The 20 Keywords Just Right for Your Resume

Top 20 Keywords for Your ResumeWhether in the resume storage of a job board, in an employer’s applicant tracking system (ATS), or in social networks like LinkedIn and Google Plus… most resumes end up in a database of some sort.

Regardless of where they are stored, those resumes and social profiles need to be “find-able” when someone types in their desired search terms, which are commonly referred to as “keywords.”

But what keywords are those employers looking for? How do they find you?

Look through the list below to learn which keywords are perfect for you… and your job search:

1. Your Professional Name

Most people don’t think of their names as important keywords, but in these days of search engines and social media, your name is probably your most important keyword phrase.You need to consistently use a relatively unique version of your name for your LinkedIn Profile, resumes, networking cards, email, and other visibility so recruiters doing research on you can “connect the dots” between you and your professional visibility.

2. Current Location (or Target Location)

If appropriate for your location, use both city and state plus regional names — like Oakland, CA, and East Bay Area, or Manhattan and New York City — so your profile is in the search results for either.

3. Languages Spoken

If you speak more than one language, make it clear the languages that you can speak. Also indicate your level of proficiency — from “native” through “basic” or “elementary” and whether you can read, write, and/or speak the languages.

4. Certificates, Degrees, Schools and GPA

Include your college degree (or degrees) and school (or schools). Also include your major if relevant to your target job and, for old-school employers who are still academic-minded, your relevant coursework and GPA (if your GPA is above a 3.0, of course). Also include all proof of professional knowledge or achievement such as post-graduate courses, professional training, on-the-job-training, and certifications, etc.

5. Target Job Title

Be sure to include the title for the job that you want next; specifically, the exact version used by your target employer. When in doubt about exactly which job title to use, become a slash person – “Project Manager/Senior Project Lead” or “Senior Administrative Assistant/ Executive Assistant.”

6. Current and Previous Job Titles

Your current and former job titles are also important keywords. Focus on the standard job titles that are used now by your target employers, particularly if current (or former) employer(s) used non-standard titles.

7. Chosen Industry

Specify your industry (current or target): civil engineering, mechanical engineering, management consulting, market research, medical devices, nanotechnology, biotechnology, healthcare, and so on.

8. Current Employer

If you are currently employed, include the name of your current employer (unless you are in a confidential search).

9. Former Employers

Particularly if you have worked for well-known and well-respected companies in your industry or field, be sure to include those company names, even if your experience there was more than ten years ago.

10. Volunteering Efforts

If you volunteer anywhere, include what you do and who you do it for, particularly if it helps fill in an employment gap and/or is related to your career track.

11. Your Specific Skills

The skills you’ve obtained, and preferably the skills most in demand for the job you want next (e.g., managing a P&L, using Microsoft Word and Excel, driving an 18-wheeler, leading a project team, etc.) need to be included – even if they are not the skills you use primarily for your most current job.

12. Licenses Relevant to Your Profession

Add the licenses you hold that show you are qualified to do the job you want, including the organization who does the licensing and the number of years you have held the license.

13. Job, Profession and Industry Tools and Techniques

Be sure to add the relevant tools and techniques that you use or are qualified to use because of training, education, and/or experience (e.g. MRI, Mastercam, LEED, etc.).

14. Job, Profession and Industry-Specific Software and Hardware

Include the software required for your target job that you use or have been trained to use, (e.g. SAP, ASP, FileMaker, Microsoft Office, Microsoft Word). Add any specific hardware that may be required for your target job if you have experience using it or have been trained to use it, particularly if it is unique to your job, industry, or profession (e.g. heart monitors, scanners, even different versions of smart phones if they are relevant to the job).

15. Relevant Internet Tools and Apps

The Internet tools and apps that you use or are qualified to use because of training, education, and/or experience (e.g. Facebook, LinkedIn, Hootsuite, Google Analytics, etc.) must be included, especially relevant mobile apps.

16. Honors, Awards and Recognition

If you’ve been employee of the month, salesperson of the year, or received other recognition from your employer, a customer or client, or your profession or industry, be sure to include them.

17. Industry and Professional Organizations

Include the industry and professional organizations or societies that you have joined (plus committee membership and current or former officer titles).

18. Common Industry and Acronyms

The more acronyms; the better, as long as they are appropriate to your experience and education. Include what they represent as well, just in case someone searches on the complete term, like Early Childhood Education (ECE) or ISO (International Standards Organization).

19. Major Mentors, Customers or Educators

If one of your past mentors, customers or educators was a very well-known or well-respected company or person, like the Department of Defense, Warren Buffett or a prestigious professor, include those names.

20. Major Projects

If you have been involved in any major projects, especially ones that won awards or made a significant impact, list them. Be sure to highlight the relevancy to your target job, of course.

One thought about using these keywords: work hard so you aren’t perceived as inaccurate or deceptive. Marketing “mode” is fine, of course; acam mode is not a good long-term strategy!

Now that you understand more about keywords which keywords are right for your resume (or for this version of your resume), put them to use!


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Susan P Joyce AuthorAbout the Author: Online job search expert Susan P. Joyce has been observing the online job search world and teaching online job search skills since 1995. A veteran of the United States Marine Corps, Susan is a two-time layoff “graduate” who has worked in human resources at Harvard University and in a compensation consulting firm. Since 1998, Susan has been editor and publisher of Follow Susan on Twitter at @jobhuntorg and on Google+.



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