How to Use Keywords in Your Resume, Cover Letter, and More

How to Use Keywords in Your Resume, Cover Letter, and More

Are you struggling to get noticed by recruiters? If so, you may want to consider how well you’ve woven your keywords throughout your profile. While most job seekers spend hours crafting the perfect profile summary, they often overlook the importance of using the right keywords.

The way that you describe your work history, previous roles, credentials, and talents will dictate whether or not you’re found by employers and recruiters searching LinkedIn, Google, and various social media. Not to mention the fact that your keywords dictate how you’re graded by an applicant tracking system (ATS).

What You Need to Know About Keywords

If you’re not using the right keywords, you’re making it harder for potential employers to find you. And if you’re not easily seen, you’re much less likely to get hired.

So, how do you choose the right keywords? Here’s what you need to know.

What Exactly Is a Keyword?

Do you recognize the keywords that you use daily? Probably not. Most of us don’t think of the searches we do in those terms. However, anytime you look something up online, you’re using keywords. And the more detailed your search terms are, the more tailored the results are.

Consider the last time you were looking for a restaurant. There was probably a large number of responses. But if you narrowed that down to “Italian restaurants near me,” your results were much more applicable to your needs.

Keywords in your job search work the same way. Recruiters will use words or phrases that describe a particular skill, experience, or education. For example, if they’re looking for a web developer, their keywords might be “web development,” “HTML,” “CSS,” and/or “JavaScript.”

Leveraging that information, you can use keywords in your job titles, skills, summary, work history, and education sections so that you show up in more search results.

Why You Need Keywords

What do keywords have to do with landing a job? Well, as employers search for and consider candidates, they use keywords to find the best fit for their needs. By including relevant keywords throughout your various profiles and resumes, you can ensure you’re being seen by employers looking for someone with your skills and experience.

In addition to ensuring you’re being found, the best keywords also help ensure that your application is relevant to the position you’re applying for. Many employers use an ATS to screen resumes and identify qualified candidates. These systems often use keywords to determine which summaries are most relevant to a particular job.

What does that mean? Realistically, resumes without a keyword match might not make it into consideration, even if you’re highly qualified for the role.

Where to Use Keywords in Your Job Search

While there is a lot of emphasis on utilizing keywords in your resume to beat an ATS, you can—and should—weave keywords throughout other places to help you connect with recruiters.

For example, include them in your LinkedIn profile headline and summary and in comments and posts you use for groups and companies you follow.

Social media profiles are another excellent location to utilize a strategic and natural approach to including keywords in your writing. You can even use keywords in your email signature.

By strategically using keywords throughout your job search materials, you’ll improve your chances of landing the job you want.

Selecting and Using the Best Keywords

It would be much easier to simply create a list of keywords and then use those repeatedly. In reality, it’s a bit more complex than that. For example, the keywords you use for your online profile will not always be the exact ones you use on your resume.

Ideally, they’ll be similar, but your resume keywords should be targeted to a specific role and updated for each submission. On the other hand, your LinkedIn profile will be broader and target a type of role, rather than a particular job.

Choosing the Best Keywords for LinkedIn

Recruiters use keywords for job titles, qualifications, skills, and duties, meaning you need to do the same to get noticed. This helps ensure you’ll show up in more search results.

For example, if you’re a marketing professional, you might use the following keywords: “marketing manager,” “brand strategist,” “content creator,” “social media expert,” “growth hacker,” etc.

To find the best keywords for your LinkedIn profile, look at job descriptions for positions you’re interested in. Identify the skills and experience that are required or preferred for the job. These will be your target keywords. You can also use LinkedIn’s advanced search feature to see what keywords recruiters are using to find candidates with your qualifications.

Once you have a list of the up-to-date terminology, you can start to weave those throughout your profile. For example, suppose you’re applying for a job that requires customer service experience. In that case, here are some of the keywords you might use: “customer service,” “communication,” “interpersonal skills,” “problem-solving,” and “conflict resolution.”

Choose Your Resume Keywords Carefully

When choosing keywords for your resume, it’s essential to select those most relevant to the job you’re applying for.

Focus on the job listing. List the critical skills and experience required or preferred for the position. These will likely be a mix of hard skills (like specific software or programming languages) and soft skills (like teamwork or customer service).

Consider both the skills and experience you have that are relevant to the position you’re applying for, as well as the specific words and phrases that employers might be using.

Using Keywords Naturally

When you include keywords in your resume and cover letter, it’s essential to use them naturally. In other words, don’t just stuff your documents full of keywords—that will make them difficult to read, and employers will likely be turned off.

Instead, try to include your keywords in a way that makes sense for the particular document and sounds natural. In your resume, you can include keywords in your summary statement and in each bullet point under your work experience. In your cover letter, you can mention them in both the opening paragraph and throughout the body of the letter.

Ensure that the keywords you’re using are relevant to the position you’re applying for and accurately reflect your skills and experience.

Using Keywords to Get Noticed

If you’re having trouble getting noticed, one of the best ways to boost success is by working with a professional resume writer or career coach. They can work with you to create a profile and resume with a higher conversion rate.

With practice, using keywords will feel more natural, and you’ll effortlessly capture the attention of more recruiters and hiring managers.

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