How to Choose Keywords for Your Resume

October 18, 2013

ResumeIt’s tough out there for job hunters. If you are looking for a new job, you need to make your resume stand out. And one way to do that is to include keywords. Not only can the right keywords on your resume cue a human resume reader to your fitness for a position, but they can also be helpful if some sort of digital filtering process is used.

Including keywords on your resume indicates that you understand the position and that you are qualified for it. If you want want to send the right impression to a potential employer, you need to include keywords.

Use Keywords that Reflect Your Skills

First of all, consider your skills. What are your strengths? What have you done in previous positions? As you ponder this information, remember to include any job titles, professional organization memberships, jargon, words used to describe certain job responsibilities, certifications and degrees, and types of services. If you know that you will need to show your proficiency with certain software programs, list what packages you can competently use. Consider other skills that you have, including soft skills that might prove useful.

Write down these words that describe you and keep them in mind. These are words that might match a job description!

Read Job Descriptions

Next, go through the job postings to find positions that suit your qualifications. You can look at old and new postings, and even postings that you don’t intend to apply for. You will likely notice that certain words are used over and over again in ads for similar positions. Note those keywords, since they are the likeliest candidates for inclusion on your resume.

You should also look at the specific job description that you plan to apply for. What skills, certifications, and past experience are required for the position? Make sure you use words that show how you fit well with that position. Your resume should include something that highlights all of the qualifications listed in the job description. Make a list of a few words that appear prominent and important in describing the qualifications of the successful candidate. Then, match up those with the words that describe you. Tweak if necessary to ensure that your skills fit the keywords that you plan to use but be honest!

Inserting the Keywords in Your Resume

Rather than simply listing duties and responsibilities, you should make an effort to show dynamism. This means using action verbs that show you doing something. Pair your keywords with an action verb. This shows that you have accomplished something solid. Simply sharing a responsibility isn’t nearly as interesting as showing what you’ve accomplished. Additionally, the old list format doesn’t really allow you to focus on keywords. Rework your resume so that each qualification starts out with an action word, and remember to add keywords that highlight your expertise.

Also, realize that you can include keywords in the headings for various sections, as well as in other areas. Don’t forget, too, to add keywords to your cover letter. With a little planning, you can identify the keywords that are most likely to be associated with a qualified candidate and tweak your resume so that you appear to be close to the ideal person for the position.

What keywords would you use to describe yourself and your abilities? Leave a comment!

This article was originally published September 28, 2012.


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Miranda writes about personal finance almost every day. An experienced freelance writer, she's covered your money online and in print from every angle and is always looking for new ones.

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