Keywords: The Key to Getting Your Résumé Noticed

As the job market tightens and there are an ever-increasing number of applicants for each job opening, standing out from the crowd is becoming a matter of survival of the fittest. Or in the case of résumés, survival of the ‘key-wordiest’.

Human resource and hiring managers have employed a variety of tools to help ‘weed out’ lesser or non-qualified applicants in the form of software that scans or ‘reads’ your résumé. Those résumés that score below a certain number of keyword hits go directly to the electronic round-file, while those who score high end up being viewed by a live human being.

So what’s the trick to getting into the coveted interview pile? Keywords, keywords, keywords. Is it sinking in yet? Good. Now, your next question should be, “Where do I find keywords?” Excellent query! Here’s how to find those words that are going to get your résumé to the next level in the application process:

The first place you should look for specific job-related keywords is the actual job posting itself. That alone is the first resource that hiring managers go to in order to make sure everything matches. You’ve heard of the ‘apples to apples’ comparison? This is in full effect – so sit down, pull out a separate sheet of paper, pore through the job posting and identify key required skills and duties to figure out what are those key words.

Secondly, review other related job postings that can be found posted on online job boards or websites, such as Review each of those related postings and you’ll start to see a list of words that pop out and match the ones you’ve already reviewed.

Another good source for key words can be found by reviewing industry news or articles – oftentimes, key industry buzz words are repeated in these publications, and specific trends are identified, so this can also be a research bonanza for future interviews!

Industry trade associations are also a wealth of knowledge. Specific industries usually have their own trade association representing them at a local, state and federal level, and each organization has loads of information, articles, job listings and trends that are also a good fountain of industry-specific knowledge.

By talking to people in the industry, a lot of key skill information and definition of the types of duties can be gleaned from informational interviews. Seventy (70%) percent of all applicants find jobs through networking, and by making connections in an area that you are pursuing can be very helpful. Getting a good understanding of what kinds of skills and duties are required in a particular position are things that usually come out in informational interviews. Having first-hand, real-time background on that job from someone currently employed there is incredibly valuable.

Finally, there are some aggregate online keyword sources out there that you can research to find out specific industry or job-related keywords:

Good luck and happy researching!

One Comment


I just recommended this article to my college aged son who was struggling with his resume. Thanks for your expertise.

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