The Ultimate Guide to Resume Keywords

Resume keywords can ensure the success of your resume getting through the resume keywords scanner process and into the hands of a decision maker.

It’s why you hear resume writers and career coaches talk about them so often. Once in the hands of the hiring manager, these keyword phrases and buzzwords will determine whether your resume will attract employers attention, make it through their initial resume scan, and get you an interview.

So it benefits you to know exactly what resume keywords are, how to use resume keywords, where to use them, where you can find good resume keywords, and examples of the best resume keywords by industry along with resume keywords list. Let’s get started!

What are resume keywords?

Keywords in Resume are the buzzwords that are linked to a specific position, industry, or profession. They typically refer to nouns but can also include action verbs.

Although, when hiring managers are scanning a resume for keywords or using applicant tracking to search a resume they’re typically using the nouns as the resume keywords and phrases they search for.

Action verbs are used when the hiring manager is reading your resume. Action verbs present your accomplishments, qualifications, and results in a direct and active way.

What is resume keyword scanning?

Resume Keywords are how an employer or recruiting manager will be screening your resume. This is done through applicant tracking systems and through the hiring and job search process where your resume is passed through a resume keywords scanner searching for resume keywords.

Potential employers use ATS to electronically search your resume to determine if you match their specific hiring criteria. If your resume does not include the right keywords to match the search, you’ll be overlooked.

How do you use resume keywords?

You can use good resume keywords on your resume and cover letter to highlight the qualifications and accomplishments that correlate to a specific company or position.

These key phrases can then be used in your summary or objective, career profile, work history, or in a separate keyword section. Technical skills and hard skills often make for great keyword phrases on your resume.

Resume keywords can also be used on your cover letter, thank you letter, networking letters, and LinkedIn profile. We mostly emphasize including keywords in your LinkedIn profile headline, summary, and under each place of employment which can benefit you in getting searched.

Where should keywords go in your resume?

Keyword in a resume should be used in the following resume sections:

  • Job title / position title

  • Branding statement underneath position title

  • Career summary

  • Accomplishment section

  • Work history section; in relevant accomplishment bullet points

What Resume keywords should you use on your resume?

You should use the keywords and buzzwords that are most relevant to the position, industry, and company that you’re targeting. Think about the skills that the employer posted in the job description or what they would value most in the position.

If you can find a list of the most applicable keyword phrases, try to incorporate those that are the most important in your resume. Remember you don’t want to be passed over because your resume doesn’t include the right buzzwords.

Hard skills usually make great keywords. Soft skills are not terms that recruiters will use to search applicant tracking systems.

Chances are, the candidate with the most relevant keywords—and experience that is a good fit—will get the interview.

How do I find keywords for my resume?

Human resources professionals / Employers / Recruiting Managers are all well trained to scan your resume for keywords that match the position and industry. If you aren’t sure what those are, do some research online to start getting ideas.

You can search Indeed or Glassdoor; look up positions on job boards like; visit the company’s website to research the company, industry, and position more thoroughly; or find books like 1500+ Keywords by Wendy Enelow for a list of industry-specific keywords.

What are good keywords for a resume?

The top Resume keywords and keyword phrases are usually industry and position-specific keywords.

Think about terms you would type into a search engine looking for someone to perform the job—these are usually the terms the recruiter would use to perform a search.

A prospective employer usually isn’t going to search by years of experience or soft skills.

How many keywords should be used on a resume?

There’s no specific number for the right amount of resume keywords to be used on a resume. What’s important is that you’re including the most relevant keywords and mentioning them a few times throughout your resume.

Though, we recommend that you include a resume keyword section at the top of your resume that would typically include 9-15 resume keywords. A section like this makes it easy for the employer to scan and digest.

What are keyword phrases on a resume?

Keyword phrases can refer to personal characteristics, action verbs, or phrases that carry impact. Examples of these high-impact phrases include best-in-class, entrepreneurial vision, peak performer, world-class leadership, and team building.

They’re not exactly the terms that potential employers would use to search in applicant tracking systems, but they add clarity and impact to your resume.

What are action verbs?

Action verbs are words that allow you to describe your accomplishments and achievements in an action-driven style.

They’re much more effective than using passive language on your resume. In resume writing, the action verb is usually the first word in a sentence because we omit the “I.”

The idea is you’re communicating to the reader that you’re the person taking the action. It’s a more powerful way to state what you’ve accomplished.

Examples of action verbs are words like achieved, created, designed, developed, pioneered, negotiated, managed, spearheaded, increased, and delivered.

Examples of resume keywords

I thought it might be helpful to provide some examples of keywords based on industry.

This is not an all-inclusive resume keywords list. It’s more like a summary and an example to give you an idea of the keyword possibilities for the different industries listed.

Resume keywords for nonprofit management

Positions might include agency director, board director, committee member, executive director, or special events director. Resume Keywords List:

  • Advocacy

  • Budget oversight

  • Community outreach

  • Corporate giving

  • Corporate sponsorships

  • Fundraising

  • Member communications

  • Special events management

  • Volunteer training

Resume keywords for banking

Positions might include branch manager, bank manager, lending officer, regional vice president, vice president, underwriter, managing director, and credit officer. Resume Keywords List:

  • Asset management

  • Branch operations

  • Commercial banking

  • Credit analysis

  • Loan administration

  • Loan processing

  • Portfolio management

  • Relationship management

  • Return-on-equity (ROE)

  • Secured lending

Resume keywords for customer service

Positions might include account manager, director of account relations, key account manager, or vice president of customer service and retention. Resume Keywords List:

  • Account relationship management

  • Customer loyalty

  • Customer retention

  • Customer satisfaction

  • Key account management

  • Service measures

Resume keywords for engineering

Positions might include chemical engineer, design engineer, director of R&D, electrical engineer, industrial engineer, laboratory manager, process engineer, project manager, R&D engineer, a software engineer, and test engineer. Resume Keywords List:

  • Chemical engineering

  • Experimental design

  • Facilities engineering

  • Field performance

  • Process development

  • Process engineering

  • Product development cycle

  • Project planning

  • Project management

  • Quality assurance

  • Statistical analysis

Resume keywords for healthcare

Positions might include chief nursing officer, finance manager, medical affairs director, or medical director. Resume Keywords List:

  • Acute care facility

  • Ambulatory care

  • Clinical services

  • Community outreach

  • Healthcare administrator

  • Managed care

  • Outpatient care

  • Practice management

  • Primary care

  • Provider relations

  • Public health administration

  • Quality of care

  • Risk management

Resume keywords for hospitality

Positions might include banquet manager, certified food and beverage executive, club manager, general manager, restaurant manager, and sales director. Resume Keywords List:

  • Back of house operations

  • Catering operations

  • Club management

  • Contract F&B operations

  • Guest relations

  • Hospitality management

  • Meeting planning

  • Occupancy

  • Resort management

  • Relationship building

  • Vendor sourcing

Resume keywords for human resources

Positions might include benefits and compensation administrator, employment manager, HR manager, recruiter, labor relations specialist, or learning and development manager. Resume Keywords List:

  • Benefits administration

  • Change management

  • Benefits and compensation

  • Hiring process

  • Interview/interviewing

  • Performance reviews

  • Succession planning

  • Contract negotiations

  • Unions

  • Arbitration

  • Negotiation

  • Performance appraisals

  • Staffing

What are the keywords recruiters are looking for on your resume?

Recruiters are searching for hard skills on your resume or cover letter as a resume keywords. Hard skills will make the best keywords and phrases to communicate your skills and experience.

While years of experience may be a requirement for a position, stating you have 10 years’ experience usually isn’t a term that the employer would input into a search engine or applicant tracking system to scan resumes.

JobScan put together a list of the top 500 resume keywords to boost your resume that is a great tool to research overall keywords.

How do you optimize your resume for keywords?

Include buzzwords in multiple sections of your resume. The position title can be a key search term employers use to screen resumes so make sure it’s front and center at the top of your resume.

A one-line tagline or a branding statement beneath your position title could also include resume keywords.

Create a separate section on your resume where you mention 10-15 resume keywords and set these as you apply to different positions. You always want to include the most relevant keywords first.

As Jon Shields points out in his JobScan article, terms like guru, wizard, goddess, ninja, or rock star won’t help you when it comes to keyword scanning and popping up in search results. They may be fun but there isn’t much usefulness to them.