It's All About the Keywords, Baby!

One of the biggest mistakes you can make as a jobseeker is failing to tailor your resume to each position for which you are applying. Tailoring your resume doesn’t simply mean choosing a stylish template and including a cover letter addressed to a specific company, however. Without using keywords, especially for positions advertised online, your resume will likely never receive a first glance from recruiters. 



Keywords are focused, searchable words and phrases that not only match the descriptors used in the post for your desired position but also distinguish your skills from those of other candidates. With many positions listed on virtual platforms such as Indeed and LinkedIn, hiring managers often receive dozens—or even hundreds—of applications for a single vacancy, leaving them with little time to sort through resumes in search of the best applicants to interview. In fact, online job search engines and human resources websites often use applicant tracking systems (ATS) to review and sort resumes, meaning resumes that don’t contain the right keywords are removed from consideration before employers even have an opportunity to see them. 


You may not think you can best a computer, but there are ways to apply for online positions and ensure that your resume stands out among the many others submitted for the job you want. Before you complete your application, go through the following steps:


Carefully read the job description. Don’t assume that you’ll definitely earn consideration for an open position just because you have the experience or have even held the exact same job title before. Remember: before a hiring manager reads your resume, a software program will scan your resume. Take your time reading through the description, and be sure to highlight the keywords that appear. For example, consider the following excerpt from a recent posting for a hospital patient care technician and unit secretary:


Provides direct and indirect patient care as a member of the health care team and assists other members of the team as needed. Performs, monitors, and documents patient ADLs including vital signs.


Keywords in these two sentences, the very first of the job description, include patient care and vital signs as well as assisting other members of the team. These are important components of the job that the chosen candidate is expected to know and incorporate into daily activities. Undoubtedly, knowing how to use electronic medical records is another necessary skill for this position, but the resume focusing solely on that skill while lacking keywords from the advertisement will not get past the hospital’s ATS software.


Include keywords from the job description in your career profile and summaries of your experience. Once you’ve determined the keywords in the job posting, write a resume that contains those keywords. You should not embellish your duties and accomplishments; instead, use the keywords that are relevant to your experience, rephrasing items when possible. If you were applying to the position described above, your career profile—a brief introduction to your resume—might start out like this:


Collaborative and skilled patient care technician with over five years of experience providing quality patient care, routine monitoring of vital signs, and assistance to medical team members.


This profile immediately draws attention to the candidate’s skills, matching them to the qualifications listed in the job advertisement. Patient carevital signs, and assistance are all keywords from the post that also describe the candidate’s capabilities. The profile could also include phrases such as helped perform patient rounds, meaning the candidate assisted nurses and other team members in facilitating patient care; however, because this phrase does not include any keywords, it will not make the resume stand out despite the fact that it is synonymous with the job description. Don’t assume that a computer or even a recruiter will know what you mean—focus on every word of your resume, being as keyword-specific as you can.


List keywords among your skills and attributes. Certain keywords, particularly soft skills such as compassion and organization, may not easily lend themselves to descriptions of your past job duties, but you shouldn’t ignore them. After all, if they’re included in the post, then they’re important to the employer. To feature these on your resume and provide even more keywords to help you stand out, include a section listing your skills or attributes. Whereas your expertise or technical skills might include your software proficiency or areas in which you specialize, your skills section can include items such as your attention to detail, your experience with public speaking, or your adherence to deadlines—areas that don’t necessarily require education and training but are still essential to performing the job. Besides allowing you to add more keywords to your resume, this section provides recruiters with a greater opportunity to learn more about you.


Job hunting in the digital age requires modern approaches, from creating a stellar LinkedIn profile to knowing when to use an infographic resume to ensuring that your email handle is professional. By utilizing keywords in your resume, you and your unique experience are sure to get noticed. For more help creating a resume that gets attention, click here to see the many career services The Writique offers.