people don’t think about things like this they just try to do things in volume and hope for the best. However, you should always try and stand out amongst the 100’s of other resumes and your post does a great job of teaching people how.

    1. February 17, 2011 at 11:46 am

      Thanks for the comment Nick. The pile of resumes that a recruiter normally has to look through is generally pretty high. It is important to stand out with a unique and well written resume.

  2. Dave
    November 15, 2011 at 8:43 pm

    I hear so many different points of view. On one hand I was informed that an eresume can be inconsistant so long as it cleverly has the right key words followed up with an acheivement or function. Then I read a resume must be very well written. Anything well written should be consistant. Right ? With all of this “scanning” done by computer programs how do you really know who is reading it ? I must also ask you if a resume must be pasted in ASCII plain text or attached as a PDF will it still be scanned by a computer ? or is a human being doing the scanning ? Many times I am just asked to upload it without any idea of how it will be viewed. I miss the days of old. Envelope. Stamp. Read by a person. Call a human being in HR to follow up. I am learning as I go ! Thank you for the great site !! P.S. Im trying to find some good keywords for the telecommunicatons industry. The kind a computer program might look for. Thanks again.

    1. November 15, 2011 at 10:04 pm

      Hi Dave,
      First you need to read the instructions on the application on how they want your resume attached if by .pdf or .doc. If you’re sending it directly to a recruiter or person via personal email then I would suggest you use .pdf. As a candidate it’s hard to tell if your resume is being scanned by a computer or a person but I think that is the least of your worries. You don’t want to trick recruiters or be clever on your resume so you get an interview. Even if you succeed and get an interview the recruiter will see that you just embellished your resume and you’re in fact not what they are looking for. A resume needs to be well written so it represents you properly as a professional or expert but also uses industry language and this is where the job description can help. There are hundreds of jobs and job descriptions that you can find to research some good keywords for your resume. In re: to mentioning your education in more than one way, you will definitely appear to be a little odd if under your education section you put B.A. Accounting and Bachelors or Arts in Accounting. If you had a bio/brand in the beginning of your resume I can see you mentioning that you have a B.A. and then again under your education section state that you have Bachelors of Arts degree. That’s a way of stating your education in more than one way but not looking like a crazy person 😉 Hope that helps and if you would like I can take a look at you resume for you. Check you my services page for more information. Thanks for the comment and good luck.

  3. Dave
    November 15, 2011 at 8:47 pm

    An example of that inconsistansy is to mention your education in more than on way. Example. B.A. Accounting and Batchelor of Arts in Accounting. This way your covered for a scan of both versions. If I were reading it I would think the person was an ego maniac or just drunk while preparing it. See the problem ? It seems like an unnecessary risk to me !