What Are Resume Keywords? (Definition and How to Use Them)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Updated 17 November 2022

Published 22 November 2021

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Resume keywords are important phrases and terms you can include in your application materials to optimise them for resume-scanning software. Companies use keywords to determine which candidates may be best for the position. If you're applying for new jobs and submitting your resume digitally, learning more about resume keywords and how they affect your candidacy can be beneficial. In this article, we explain what resume keywords are, describe the different resume keywords, explore examples of keywords employers may choose, detail the importance of using them and provide helpful tips for optimising your application materials.

Related: 5 Steps for Producing an Effective Creative Resume

What are resume keywords?

Learning the answer to 'what are resume keywords?' can help you refine your application materials and optimise them for resume-scanning software. Resume keywords are important terms and phrases you can include in your resume to show your qualifications for the position. Many resume keywords are the most frequent or significant qualifications listed in the job posting. Many companies conduct the hiring process online and keywords are especially critical for digital application submissions. By understanding and optimising your resume keywords, you can use application tracking systems to your advantage.

Companies can implement an applicant tracking system (ATS) in their hiring process to make it more effective. An ATS can review application materials much faster than a hiring manager, organising and compiling them for the hiring team to review. Many systems select the resumes that most closely match the job description and present them to hiring specialists as the best candidates. The ATS may also automatically eliminate any candidates who don't appear to have the required education or experience, making it important to reduce spelling errors and improve the wording.

Related: 6 Universal Rules for Writing Your Resume

Types of resume keywords

Depending on the company, hiring manager and specific position, some keywords may be more prevalent or important than others. Consider what your potential employer values most in an employee by reviewing the job listing and identifying key information. These are some types of resume keywords potential employers and ATS systems may scan for when reviewing your application materials:

  • Previous job titles: A part of a position's requirements may be previous experience in the field or specific positions. For example, if you're applying to be a graphic design department manager, the hiring team may prefer that you were a graphic design team lead before.

  • Technology proficiencies: Many positions require a candidate to have knowledge of technology, even when the role itself isn't tech-based. For example, many managers and business leaders use databases, word processors and presentation software to complete their daily work.

  • Skills and abilities: Depending on the industry in which you work, including soft skills and technical skills, can be important. For example, as a furniture maker, you may include saw machine safety in your resume as an important skill.

  • Certifications: Some positions require specific certifications to practise or your potential employer may just prefer that you're certified. In these situations, specific industry certifications can be keywords.

Related: How to Create a List of Accomplishments for Your Resume (With Tips)

Examples of resume keywords

Reviewing examples of resume keywords can help you determine which to use in your application materials. Some keywords are more helpful than others, so it's important to assess the job listing for information before choosing important keywords. Here are examples of resume keywords that employers may look for in resumes:

Business

These are some examples of business-related keywords:

  • accounting

  • admissions

  • advertising

  • brand

  • business continuity

  • contracts

  • design

  • economics

  • finance

  • forecasting

  • human resources

  • inventory

  • legal

  • logistics

  • marketing

  • metrics

  • presentations

  • regulatory

  • research

  • sales

  • scheduling

Related: What Are Business Processes? (Definition and How to Write One

Technology

These are some keywords that may show your technical proficiency:

  • access platform

  • agile

  • automation

  • big data

  • business analysis

  • C#

  • C++

  • controls

  • digital media

  • end-user

  • frameworks

  • life cycle

  • management information systems

  • quality assurance

  • SAP

  • SEO

  • software architecture

  • software development

  • technical documentation

  • technical support

  • web administration

Related: Top 15 In-Demand Technology Skills (Plus Definition)

Management

For management positions, these keywords may be helpful:

  • acquisition

  • billing

  • budget

  • capital budgeting

  • case management

  • cash flow

  • coaching

  • engagement

  • expenses

  • invoicing

  • KPIs

  • modelling

  • organisational development

  • programme management

  • purchasing

  • recruitment

  • relationship management

  • risk management

  • ROI strategising

  • staffing

  • strategic planning

  • workflows

Related: The 4 Basic Functions of Management (And How to Apply Them)

Skills and abilities

Keywords about your skills and abilities can vary depending on the industry and the positions you're applying to. These are some skill keywords you can include in your resume, when appropriate:

  • active listening

  • communication

  • consulting services

  • creative design

  • event planning

  • graphic design

  • leadership

  • leadership development

  • marketing materials

  • payroll

  • photography

  • Photoshop

  • planning

  • problem-solving

  • product knowledge

  • quality assurance

  • Spanish

  • strategy

  • testing

  • time management

  • underwriting

  • videography

  • writing

Related: How to Write Work Experience on a Resume (With Tips and Examples)

Importance of resume keywords

These are some reasons using resume keywords is important:

  • Passing the ATS application material selection. By including keywords in your application materials, you can pass through the ATS application material selection process. This means it's more likely that the hiring manager reads your resume themselves and considers your candidacy.

  • Getting a higher resume ranking by the ATS. When the ATS presents candidates to the hiring team, it may include a ranking of how well it assumes the person matches the job. By including relevant keywords, you can improve this ranking and encourage hiring specialists to contact you for an interview.

  • Making your resume shorter and more relevant. Keywords are often power words that include meaning and significance. By including more keywords, you can make your resume shorter and more effective by eliminating unnecessary words.

Related: What are Applicant Tracking Systems? (Including Tips)

Tips for using resume keywords

These are some helpful tips you can use when optimising your application materials to use resume keywords:

Balance keyword usage

The general rule is to include 25 to 30 keywords within your resume. ATS tools can detect when you use too many keywords in a resume, which may cause your resume to be filtered out. To avoid this, reduce keyword stuffing and focus on including important terms and phrases naturally in your materials.

Include the company name

Adjust your summary statement or resume objective at the top of your resume to include the company for which you're applying and the job position title. Including this information can help the ATS recognise your resume as legitimate. Doing this can also show the hiring manager you personalised your resume for the position.

Add education-related keywords

ATS tools often give the greatest preference to the education that a candidate includes on their resume. That's why it's important to include if you have a bachelor's degree and your field of study. If you're still in school, you may still include it. For example, you can write:

  • Completed over 3/4 of Bachelor of Science

  • Majoring in Information Technology

  • Graduation expected December 2020

Edit job titles

Because there are many variations of job titles based on experience levels, industry and company culture, you can edit your title to match what the ATS filter may most likely be searching for. For example, if your title in a job was content creator, but your duties were primarily writing, you can change the title on your resume to read content writer or copywriter. Be honest and accurate when describing your previous positions.

You can also change the title on your resume if it uses buzzwords like rock star or guru. Change it to a more commonly held title that matches the responsibilities you held in the position. You can also alter your title if the company you worked for didn't differentiate based on experience. For example, if you performed the duties of a senior copywriter, but held the copywriter as your title, consider changing your title to senior copywriter in your resume.

Related: 340 Job Title Examples (Plus How To Write a Job Title)

Alter keywords to match the job description

In most industries, there are multiple ways to describe the same skills. For example, if you're a graphic artist, you may have experience with Illustrator, Photoshop and other products within the Adobe Creative Cloud. The job description may place all of those skills under a requirement that candidates have expertise with Adobe Creative Suite. Adjust your resume so that it matches the keywords in the job description, which in this case is Adobe Creative Suite.

Adjust tense and format

While some ATS tools recognise different tenses and other word variations, many do not. That means if you have project management on your resume and the ATS is searching for a project manager, your resume may not make it past the filter. Mirroring the job listing exactly is an effective way to manage this problem. If you write, managed a 10-person web development team on your resume, but the job description asks for manager experience and specifically uses the keyword manager, then you can change your resume to read manager of a 10-person web development team.

Related: 139 Action Verbs to Make Your Resume Stand Out

Please note that none of the companies mentioned in this article is affiliated with Indeed.

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