Using Resume Keywords Effectively: Examples That’ll Help You Stand Out

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Using resume keywords is an essential way to get attention in a job search. If your resume can't make it past the screening software employers use to quickly narrow down applicants, you'll never get the interview — no matter how experienced you are. Adding several industry-specific keywords can help both automated and human screeners understand what you have to offer.

How Resume Keywords Work

ATS (Applicant Tracking System) software evaluates resumes based on specific keywords that an employer is looking for. The software then presents the hiring manager with a ranked list of candidates based on who has the most keywords in their resume. The candidates at the top of the list are the ones most often called in for an interview.

ATS software serves several important purposes, including:

  • eliminating candidates with irrelevant experience
  • saving hiring managers’ time (instead of reviewing hundreds of resumes for one opening)
  • preventing accusations of bias in the hiring process

As you're writing your resume, you can increase your chances of being granted an interview by including keywords throughout the document. You can include keywords in your professional summary, core competencies, work experience, and education sections. Each word only needs to be used once to be effective, so there's no need to force unnecessary repetition.

General Resume Keywords

No matter what job you’re pursuing, most industries value certain “soft skills” — skills that describe the way you work, not necessarily what you can do. Resume keywords that refer to these skills include:

  • adaptability
  • agile
  • attention to detail
  • collaboration
  • communication
  • conflict resolution
  • creativity
  • crisis management
  • critical thinking
  • customer service
  • decision making
  • desire to learn
  • feedback
  • interpersonal skills
  • leadership skills
  • listening
  • meets deadlines
  • mentoring
  • multi-tasking
  • organization
  • problem solving
  • project management
  • research
  • resourcefulness
  • teamwork
  • time management
  • trainable
  • writing skills

Technical Resume Keywords

In addition to soft skills, you’ll want to add common technical keywords to your resume. Technical skills refer to the specific computer programs and platforms, programming languages, or other tools you'd use in a particular job. These resume keywords may include:

  • Adobe Photoshop
  • Adobe Premiere Pro
  • AWS (Amazon Web Services)
  • Asana
  • AWeber
  • CAD software
  • CNC programming
  • data
  • EDM Processes
  • Google AdWords
  • Google Analytics
  • HTML (HyperText Markup Language)
  • JavaScript
  • Microsoft 
  • Network
  • Python
  • Ruby (and Ruby on Rails)
  • Salesforce
  • SQL (Structured Query Language)
  • Trello
  • WordPress

Resume Keywords for Accounting and Finance Jobs

Whether you are applying for an entry-level position as an accounts payable clerk, or you are considering more of a management role within an accounting department, these keywords may be worth including in your resume:

  • accounts payable
  • accounts receivable
  • accuracy
  • audits
  • balance sheet
  • billing
  • bookkeeping
  • budget
  • business plan
  • capital budgets
  • cashflow
  • corporate tax
  • cost accounting
  • cost effective
  • client base
  • equity underwriting
  • expense analysis
  • investor relations
  • loan management
  • mergers and acquisitions
  • payroll administration
  • purchase accounting
  • reconciliations
  • risk management
  • ROA (Return On Assets)
  • taxation accounting
  • taxation compliance
  • underwriting
  • valuation

Resume Keywords for Business and Marketing Jobs

Although the buzzwords for business and marketing change quickly, there are several keywords that ATS scans for in order to find appropriate applications. They include:  

  • acquisitions
  • automation
  • branding
  • brand awareness
  • business-to-business (B2B)
  • business-to-client (B2C)
  • business systems
  • client relationships
  • commissioning
  • conversion
  • cross-functional
  • data analysis
  • data collection
  • digital marketing
  • distribution channels
  • event marketing
  • internal communications
  • market research
  • networking
  • portfolio management
  • product marketing
  • public relations
  • sales management
  • scrum
  • social media marketing
  • stakeholder
  • STP (Segmentation, Targeting, Positioning)
  • strategic direction

Resume Keywords for Jobs in Education

Teachers showcase their skills every day in the classroom. But in order to get the job they want, those in the education industry can use resume keywords to show their strengths.

  • child development
  • classroom management
  • coach
  • community building
  • coursework
  • cross-curricular
  • curriculum development
  • differentiation
  • discipline
  • educational technology
  • extracurricular activities
  • field instruction
  • hands-on learning
  • inclusive education
  • individualized education
  • instructional technology
  • integration
  • interdisciplinary
  • K-12
  • literacy
  • methodologies
  • parent communication
  • peer counseling
  • positive learning environment
  • SPED (Special Needs Education)
  • standards-based
  • strategic planning and leadership
  • student advocate
  • writing lesson plans

Resume Keywords for Jobs in Healthcare

Medical technicians, nurses, physicians, specialists — anyone in the healthcare field needs to have a fundamental understanding of the most important keywords to include in a resume. They include:

  • average response time
  • BLS (Basic Life Support)
  • case history reports
  • caseload management
  • clinical research
  • compliance
  • emergency treatment
  • EMR (Electronic Medical Record)
  • end-of-life care
  • HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act)
  • HIT (Healthcare Information Technology)
  • home care
  • hospital procedure
  • hospital protocol
  • interim management
  • medical terminology
  • mental health
  • nursing staff
  • nutrition
  • occupational therapy
  • outpation
  • patient care
  • patient safety
  • public health
  • quality of care
  • satisfaction surveys
  • surgical equipment
  • tropical diseases

Resume Keywords for the Hospitality Industry

Owners and managers of hotels and restaurants want customer service to be as smooth as possible, so they hire the most qualified and talented applicants they can find. If this includes you, be sure to include these words:

  • back office operations
  • banquet operations
  • brand management
  • catering services
  • club management
  • conference and meeting planning
  • CRS (Central Reservation System)
  • customer experience
  • event coordination
  • facility management
  • food and beverage operations
  • front-of-house operations
  • guest relations
  • guest retention
  • guest satisfaction
  • housekeeping operations
  • kitchen operations
  • multi-unit operations
  • occupancy management
  • policies and procedures
  • property development
  • quality assurance
  • regulatory compliance
  • service management
  • special events planning
  • stock inventory
  • vendor management

Resume Keywords for Jobs in Human Resources

If you are applying for a job at a human resources firm or within the HR department of a company, these keywords may be relevant:

  • benefits administration
  • career path
  • collective agreement
  • college recruitment
  • corporate culture
  • diversity management
  • employee involvement
  • employee relations
  • executive development
  • HRIS (Human Resources Information Software)
  • HR consulting
  • HR policies
  • incentive planning
  • labor relations
  • onboarding
  • organizational development
  • participative management
  • performance management
  • personnel 
  • position classification
  • recruitment
  • retention
  • safety training
  • succession planning
  • talent management
  • team building
  • union relations
  • worker's compensation

Resume Keywords for Information Technology Jobs

Those applying for jobs in information technology should list every system in which they are proficient. In addition to these specific technologies, IT resumes should include:

  • AI (Artificial Intelligence)
  • application technology
  • architecture
  • business analysis
  • business continuity
  • C++ programming
  • certificate authority
  • channel behavior
  • code testing
  • competitive intelligence
  • customization and configuration
  • data localization
  • data mining
  • database administration
  • disaster recovery
  • e-commerce
  • electronic marketing
  • encryption
  • fault analysis
  • network administration
  • network solutions
  • operating system
  • OSS/BSS (Operational Support Systems/Business Support Systems)
  • product testing
  • scalability
  • SEO (Search Engine Optimization)
  • system integration
  • systems deployment
  • user interface design
  • wireless

Resume Keywords for Jobs in Law Enforcement

Police officers and lawyers alike need to know the ins and outs of the law enforcement when applying for a job. Including some of these skills may help get that interview:

  • administrative law
  • appeal
  • arrest warrant
  • case law
  • client service
  • community engagement
  • computer crime
  • copyright law
  • confidential documentation
  • court case management
  • crime analysis
  • crime prevention
  • criminal investigation
  • criminal law
  • due diligence
  • evidence collection
  • forensic investigation
  • homeland security
  • identity theft
  • intellectual property
  • legal knowledge
  • legal research
  • legislative review
  • litigation
  • police surveillance
  • search and seizure
  • task force
  • team leadership
  • trial law

Resume Keywords for Office Management Jobs

Office administrators and other support staff are valued for the following skills and expertise:

  • administrative support
  • budgeting
  • business operations
  • data entry
  • decision making
  • dependability
  • event planning
  • inventory management
  • invoicing
  • payroll
  • planning and organization
  • problem assessment
  • quality control
  • QuickBooks
  • scheduling
  • shipping and logistics
  • task management
  • team management
  • typing speed
  • verbal communication
  • work ethic
  • written communication

Choosing More Keywords

To search for more keywords that are appropriate for your job search, find four to six job postings of interest and highlight any words or phrases that appear in multiple listings. You can get a good idea of what keywords to include by looking for relevant terms in four different areas: technical skills, soft skills, communication skills, and certifications and licenses. Just be sure that the job description really fits your experience and applicable skills before you apply.

Monitoring the Effectiveness of Resume Keywords

You'll know that you've chosen appropriate keywords for your resume when you start seeing an increase in interview requests. If you find yourself going several weeks without any positive feedback, it may be time to revisit your keyword choices. You might want to consider mixing in some appropriate action words too.

Remember, your resume isn't set in stone. Make adjustments as the need arises to ensure you have an interview-winning resume and cover letter. And, when the big day arrives, here are some smart questions to ask in an interview.