What Are Resume Keywords?
Job listings include the abilities and competencies an applicant needs in order to be a great hire. These skills become keywords used by recruiters and hiring managers to quickly identify top candidates whether they’re skimming with their eyes or using software to filter applicants based on resume keywords.
“The first thing I’m looking for is the hard skills that match the job description,” a corporate recruiter told Jobscan.
Recruiters don’t carefully read resumes line by line. They take a cursory glance and only dig deeper if past job titles or skills pique their interest. Having the right resume keywords is even more critical when technology enters the mix.
Most companies (including 99% of Fortune 500) use software known as applicant tracking systems (ATS) that can scan the content of a resume to make it searchable. Some systems, like Taleo, can even automatically filter and rank applicants based on the job description. This means that a highly qualified applicant could slip through the cracks or get wrongly rejected if their resume isn’t optimized with the right keywords.
You may also enjoy:
Our collection of over 1000 resume words, including keywords, action verbs, skills, and adjectives.
Our Top Resume Skills article that shows you the best ways to list skills on your resume.
Top 500 Resume Keywords List
Below is a list of the hard skills and keywords that appear most frequently in Jobscan‘s database of real job descriptions. These are the top resume keywords recruiters, hiring managers, and ATS algorithms are looking for when vetting applicants.
These examples demonstrate the types of keywords to include in your resume. To boost your chances of getting past an ATS and landing a job interview, be sure to to tailor your resume keywords to the specific job for which you’re applying.
Try the Jobscan resume optimization tool to get your personalized list top resume keywords:
This list of keywords includes variations of the same words and phrases, for example Microsoft Office (124), MS Office (137), and Microsoft Office Suite (324). This isn’t a mistake. The levels of sophistication vary between ATS, but most cannot differentiate between synonyms, abbreviations, or similar skills.
Rank higher in the ATS or a recruiter’s search results by matching your resume keywords to exactly what’s in the job description.
Resume Keywords Tip: Different Names for the Same Thing
Optimizing your resume keywords isn’t as simple as stuffing industry-specific skills and jargon into your resume. It’s about tweaking the keywords already in your resume to match the job description.
For example, if you’re a graphic designer, you probably have a lot of experience with Adobe Creative Cloud, Adobe’s software bundle that includes standards like Photoshop and Illustrator. But say the job description mentions only “Adobe Creative Suite,” its former name.
If you have “Adobe Creative Cloud” on your resume but the hiring manager searches the ATS for “Adobe Creative Suite,” you could be excluded from the results even though you possess the exact skillset they’re looking for. In this example, you want to optimize your Adobe experience by changing the resume keyword to “Adobe Creative Suite.”
Resume Keywords Tip: Editing Job Titles is OK
The same thing can happen with job titles. There are many variations of job titles based on industry, company culture, or experience levels. Incorporating specific keywords and phrasing into job titles will make a difference in an ATS search.
1.) You’re applying for a position as a “Content Writer” but your previous job title was “Content Creator.” The hiring manager will likely search “Content Writer” in hopes of finding someone with direct experience. It’s the same job, so change “Creator” to “Writer” on your resume to increase your searchability.
2.) The job title buzzword fad (ninjas, gurus, rock stars et al) is thankfully dying out but you still have “Customer Service Wizard” on your resume from a previous job. Unless a job description asks for actual sorcery skills, change the experience on your resume to something that reflects the new job for which you’re applying.
3 .) You worked for six years as the Web Developer at a small firm that didn’t differentiate experience levels. In other contexts, you would be a “Senior Web Developer,” so make that change on your resume as you pursue other senior-level positions.
There’s nothing wrong with changing your “official” job title on your resume. All you’re doing is translating past experience into the same language as a hiring company. This is what optimizing your resume keywords is all about.
Important note: This is about recontextualizing your work experience rather than improving it. Do not give yourself a promotion you felt you deserved but didn’t get.
Most common skills, most overvalued skills, and most in-demand skills by job title:
Resume Keywords Tip: Tense and Format Matters (Mattered, Mattering)
A few ATS recognize tenses, plurals, and other word variations, but most only find exact matches. That means that if a recruiter searches for “project manager,” you won’t come up as a search result if your resume only includes the phrases “managing projects,” “project managed,” and “project management.”
- market, marketed, marketer, marketing
- strategize, strategized, strategist, strategizing
- test, tested, tester, testing
- schedule, scheduled, scheduler, scheduling
The best practice for determining which tense or form to use with your resume keywords is to mirror the job description. If “manager” is used frequently in the job description but your resume says “Managed team of 11 engineers,” simply rewrite it to say “Manager to a team of 11 engineers.”