Should you put interests and hobbies on a resume? Learn the answer to this question, and pick up 5 tips that will help you do it right.
Resume keywords are words or phrases in your resume hiring managers or Applicant Tracking Systems look for. They scan your resume looking for the skills, abilities, and qualities that are mentioned in the job posting.
Blah blah blah blah 5 years professional graphic design experience blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah Proficient in Adobe Photoshop CC blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah Image database management skills blah blah blah blah blah blah...
Those highlighted words? These are resume keywords.
The rest is pretty much your resume.
This is exactly what recruiters and hiring managers see when they read your resume.
Don't have the right resume keywords? The employer will move on to someone who more-closely matches their tastes.
So, how do we find the best resume keywords and phrases?
Keep reading! We’ll go through this together, step-by-step from beginning to end. You’ll soon know what resume keywords to use to finally get that dream job.
This keywords for resumes guide will show you:
- Action verbs and resume keywords to use. Plus, what resume buzzwords to avoid.
- How to include keywords in resumes, cover letters, and emails for greatest impact.
- What is a scannable resume and how to pass the ATS resume test.
- The best way to determine what keywords to add to your resume to land the interview.
Want to save time and have your resume ready in 5 minutes? Try our resume builder. It’s fast and easy to use. Plus, you’ll get ready-made content to add with one click. See 20+ resume templates and create your resume here.
Example of a resume making use of resume keywords—See more templates and create your resume here.
Resume Keywords: What’s the Big Deal?
There are ~250 applicants for typical corporate job openings. That’s too much for a human to handle, so recruiters rely on Applicant Tracking Software (ATS), which we'll explain in more detail in a moment.
Screening software such as this gets the job done in a second by scanning for resume keywords. Did you pass the ATS resume-scanning test?
Don’t get excited just yet. Hiring managers take roughly 6 seconds scanning each surviving resume.
Guess how they get the job done so fast. Exactly. They look for resume keywords, too.
What are resume keywords? Resume keywords are position-related expressions which describe experience, skills, and traits.
Be careful: Optimizing resumes involves more than just adding keywords. It also means omitting bad ones.
How many resume keywords? The general rule is 25-30 resume keywords. Don’t spam the bots and their human overlords.
What keywords should I use? Read on to find out!
Pro Tip: Make sure everything’s spelled correctly. Misspellings often look worse than inexperience.
Want to make sure your resume will hook every recruiter and get you that interview? Get our free checklist and learn what makes a job-winning resume: 46 Things You Need To Do Before You Send Your Resume
Identify What’s Important to the Employer
There was this girl I liked back in high school.
I knew this girl enjoyed volleyball and loathed US Gov. But, everyone else knew that, too.
Bringing these points up would have been just as lame as commenting on the weather.
So, how to impress?
Love prospects remain a mystery, but employers will help you out. Just read the job posting:
It’s like the perfect OKCupid profile!
Googling gives good descriptive words for resumes (blue-highlighted), but we’d miss employer-specific ones (yellow-highlighted).
Most important resume keywords come from job listings.
Just one important note: Resume keywords aren’t magic words you have to use no matter what. Don’t lie! You’ll crash and burn in a blaze of unemployment glory, quickly.
Where should you add these resume keywords?
In the following sections, we’ll look at how to strategically place resume keywords in all the important places: in the resume summary, objective statement, experience section, education, skills, and even in the cover letter and email.
One Resume Keyword You Must Always Use—
What’s the best resume keyword? The company name.
And the right job title. But you know that already!
Add it in the heading statement (cover letter, too, but we’ll talk about that shortly), which is the resume summary or resume objective:
Personable customer service representative with 2+ years expertise in fast-paced call center environment. Achieved company-highest satisfaction rating according to surveys (99.36%). Seeking to advance career with the team at Carson Logistics.
Friendly customer service rep for the last 2 years. With my knowledge of phone and email support systems, I hope to join a valuable company for a rewarding career.
The right example is personalized and includes one of your most important searchable keywords. The wrong example’s made for mass-delivery. Use it and prepare for mass-rejection.
Pro Tip: Use a job description keyword finder for resumes such as Jobscan which’ll give your resume a free ATS scan. They often provide resume wording examples, too.
Got the company’s name? Great! That’s one of the best keywords for resume scanners and resume keywords generators. Complete the resume objective: 20+ Resume Objective Examples - Use Them On Your Resume (Tips) or resume summary: How To Write A Resume Summary: 21 Best Examples You Will See
Don’t Forget Your Education
That’s right. Of the types of keywords in resume writing, education can be some of what the ATS will parse with most weight:
See this example? You’ll need a bachelor’s degree, but they’ll also look for computer science-related resume phrases.
Not finished yet?
- Completed ¾ Bachelor’s requirements.
- Majoring in Computer Science.
- Expected graduation 2020.
See? We’ve got the “bachelor’s degree” resume keywords employers look for in there!
Want more advice on keywords to use in a resume education section? See this guide: How to Put Your Education on Resume [Tips & Examples]
Identifying What’s Important to the Industry
You’ve identified some ideal resume keywords from the job listing - good work!
However, those can’t be all the resume keywords that you use. It would be like me telling that girl I liked that I enjoy every single thing that she likes - suspicious and borderline-stalkery, no?
Now it’s time to build up the rest of our character by doing some industry research.
Where do we begin? An areas-of-expertise resume keywords search through Google works wonders:
Applying for an airline’s cabin crew? Google keywords for a flight attendant resume.
Need keywords for skills on an IT resume? Google those, too.
However! Use the resulting list of skill keywords as guide, not gospel.
Take this excerpt of business manager resume keywords, for example: you could have 10 years of related manufacturing experience, but you probably do not. Don’t copy-paste!
Where do you put these resume keywords? If you have hands-on experience, mention them in the work experience section. You can also do the same when talking about your education, if applicable.
Here’s an example of how that could look on the final resume, with keywords in the resume’s experience section and education section:
See that? We inserted hospitality and customer service resume keywords throughout the relevant sections.
If you’ve no quantifiable way to show skills and experience keywords, include a skills section that gives a general idea of your knowledge (and also some resume keywords!):
Pull from both the soft & hard skills lists. Hard skills are specific abilities & know-how (Photoshop). Soft skills are self-developed, life-learned attributes (adaptability). (By the way, if you want other definitions like this, check out our helpful HR glossary of terms.)
Again, no lying! This will see you out the door, lickety-split. Now you’ve got a general list of skills and qualities to grab the manager’s attention, and a specific list of personal skills from the job listing to keep it.
Pro Tip: If there are resume keywords you believe more important than others, increase its “keyword density” by using more.
Like this resume keywords guide? We’ve a list of good skills to put on a resume: 30 Best Examples of What Skills to Put on a Resume (Proven Tips)
When making a resume in our builder, drag & drop bullet points, skills, and auto-fill the boring stuff. Spell check? Check. Start building your resume here.
When you’re done, Zety’s resume builder will score your resume and tell you exactly how to make it better.
Where To Put Keywords On Your Resume
So, we’ve gone through resume keywords from A to Z, from all the sections on your resume through to your cover letter and email.
Now, I’d like to briefly reiterate how to use these keywords for resumes and where to put them:
In the Resume Heading Statement (Summary or Objective)
Add the company’s name to make it personalized:
... Seeking a position with Acme Incorporated which utilizes...
Identify some resume keywords from the job listing to strengthen your case:
Personable customer service representative with 2+ years expertise in fast-paced call center environment
In the Resume Experience Section
Use keywords from the job description to show that you are familiar with the tools they would want you to use
In the Resume Education Section
- State your major (and minor) instead of just saying “B.A.”
- Check the job listing again; they may want you to list related coursework - and yes, these are resume keywords they might look for:
In the Resume Skills Section
Add skills for those that you have no way of quantifying. List relevant skills to show them how broad your skill set is for their industry:
Now, time to learn why resume keywords really matter.
Resume Keywords & the ATS
Recruiters are getting more and more applications these days, and that number will only continue to increase. How can they keep up with the flood of job applicants?
By outsourcing some of the work to the robots. That’s right - robots.
In this case, robots mean the ATS, or the Applicant Tracking System, which is software that hiring managers can use to help them sift through resumes and identify those with particular resume keywords.
Here's how the ATS works:
- Manager scans resumes into computer.
- Manager gives ATS keywords to look for.
- ATS reads resumes, looking for keywords.
- ATS sorts and grades resumes based on keywords.
- According to score, hiring manager will/won’t call applicant for interview.
While they’re getting better, they remain outdated and buggy. Most don’t yet compensate for spelling variations.
For example, MA in Investigative Journalism could be M.A. or Master of Arts. So search LinkedIn to find the most common spellings.
For example, AvidCareerist performed a study:
- About 6K users use C.P.A., but a whopping 862K members use CPA.
- About 1.1M go with M.B.A., but 3M members use MBA.
You need to make your resume scannable to help them out: Mirror the wording of the job ad. Use key phrases verbatim, but don’t just copy and paste everything from the ad.
Pro Tip: Increase chances further by adding more than one variation of a given resume keyword: I have a Master of Business Administration (MBA)...
Don’t Forget to Use Keywords On Your Email & Cover Letter
To whom it may concern...
Though formal and valid, it also feels cold and impersonal, like how commoners might’ve addressed the gentry in the Dark Ages.
You don't want that. You want to make the recruiter feel nice and comfortable. How do you that?
Easy. Use the best resume keyword - their name. It’s a personal touch, likely granting you more than the typical six seconds scanning your resume. It shows you took time researching them and that you’re not just spamming your resume everywhere.
Another super-important keyword for resumes:
Did you catch that? Does the job description require something specific in the subject line? Don’t forget the position title is a critical resume keyword!
Pro Tip: Drop their name in the beginning: “I’m super interested in working at [COMPANY-NAME] because...” See? Feels much more personalized.
Dangerous Instances of Keywords You Need To Avoid
There are also some dangerous keywords. Whether it paints a negative picture or is just TMI, here are keywords you need to avoid:
Results-oriented professional with unparalleled passion, dedication, and drive seeking to utilize industry-proven track record and go-getting attitude to land a lucrative career...
What does that even mean? A few of those power keywords and resume buzzwords here and there sound great. But if you stuff it to the gills with every industry and corporate buzzword out there, you’ll end up hurting your chances instead.
Avoid calling yourself the best of this or exceptional at that. Let your experience and qualifications speak for themselves. No one likes braggers.
At a previous job working with cell phones, we made up words for our own benefit. The Nexus phone, for example, we pluralized as Nexi (like cactus to cacti). Nexus is easily understood. Nexi wouldn’t be recognized by the ATS or hiring manager.
Too-Impressive Past Positions
LinkedIn gives 4 words to avoid: Founder, Entrepreneur, CEO, & Owner. These signal overall management, raising flags—
Would she fit well here when she’s been the boss previously? Include these only if you must (e.g., parallel position).
Pro Tip: Look through your resume & see if “boring” words are overused. Replace these for more of a kick.
There are more than important resume keywords to avoid when preparing your application: 6 Tips on How to Tailor Your Resume to a Job Description (Examples)
Resume Wording: Use Active Voice
We want your resume actively considered, and active voice is important towards this goal.
Passive Voice vs Active Voice
Managed homewares department.
Homewares department was managed by me.
See the difference? The first is concise and to-the-point; the second seems evasive and less-clear.
Active voice is preferred on resumes. We use them to actively describe your main tasks and achievements.
Want more on choosing action verbs, resume keywords, and a resume action word list? Take a gander: 80+ Examples of Resume Action Words for Every Profession
750+ Resume Keywords: A List of Words to Use for Any Industry
Here are more than 750 resume keywords grouped into industry and trade categories. Click to navigate to your profession.
Accounting & Finance Resume Keywords
accounts payable, accounts receivable, assets, audit, bid/ask, bonds, branch operations, calculation, capital, collections, commercial banking, consumer, corporate tax, cost accounting, cost/benefit analysis, credit analysis, debt financing, deposit, E-Trade, Excel,FILO, financial analysis, financial planning, foreign exchange, global banking, international financing, investment, investor relations, job costing, letters of credit, leveraged buyout, loan, loss, numbers, operating budgets, portfolio, profits, recovery, return on equity, return on investment, revenue, risk management, securities, shareholder, spreadsheet, stock, trade, treasury, trust, turnaround
Creative & Cultural Resume Keywords
Adobe, art, awareness, Behance, bibliography, collection, color, commission, conference, creative, CSS, design, gallery, grant, ideation, Illustrator, InDesign, lecture, packaging, Photoshop, Pinterest, portfolio, presentation, preservation, print, residency, Sketch, typography, visual, web design, workshop
Education & Learning Resume Keywords
administration, advisor, classroom, coach, counsel, course, curriculum, education, discipline, field instruction, grant, holistic learning, inclusive, individualized education, instruction, integration, job placement, literacy, mentor, peer counseling, program development, recruitment, scholastic, student services, study, teaching, technology, training, tutoring
Engineering & Scientific Resume Keywords
3D modeling, analysis, business process, capital project, charge order, computer-aided engineering, cross-functional team, development cycle, efficiency, documentation, engineering, environmental testing, experimental design, facilities engineering, field performance, guidelines, hydraulics, industrial engineering, justification, land survey, manufacturability, methods, process development, product design, product innovation, project costing, project planning, prototype, qualitative analysis, quantitative analysis, quality assurance, R&D, re-engineering, regulatory compliance, research and development, scale-up, scheduling, technical specification writing, tender documentation, turnkey, work methods
Food Service & Hospitality Resume Keywords
amenities, attention to detail, bartending, back of house, bussing, back-of-house, beverage, calculation, cash handling, catering, club management, communication, concierge, cooking, customer, detail-oriented, enthusiastic, fast-paced, flexible, front of house, food, food expediting, food knowledge, food preparation, food safety, friendly, front-of-house, guest, health, hospitality, inventory, menu, multitasking, occupancy, ordering, personable, people skills, point of sale, portion control, positive, preparation, register, reservation, safety, scheduling, team player, upbeat, vendor sourcing, waiting
Healthcare & Human Services Resume Keywords
acute care, administrator, advocate, ambulance, assisted living, behavior management, case management, casework, chronic care, clinic, continuity of care, counseling, electronic claims, emergency, fee billing, grant administration, inpatient, managed care, multi-hospital, outpatient, patient, peer review, physician, preventative medicine, provider, psychiatry, psychology, public health, rehabilitation, social services, substance abuse, testing, third party, treatment, vocational placement, wellness
Human Resources Resume Keywords
administration, affirmative action, applicants, assessments, benefits, candidates, career pathing, change management, claims, compensation, competency, disabilities, electronic applicant screening, employee empowerment, employee relations, equal opportunity, grievance proceedings, hiring, incentives, labor arbitration, labor contract, merit, negotiations, organizational needs, performance incentives, position classification, professional recruitment, salary, sourcing, staffing, succession planning, team building, union relations, wage, workforce
Information Technology Resume Keywords
Law Enforcement Resume Keywords
analysis, antiterrorism, appeal, armed security, arrest record, asset protection, corporate security, covert operations, crime, crime prevention, crisis communications, crisis management, detection, drugs, electronic surveillance, emergency preparedness, fraud, identity theft, interrogation, narcotics, safety training, surveillance, task force, theft, traffic enforcement, uniform patrol, victim
Legal Resume Keywords
acquisition, adjudication, administrative law, affidavit, antitrust, briefs, case law, clerk, copyright law, depositions, discovery, due diligence, intellectual property, joint venture, judicial affairs, juris doctor, landmark decision, legal advocacy, legal research, legislative review, licensing, limited partnership, litigation, mediation, memorandum, motion, negotiation, paralegal, patent law, probate law, settlement, trial law, unfair compensation, will preparation, witness protection
Logistics & Purchasing Resume Keywords
acquisition, asset management, bid, capital acquisition, commodities, competitive bidding, customs compliance, deadstock, demand planning, fixed-price contracts, fleet management, forecasting, international trade, inventory control, inventory planning, just-in-time, materials, offshore purchasing, outsourcing, procurement, purchasing, replenishment, requisitions, sourcing, subcontractor, supplier, supply chain, transportation, truck loading/unloading, vendor, warehouse
Maintenance & Repair Resume Keywords
carpentry, commercial electrician, electrical systems, excavation, finishing, HVAC, hydraulics, journeyman, maintenance, masonry, mechanics, painting, plumbing, repair, roofing, scheduling, superintendent, surveying, tools, troubleshooting, welding, wiring
Management Resume Keywords
assessment, assets, benchmark, budget, business development, change management, communication, company culture, consensus building, corporate, cost reduction, crisis, efficiency, entrepreneur, evaluation, executive, financial management, goal, growth, improvement, leadership, long-term planning, margin, market development, operations, performance, performance standards, planning, policy development, process improvement, productivity, profit & loss, recruitment, regulatory reporting, relationships, retention, revenue, startup, strategy, tactical planning, team building, turnaround, vendor, workflow, workforce
Manufacturing Industrial & Warehousing Resume Keywords
cargo, carrier, container, contract, dispatch operations, distribution, distribution management, driver leasing, equipment, export, fleet management, freight, forklift, health and safety, import, improvement, inbound/outbound, just-in-time, load analysis, logistics, manufacturing, materials, multi-site, occupational hazard, operations, order fulfillment, order processing, performance, port operations, receiving, regulatory compliance, route management, route planning and analysis, safety management, schedule, shipping, storage, terminal operation, traffic, transportation services, warehouse management, warehouse operations, workflow optimization, yield improvement
NGO & Non-Profit Resume Keywords
board, budget, campaign, community outreach, corporate giving, donations, endowment, foundation, funds, grant, grassroots, humanitarian, member services, non-governmental, not-for-profit, organizational leadership, organizational vision, policy development, press release, public relations, research foundation, retention, strategic planning, volunteer recruitment
Office & Administrative Resume Keywords
administrative processes, back-office operations, budget administration, business administration, clerical support, client communications, confidentiality, contract administration, customer communications, document management, efficiency improvement, executive support, front office operations, liaison affairs, meeting planning, office management, policy, procedure, productivity and performance, project management, records management, regulatory reporting, resource management, staff development, time management, vendor communications, workflow planning and prioritization
Public Relations Resume Keywords
advertising, brand management, broadcast media, communications, community, corporate identity, corporate creative services, crisis communications, direct mail campaign, electronic advertising, event management, Facebook, fundraising, journalism, logistics, market research, media relations, outreach, presentation, press releases, print media, promotions, public affairs, public speaking, publications, sales incentives, social media, special events, sponsorship, strategic positioning, trade shows, Twitter, verbal communication, website copy, written communication, verbal communication
Real Estate & Construction Resume Keywords
appraisal, building, code compliance, commercial development, competitive bidding, contract administration, contract award, demographics, environmental compliance, estimating, fair market value pricing, financing, foreman, infrastructure, land, leasing, mapping, preventative maintenance, project concept, project development, property management, real estate appraisal, real estate investment trust, renovation, residential, return on investment, site development, turnkey
Retail & Customer Service Resume Keywords
account management, account representative, assessment, awareness, benchmarks, buyers, call center, communications, contracts, credit, customer, customer needs, customer retention, customer satisfaction, customer support, delivery, distribution, fulfillment, help desk, inventory control, knowledgebase, loss prevention, loyalty, orders, procedure standardization, processing, promotions, quality, records, sales, service, sourcing, surveys, telemarketing, vendors
Sales & Marketing Resume Keywords
account, account management, action plan, advertising, agency management, analytics, angle, audience, B2B, B2C, behavior, brand management, campaign, competitive analysis, creative design, customer loyalty, customer needs, customer retention, design, direct mail, direct response, direct sales, distributor, incentive planning, margin, market launch, market positioning, market share, new market, product launch, profit growth, promotions, revenue stream, sales forecasting, social media, solutions selling, supply chain, sustainability, sweepstakes, target market, technology, telemarketing, territory, trade marketing, trade show/trade show booth design, transportation, trend analysis, vendor, visuals, wholesale
Travel & Transportation Resume Keywords
airfare, airline, business travel, cargo, carrier, container, contract, dedicated logistics operations, dispatch operations, distribution management, driver leasing, equipment control, export, fleet management, freight, GPS, hazmat, import, inbound, load analysis, logistics, port operations, regulatory compliance, route management, route planning, safety, terminal operations, ticketing, traffic planning, transportation services, travel, travel budgeting, travel planning
So, we understand why keywords are important on resumes and cover letters, but keep these points in mind when using resume keywords:
- Job-Tailor. Obtain perfect resume keywords as you match resume to job description. Use resume keywords finders and job posting keyword analyzers to help.
- Company-Tailor. Name-dropping the company within the heading is great for the ATS and manager.
- Manager-Tailor. Address managers by name in cover letters to personalize them.
- Tailoring is shortening. Avoid jargon, specific titles, and other poor resume keywords.
You’re now ready to send resumes and cover letters that’ll be the key to unlocking desirable opportunities and scoring a word with the employer. Now, go check out our interview tips and STAR method article to prepare for your big meeting.
What did you think? Questions on resume keyword scanning software or how to insert perfect resume keywords? Got more advice on keywords for resumes? Let us know in the comments below!