How to Use Keywords in Your Resume

posted by Brian Krueger under resume #resume #employers #mistakes #keywords #tips

Employer reading resume and highlighting with a pen
Employer reading resume and highlighting with a pen

Over the course of my career, I have reviewed more than 100,000 resumes. As a corollary, it’s also important to note how many resumes I have not reviewed. It is a number several times higher than the number actually reviewed. The resumes not reviewed did not survive the scan and screen to actually get forwarded to me for human review.

Why not?

In many cases, it is due to the resume not using keywords properly. Just as you, as a job seeker, perform job searches based on keywords, Sourcers and Recruiters are doing the same thing with resumes in both internal and external resume databases. If your resume does not have the right keywords, it very likely will not be found.

And that is why many people talk about “the resume black hole.” They upload or submit their resume into the black hole, then wait for a response. And then wonder why nothing is happening.

It may be due to the lack of usage of the correct keywords in the resume.

Take a look at your resume from a search engine perspective. What are the keywords that Sourcers and Recruiters are typically going to use to search for candidates with your qualifications? Are they are on your resume? If not, you need to include them.

Most resume guides tell you to write your resume using verbs. “Performed” and “achieved” and “developed” and “delivered” etc. Yet resume searches are not performed for verbs. Resume searches are performed for nouns. So look at the nouns in your resume and specifically the industry keywords which would most often be searched. Those are the ones you need to include in your resume.

Not sure what they are? Do a search of the job postings at your level at Then analyze the job postings for the common industry keywords. Those are the same keywords that the Sourcer and Recruiter will be searching for in the resume database.

The best place to incorporate your keywords is in the Experience section of your resume. Do not, under any circumstances, list keywords where you do not have a level of proficiency, simply in hopes of being found in a resume search. This will end up being a waste of your time and the time of the Sourcer and Recruiter, who will have to manually sort through your resume or take time on the phone to validate a skill that does not exist. On the other hand, make sure you do list all of the skills and keywords for which you do have a level of proficiency. You can even use “Proficient with…” and “Familiar with…” to differentiate your level of proficiency.

By incorporating appropriate keywords into your resume, you will be found in searches for which you are qualified and not found in searches for which you are not qualified (which is a good thing). Finding that balance in the use of your resume keywords is important for maximizing your potential job opportunities.

To see example resumes and for help creating a new or better resume, please see the Quickstart Resume Generator and the Quickstart Resume Templates at our site. They are free to use and will help you get started on your way to developing a great resume.

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