How to Use Resume Keywords in 2024 (Guide & Examples)

Elizabeth Muenzen, CPRW
By Elizabeth Muenzen, CPRW, Career Advice Expert Last Updated: February 12, 2024
Resume Keywords Can Help

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In today’s age of digital recruiting, many companies use applicant tracking systems (ATS) to scan resumes for specific keywords and phrases. If those keywords aren’t present, the resume automatically gets eliminated from the running.

Writing an ATS-friendly resume that effectively uses relevant keywords can help you stand out from hundreds of other applicants and increase your chances of landing an interview. 

We’ll cover everything you need to know about the best resume keywords for 2024, including the following topics: 

  • What are keywords on a resume 
  • How ATS scans your resume for keywords 
  • How to identify resume keywords 
  • How to use keywords in your resume 
  • Resume keyword examples by industry 
  • Common resume keyword mistakes to avoid

What are resume keywords?

Resume keywords are specific words or phrases that are often used by recruiters and hiring managers to quickly screen resumes and identify candidates who meet their qualifications.

For example, let’s take a look at the accounting specialist sample job description below. We’ve highlighted the industry-specific skills and qualifications for the role — these are the keywords that a job seeker applying for this role should incorporate throughout their resume.

Sample Job Description Infographic

Take a look at the example resume below that demonstrates how a job seeker might choose to add the keywords identified above to their resume.

Sample Resume Infographic 1

Why resume keywords are important

Using relevant keywords in your resume can help your application pass ATS and stand out to hiring managers.  

When you tailor your resume by using keywords that demonstrate how your qualifications mirror what the employer is looking for in a candidate, it indicates to ATS and hiring managers that you are a great fit for the role. 

Optimizing your resume to pass ATS goes beyond incorporating relevant keywords — you’ll need an ATS-friendly template, too. 

How applicant tracking systems check for keywords

Many companies use applicant tracking systems (ATS) to store, organize and track the influx of job applications they receive. 

Most ATS tools have a resume parsing feature that is used to extract information from resumes, such as contact details, work experience, skills and education.  

Once this information is extracted and organized under a candidate’s profile, the recruiter can easily screen for the keywords they want to see on a candidate’s resume. 

The following are some of the common methods that ATS tools use to scan for keywords in a resume:

  • Exact match: The ATS looks for exact matches of the keywords and phrases listed in the job description. If the keywords match, the resume is considered a good fit and is flagged for further review.
  • Semantic matching: This method uses natural language processing (NLP) to identify similar or related terms that match the job requirements. For example, if the job description requires “project management,” the ATS will also consider “team leadership” or “project coordination” as relevant keywords.
  • Contextual analysis: The ATS considers the context in which the keywords appear to determine their relevance. For example, if the job requires experience with a specific software program, the ATS will look for the keyword in the context of a software-related skill or experience.

Ultimately, to increase your chances of getting through the ATS and landing an interview, it’s important to use relevant keywords that accurately describe your skills and experience.

Check out our library of 800+ resume examples for different jobs and industries to see how professional resume writers incorporate keywords into a resume. 

How to find keywords for your resume

Scan the job description

The job description is the primary source for identifying resume keywords. The recruiter who wrote the job description will likely be the one directing the ATS to scan for specific words. 

Depending on which ATS tool the company uses, there’s a chance that the skills and qualifications incorporated throughout the job description are worded exactly the way the ATS will scan for them. This might include technical skills, soft skills, certifications, degrees or years of experience.

For example, take a look at the sample customer service job description below. We’ve bolded keywords that highlight important skills and requirements the job seeker should work into their resume. 

Customer Service Representative

ABC Company 

Responsibilities:

  • Respond to customer inquiries and concerns via phone, email and chat in a timely and professional manner.
  • Provide accurate information about products and services to customers.
  • Resolve customer complaints and issues by offering solutions and alternatives.

Requirements:

  • High school diploma or equivalent
  • 1+ years of customer service experience
  • Proficient in Microsoft Office and other relevant software programs

Research industry-specific language

Look at job postings in your target industry and take note of the hard skills and soft skills required for each job. Pay attention to the specific language and industry jargon used in the job postings.

Research industry-specific websites and publications, such as trade journals, blogs and forums. These resources can give you insight into the latest trends, technologies and buzzwords in your field.

There are many keyword research tools available that can help you identify industry-specific keywords. Google’s Keyword Planner and SEMrush are some popular tools that can help you find commonly searched terms in your industry.

Network with professionals in your industry

Networking can help you stay up to date on the latest trends, technologies and best practices in your industry. This can help you identify the skills and experience that are in high demand and that employers are looking for in candidates.

Connect with professionals in your target industry through social media, professional organizations or networking events. They can provide valuable insight into the skills and qualifications that are important in your field.

How to use keywords in your resume

It’s important to strike a balance between using relevant keywords and describing your skills and experience in a clear and concise manner. 

Once you identify the keywords from the job description and other sources, you can group them into the following categories:

  • Soft skills (e.g., communication, cross-team collaboration, etc)
  • Hard skills (e.g., HTML, Google Analytics, etc) 
  • Job-related experience (e.g., social media marketing, copywriting, etc)
  • Action verbs (e.g., managed, coordinated, etc) 
  • Job title, education level, certifications and other prerequisites

When you categorize the keywords you identified from the job description, you can map them to the resume section where they fit most naturally. 

For instance, a skill-related keyword will go in the “Skills” section and an action verb keyword can be used in the “Work History” section.

See our guide on what to put on a resume for additional guidance from experts about what to include in each section of your resume. 

How to add keywords to a resume summary

Your resume summary is the first thing employers see when they review your application. By including keywords in your resume summary and tailoring it to the job description, you can increase your chances of getting noticed and landing an interview.

For example, say that you gather the following keywords from the job description for a marketing role: 

  • Marketing manager
  • Marketing strategies
  • Market research
  • Data-driven decisions
  • Social media
  • Email marketing campaigns

Here is an example of a resume summary you could write that incorporates the keywords you identified (keywords in red): 

“Highly motivated and experienced marketing manager with a proven track record of developing and implementing successful marketing strategies. Skilled in conducting market research, analyzing data and metrics, and making data-driven decisions. Proficient in managing and creating content for social media platforms, websites and email marketing campaigns.”

If you are writing a resume with no experience, you might consider using a resume objective instead of a resume summary. Take a look at professionally written resume objective examples to explore how you can incorporate keywords.

How to add keywords to the work history section

Using keywords in the work history section of your resume is crucial to help it get noticed by potential employers. Make sure you also showcase your achievements and accomplishments in your work history section. 

For example, let’s say you reading a job description that mentions the following requirements:

  • Experience creating and executing successful social media campaigns.
  • Ability to write compelling copy with successful click-through-rate and conversion rate. 
  • Experience organizing and executing successful events. 

Some of the keywords that stand out in these requirements include “social media campaigns,” “click-through rates,” “conversion rates,” and “organizing and executing events.”

Below is an example of how you could incorporate these keywords into the work history section of your resume (keywords in red):

Marketing Coordinator

ABC Company, San Diego, CA

Feb. 2019 – Present

  • Created and executed social media campaigns that increased engagement and boosted brand awareness.
  • Wrote copy for email marketing campaigns, website content and promotional materials that increased click-through rates and conversion rates.
  • Organized and executed a product launch event that generated buzz and increased sales.

How to add keywords to the skills section

Customize your skills section for each job application. Take note of which skills the job description emphasizes. Does it mostly mention hard skills, interpersonal skills, or a mix of both?

Use bullet points to list your skills in the skills section of your resume. This will make it easy for employers to quickly scan your resume and pick out the skills they are looking for.

Take a look at the sample resume skills section below that is tailored to a job description that mentions “marketing strategy development,” “market research,” social media,” “email marketing” (keywords in red):

Skills

  • Marketing strategy development and implementation
  • Market research and analysis
  • Social media management and content creation
  • Email marketing campaigns and automation

How to add keywords to the education section

Make sure to include relevant keywords related to your field of study, coursework and degrees. This will increase your chances of passing ATS and help employers quickly identify your qualifications and expertise.

Let’s say the job description notes that the candidate must have a “Bachelor of Science in Marketing.” The job seeker should add this degree to their education section using the exact same wording. 

Additionally, the education section is an excellent place to highlight additional resume keywords. In the example below, the job seeker targets keywords such as “Bachelor’s degree in marketing,” “marketing strategy” and “marketing campaigns” (keywords are bolded and italicized for reference):

Education

Bachelor of Science in Marketing, XYZ University

  • Completed a capstone project on developing a comprehensive marketing strategy for a new product launch.
  • Participated in a semester-long internship with a marketing agency, gaining hands-on experience in developing and executing marketing campaigns.
  • Member of the Marketing Club, where I collaborated with peers on various marketing projects and attended industry events and workshops to stay up-to-date on industry trends and best practices.

Resume keyword examples by industry

We’ve compiled common resume keywords by industry to help you tailor your resume to your target role. 

Use these lists to gain a better understanding of the types of keywords employers in your industry might be looking for in a successful candidate. 

Remember that the job description is always the primary source for resume keywords. Scan it carefully to identify the essential skills and qualifications for your target role. 

Construction

  • Project management
  • Safety regulations
  • Building codes
  • Construction materials
  • Site supervision
  • Budgeting
  • Quality control
  • Blueprint reading
  • Contract negotiations
  • Scheduling
  • Building inspections
  • Subcontractor management
  • Cost estimation
  • Equipment operation
  • Troubleshooting

Education

  • Curriculum development
  • Classroom management
  • Instructional design
  • Student assessment
  • Educational technology
  • Differentiated instruction
  • Special education
  • Professional development
  • Learning management systems
  • Lesson planning
  • E-learning
  • Student-centered learning
  • Education policy
  • Pedagogy
  • Educational leadership

Finance

  • Financial analysis
  • Investment management
  • Risk management
  • Portfolio management
  • Financial modeling
  • Taxation
  • Accounting
  • Corporate finance
  • Asset allocation
  • Wealth management
  • Financial planning
  • Trading
  • Securities
  • Derivatives
  • Banking

Government

  • Policy development
  • Budget management
  • Program management
  • Grant writing
  • Legislative analysis
  • Public administration
  • Project management
  • Contract management
  • Regulatory compliance
  • Security clearance
  • Strategic planning
  • Data analysis
  • Government affairs
  • Policy analysis
  • Interagency collaboration

Health care

  • Patient care
  • Electronic medical records
  • Health care administration
  • Medical billing and coding
  • Health informatics
  • Quality assurance
  • Clinical research
  • Health care policy
  • Health care management
  • Health insurance
  • Medical terminology
  • Case management
  • Healthcare compliance
  • Public health
  • Health care technology

Hospitality and tourism

  • Customer service
  • Event planning
  • Food and beverage management
  • Front desk management
  • Hospitality management
  • Hotel operations
  • Sales and marketing
  • Tourism industry
  • Guest relations
  • Reservation management
  • Culinary arts
  • Travel coordination
  • Revenue management
  • Venue management
  • Conference and convention management

Information technology

  • Software development
  • Programming languages
  • Cybersecurity
  • Network administration
  • Cloud computing
  • Data analytics
  • Project management
  • IT support
  • Information management
  • System administration
  • Database management
  • Artificial intelligence
  • Machine learning
  • IT strategy
  • Web development

Insurance

  • Insurance policies
  • Risk management
  • Claims processing
  • Underwriting
  • Actuarial science
  • Insurance sales
  • Insurance regulations
  • Policy development
  • Customer service
  • Sales and marketing
  • Insurance law
  • Fraud detection
  • Property and casualty insurance
  • Life insurance
  • Health insurance
  • Legal research
  • Contract negotiation
  • Litigation support
  • Case management
  • Legal writing
  • Legal analysis
  • Regulatory compliance
  • Intellectual property law
  • Corporate law
  • Employment law
  • Civil litigation
  • Criminal law
  • Mediation and arbitration
  • Tax law
  • Securities law

Manufacturing

  • Production planning
  • Quality control
  • Lean manufacturing
  • Supply chain management
  • Inventory management
  • Process improvement
  • Manufacturing automation
  • Material handling
  • Safety compliance
  • Equipment maintenance
  • Six Sigma
  • Root cause analysis
  • Product development
  • Continuous improvement
  • Manufacturing engineering

Media and entertainment

  • Video production
  • Audio production
  • Script writing
  • Editing
  • Storytelling
  • Cinematography
  • Social media marketing
  • Content creation
  • Broadcast journalism
  • Event planning
  • Public relations
  • Photography
  • Graphic design
  • Digital media
  • Creative direction

Professional and business services

  • Project management
  • Business development
  • Client relations
  • Strategic planning
  • Financial analysis
  • Contract negotiation
  • Sales management
  • Marketing strategy
  • Human resources management
  • Operations management
  • Change management
  • Risk management
  • Process improvement
  • Data analysis
  • Leadership development

Real estate

  • Property management
  • Real estate investment analysis
  • Client relations
  • Sales management
  • Property appraisal
  • Lease negotiation
  • Market analysis
  • Contract negotiation
  • Real estate law
  • Property development
  • Real estate marketing
  • Financial analysis
  • Property inspection
  • Property valuation
  • Property tax assessment

Retail

  • Sales management
  • Customer service
  • Inventory management
  • Merchandising
  • Retail operations
  • Visual merchandising
  • Product knowledge
  • Team leadership
  • Marketing strategy
  • Point of sale (POS) systems
  • Retail sales analysis
  • Sales forecasting
  • Staff training and development
  • Vendor management
  • Retail technology

Transportation and logistics

  • Supply chain management
  • Freight forwarding
  • Logistics management
  • Transportation planning
  • Route optimization
  • Warehouse management
  • Inventory control
  • Vendor management
  • Import/export regulations
  • Customs brokerage
  • Carrier management
  • Shipping documentation
  • Load planning
  • Dispatching
  • Safety regulation compliance

Resume keyword mistakes to avoid

#1 Keyword stuffing

It’s important to avoid keyword stuffing in your resume since it can make it difficult to read and may turn off hiring managers.

Rather than focusing solely on adding keywords to your resume, focus on creating quality content that showcases your skills and experience in a clear and concise manner.

#2 Dishonest keywords

Although an ATS might not be able to detect dishonest keyword usage, hiring managers will certainly be able to when it comes time for an interview. 

Only use keywords that are relevant to the job you’re applying for and that accurately describe your skills and experience.

#3 Ignoring soft skills

Many job postings include soft skills as part of the job requirements. However, some job seekers focus only on hard skills and technical keywords. 

While hard skills and technical knowledge are important, employers also want to know that you have the necessary soft skills to succeed in the job and fit in with the company culture.

Key takeaways

  1. Resume keywords are specific words or phrases that describe a particular skill, experience or qualification that an employer is seeking in a candidate.
  2. Keywords are used in resumes to optimize them for applicant tracking systems and to help recruiters quickly identify the most qualified candidates for a job.
  3. You can identify keywords to use in your resume by carefully scanning the job description for key skills and qualifications and by searching for industry-specific resume keywords.
  4. Keywords should be incorporated throughout your resume. Add them to the resume summary, work experience, skills and education section.
  5. Use keywords naturally throughout your resume and focus on quality over quantity. Only use keywords that accurately reflect your skills and professional experience.

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