More than Just Words: Keywords

The advent of job seeking on the internet has led to both great and terrible things for job seekers. Jobs are now easier to search for, and geographic location no longer limits networking to your immediate area. On the other hand, however, it has become harder for job seekers to stand out in the job search, in part because of the implementation of programs known as “ATS” or Applicant Tracking Systems. These systems scan through applicant resumes and cover letters, ranking them based on keyword saturation. The higher the count of keywords in your resume, the more likely it will be pushed through and viewed by an actual person. This is bad news if you did not customize your resume. On the flip side, knowing about keywords and how to use them can make you a more attractive candidate and help you beat out the competition!

What Are Keywords?

Keywords are words or phrases that are strongly associated with any given position or industry. A good way to identify these is by looking at job listings for your goal position on LinkedIn, Indeed, and other job searching sites. Look at a number of different, related job ads. What terms show up multiple times? Those are probably keywords for your position and industry! They will be programed into the ATS as terms to look for when it scans a resume. This helps the ATS identify applicants with the highest keyword count in their resume, subsequently lowering the number of resumes which will be looked at by a real person. This is great for the hiring manager, who then spends less time looking at resumes, but can be a challenge for the job seeker, who has to cater to those keywords.

However, catering to the hiring manager will get your foot in the door faster. So, when you are in the middle of tailoring a resume for a job listing, make sure you are hitting the keywords they mention in the job ad. I can guarantee you that this will give you a better chance at being called in for an interview.

Where Can They Be Used?

Keywords can and should be used in other places besides the resume. If the position asks for a cover letter (and many position listings do), you should include keywords there as well. I recommend a highly customizable and easy modified format of cover letter in order to make changes quick and easy. Employ a bullet point format to quickly switch in new accomplishments and optimize keywords for each position you apply for.

Additionally, I highly recommend including keywords on your LinkedIn profile. LinkedIn’s search algorithm works a little like an ATS, in that it searches through profiles based on keywords (among a few other things like completion, inclusion of a photo, and network size). If you’ve identified the keywords that are strongly associated with your goal position, include them in your LinkedIn as well as your resume. It will get your found more often, and probably beef up your LinkedIn as well!

Using keywords will, on average, increase your chances of getting your resume in front of a real person. It takes a lot of work up front, researching and identifying relevant terms, but making sure you have the right keywords can make for smoother job searching later on.

Career Solutions Group has helped hundreds of job seekers make successful career transitions. If you are interested in professional support for your job search, email us at We offer free initial consultations and would love to help you identify your next opportunity!

By: Julia Pillard, Career Solutions Group