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What Are The Top 6 Keywords That Every Resume Should Have?

A staggering 99% of Fortune 500 companies use applicant tracking systems (ATS) to scan resumes, and smaller companies aren’t far behind.

Why does that matter?

An ATS system “reads” your resume before a hiring manager ever sees it. As it reads, it’s looking for keywords specific to the role for which you’re applying to check whether you tailored your resume to the job or simply submitted a generic document.

The latter won’t get through.

So, you need to write a resume with the right keywords to pass the ATS test, with the following six being those that every resume should feature.

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Six Keywords You Have to Include in Your Resume

Before getting into the six most vital keywords for your resume, it’s important to understand one thing:

Keywords will vary depending on the role.

While the six highlighted in this article are safe bets for keywords that an ATS looks for regardless of the job, every role has specific keywords that may not be covered here. Read the job posting carefully. If a word or phrase looks like something an employer cares about, the odds are high that it should find its way into your resume. With that said, here are the six keywords your resume needs to include.

Keyword 1 – The Job Titles Your Are Applying Towards

It seems obvious that the job title would be a keyword. Yet, many applicants don’t use it, especially if they’re submitting a generic resume to as many potential employers as possible. In those cases, it’s impossible to use the employer’s stated job title because you’re not stating any title. You’ve just written one resume that needs to be applied to everyone.

Avoid doing that.

At the top of your resume, right above your Career Summary section, you should list in big bold capital letters, the job titles you are applying towards. For example, if you are applying for a Management role, use various titles such as: Project Management / Operations Manager / Team Leader / Sales Management, etc.

Those titles collectively show that you’ve tailored your resume to the role – 63% want to see personalization – making you a more attractive candidate.

image of a resume, with magnifying glass. with words that say "How To Optimize Your Resume With ATS Keywords"

Keyword 2 – Educational Terms

Let’s assume that the job posting has a requirement that you have a bachelor’s degree in computing or a similar discipline. Two vital keywords jump out immediately – “bachelor’s degree” and “computing.”

But don’t ignore the “related discipline” section either. That’s your indication that an employer’s ATS is on the lookout for computing-related terms, such as “programming” or “network.” By adding terms like those alongside the two obvious ones, you cover wider ground within your field. Apply this to your industry as the specific keywords related to education will vary depending on the employer’s requirements.

Keyword 3 – Volunteered

Volunteered, volunteering, or volunteer are keywords that all employers want to see for a simple reason:

Being a volunteer means you’ve gone above and beyond the expectations placed upon you.

Thankfully, there are several ways to get this keyword – and its variations – into your resume. The most obvious is any volunteer work you’ve done for a charitable organization, especially when that work is relevant to the role. But if you don’t have that sort of experience, think about what you’ve volunteered to do in your previous jobs. For instance, “I volunteered to spearhead a mentorship program for graduate students.”

Simply put, anything you’ve done that wasn’t specifically part of your responsibilities is an opportunity to use the “volunteered” keyword.

image of a resume with the words "Keyword Stuffing in Your Resume: Just Don't Do It"

Keyword 4 – Location Keywords

If you’re applying for a remote role, location won’t be much of a factor. But for in-office and hybrid roles, an employer may use locational keywords – including cities and states – to quickly check that you’re able to commute easily to the job.

The question is where to include these keywords.

If your past roles were in the same city and state as the role for which you’re now applying, you can incorporate location keywords in your resume’s work history section. Failing that, the resume’s introduction is often the best place. For instance, you could combine this type of keyword with company name in a sentence as follows:

“After moving to Denver, Colorado, my main focus is to advance my career as a programmer, ideally with <company name>.”

Keyword 5 – Action Verbs

An action verb is any word that expresses what you do rather than what you are. Examples include “managed,” “created,” and “developed.” The idea with these keywords is to showcase what you’ve accomplished, meaning they’re best used as the start of a sentence that also incorporates a relevant keyword.

For instance, saying “Developed an LLM in Python,” rather than “I have experience in Python” is much better. The latter is generic, while the former shows an action you’ve taken and a result you’ve achieved. That’s great for hiring managers – your chances of getting an interview increase by 140% when you use action verbs.

Keyword 6 – Any Technical Skills

Finally, the most obvious – and vital – keywords to include in your resume are the specific skills the employer asks for in their job posting. For a programmer, those skills may be “Python” or “JavaScript.” Marketers may need skills such as “SEO” or “Google AdWords,” while a sales professional may need skills in a customer relationship management (CRM) platform, such as “Salesforce.”

These are your technical, or “hard” skills, and they need to be in your resume. Without them, an ATS will assume that you simply don’t have the skills requested in the job posting and will pass you up in favor of somebody who does.

The Key to Keywords

Keywords are a simple fact of resume writing in the 21st century but inserting them all over your resume won’t land you an interview. Rather, these words need to be incorporated into the document in places where they make sense. Simply stuffing them in – with no regard for readability – means your resume will still get discarded by a hiring manager even if it makes it past an ATS.

You need to strike a balance.

That’s where Expert Resume Pros and our resume writing service in Denver Colorado come into play. We don’t just write a strong resume. We ensure that your resume contains all the keywords relevant to your role and guarantee you an interview in 45 days or your money back.

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