Why Resume Keywords are So Important

Why are resume keywords so important?

Using resume keywords
Using resume keywords

In  CV or Resume Writing Checklist, I listed 10 points to keep in mind when writing a resume. The tips come from our online multimedia course, “How to Get Hired” –  a must-have course for selling yourself.

Here are the first three tips:

1.  Include appropriate contact information at the top of the resume.

2.  State a specific career objective or goal.

3.  Write a profile or summary statement –  listing your strengths and qualifications – in one to three sentences using bullet points.

Let’s add an 11th absolutely critical point to the list: use resume keywords.

In this post, we will define the meaning of resume keywords.  Then, we will give examples of the best resume keywords you should use, based on a survey with hiring professionals.

In a follow-up post next week, we will look at the best places to find resume keywords.  We will also give some tips for using keywords in your resume.

How do we define resume keywords?

According to Martin Yate, author of Knock ’em Dead, resume keywords are words and phrases that have real meaning to recruiters, hiring managers, and human resource professionals. They use these terms when searching resume and social network databases.  Resume keywords show your knowledge, skills and experience related to specific job postings.

Specifically, these terms are nouns or noun phrases. They are gold nuggets to recruiters looking for the ideal candidate for a particular opening in a midsize to large company.

Yate quotes the president of a technology company who says, “Keywords specific to your industry are absolutely critical if you want your resume to show up on database searches.”

What are examples of resume keywords?

In Resume Magic, Susan Whitcomb 0ffers a long list of keywords including:

–  Position titles

–  Industry names or niche within an industry

–  Fortune 500 companies or “name-brand” employers

–  Top universities attended

–  Degrees, certifications and training.

Whitcomb reports on a survey on resume keywords she conducted with hiring professionals.   Here is what she found.

Percentage of hiring professionals  surveyed Number of keywords they searched for
67% 3-4
27% 5-6
3% 7-10
3% 1-2
0% 11 or more

What does this information tell us? What resume keywords should we be using? First, there’s no magical combination of resume keywords to use. Second, your resume keywords have to be tailored to a specific position you are applying for.

What are the most effective resume keywords to use?

Whitcomb goes on to show even more helpful results from her survey.  She asked recruiters to list in order of importance the resume keywords they searched for.  Here is what she found.

Percentage of keywords recruiters searched for* Keywords
80% Position title
71% Nouns or noun phrases common to a position
55% Geographical location (city, region, ZIP Code)
55% Employer names
35% Degrees
16% Certifications
9% Soft skills (communication, interpersonal skills)
6% Top universities or training organizations

* The percentages add up to more than 100% because recruiters were allowed to select as many keywords as they wished.

Liam Hickey, business coach and guest blogger (see Resume Bullets: Factual Bragging), mentioned to me that only the top 3 to 5 resumes for US Government positions are selected among hundreds of candidates. Interestingly, one of his clients used repeatedly the position title, “Project Manager,” throughout his resume. Guess what? His resume was selected.

So I recommend this action step:  review your resumes or CVs with these criteria in mind.


1 thought on “Why Resume Keywords are So Important”

  1. Pingback: Three Resume Keyword Tips - Business English HQ

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *