Use Keywords to Strengthen Your Resume

Many companies use recruiting management software to screen large numbers of resumes. When you submit your resume for a particular job, it may not be seen by a real person unless it passes a “keyword test” and ranks highly enough when compared to other applicants’ resumes. It is crucial, therefore, that you learn to incorporate keywords into your resumes effectively. Start with Step 1 to learn more.


Part 1: Understanding Recruiting Management Software

  1. Understand the role of recruiting management software. Because companies receive so many resumes for their advertised positions, they sometimes choose to manage the early stages of a job search with software that automates and streamlines the process. Recruiting management software allows employers to limit the number of resumes they must read.
  2. Know that recruiting management software can detect specific keywords. When you submit your resume online, recruiting management software scans it for whichever keywords the recruiter has specified. These keywords (“sales,” “closer,” and “cold calling,” for example) generally reflect the skills, attributes, and experience that a particular employer believes to be most important for the advertised job.
  3. Note that keywords may be weighted. Some recruiters assign a higher value to certain keywords. For example, for a sales job, an employer may specify both “closer” and “lead generation” as desired keywords, but one may be more important than the other. Having the keywords with the highest value will get you closer to the top of the list.
  4. Recognize that your resume will be ranked according to these keywords. Recruiting management software uses the number and frequency of keywords in your resume (along with the varying weights of each of these keywords) to determine your ranking in the applicant pool. Recruiters can then choose to read only the resumes with a high ranking, limiting the time they spend on each applicant. Hitting the right keywords on your resume increases your chances of getting it seen by an actual person, who may call you for an interview.

Part 2: Finding the Right Keywords to Use

  1. Read the job posting carefully. Take the time to read each job posting in its entirety. You want to glean as much information as possible about the advertised position and about the type of person the company is seeking.
  2. Highlight potential keywords. As you read the job posting, take a moment to highlight words and phrases that seem especially important – generally, those are the words that reflect required or desired education, experience, and skills. The words you highlight will be your core keywords.
  3. Look for similar job postings. The level of detail varies considerably from one job posting to another. If the posting for a particular job is short or lacks detail, spend some time finding and reading advertisements for similar positions in the same industry, even if you do not plan to apply for them. These ads may include helpful keywords that the ad for your desired position does not. Add these to your list.
  4. Research the industry for additional keywords. Every industry has its own particular set of keywords or buzzwords. In the hospitality industry, for example, a significant keyword is “RevPar” (revenue per available room). Placing these words in your resume (assuming you can do so truthfully) will increase the likelihood of making it through a first round of screening done by recruiting management software.

Part 3: Using Keywords Effectively

  1. Add keywords based on your research. Once you have identified important keywords in the job ad, other similar ads, and the industry as a whole, you can incorporate them into your resume wherever possible. This may even mean replacing certain words in your resume with keywords, a step that may make your resume appear more relevant to recruiting management software.
  2. Include keywords in both full and acronym form. Recruiting management software may be programmed to look for keywords in either the full form or the acronym form. To be safe, include both. You don’t want to be passed over because you wrote “ROI,” while the software was programmed to find “return on investment.”
    • A simple way to include both forms of a keyword in a streamlined way is to write out the full term, then follow it with the acronym in parentheses.
  3. Place keywords throughout your resume. Do not simply add every possible keyword to your skills section. In general, having keywords in multiple locations will increase your ranking. You can incorporate keywords in a number of ways. Try, for example:
    • using keywords in and below your heading. Add keywords like the job title to the beginning of your resume, and follow that with a brief list of three to five essential skills, which can also be keywords.
    • using keywords in your summary statement. Some resumes include a brief summary statement highlighting your qualifications for the job. If you use one, incorporate keywords to increase your perceived relevance.
    • using keywords in the skills section. Describe your skills with keywords whenever possible. This will make your qualifications read as more relevant to recruiting management software.
    • using keywords in the experience section. Whenever possible, include keywords in descriptions of your previous experience. Use as many keywords as possible for every job you have held.


  • Don’t be afraid to include the same words repeatedly in different sections of your resume. In many cases, this will work in your favor, as recruiting management software often notes the frequency of certain keywords.
  • Remember to customize your resume to each potential job. Doing so takes time, but having the right keywords for each specific job increases your chances of employment significantly.