A customized resume can increase your chances of landing an interview and, ultimately, a job you love. But how exactly do you customize your resume with keywords? In this article, I share:
- The importance of using keywords in a resume.
- How to effectively identify keywords in a job posting.
- How to strategically insert keywords into your resume.
What Is The Importance Of Keywords In A Resume?
To start, what’s the reason for including keywords in your resume in the first place? There are a few.
The first reason to include keywords is to speak the language of your prospective employer. If you’re a higher education professional trying to break into tech, for instance, using industry-specific language will help connect the dots between academia and tech, so they can envision you working for them. In other words, by using keywords, you’re effectively communicating your transferable skills to the recruiter and hiring manager.
Another important reason to use keywords is that it helps recruiters find you in their applicant tracking systems (ATS). Described simply, an ATS is like a giant digital file cabinet of prospects being considered for a job, and using the right keywords makes it easier to get your resume into that cabinet.
Notably, I don’t recommend obsessing over keywords in an attempt to “beat the bots,” because humans created and manage the ATS. Instead, your goal is to merely make it easier to understand how your experience and skills align with the job requisition.
How Do You Identify Keywords In A Job Posting?
So, how do you know which keywords in a job posting are the most important?
Use the target job posting to guide you through this process. To avoid perfectionism, I encourage my clients to set a 20-minute timer for each role they apply to.
Using the target job posting, identify the 10 to 20 qualifications and skills a recruiter would look for in prospective applicants. If you’re applying for a Product Manager role, for instance, this would include phrases like “product development” and “product management.” Pay special attention to the qualifications, experience, and skills sections of the job posting.
Conversely, you don’t need to stress over words like “developed” or “managed,” as these action verbs will appear in multiple job positions at the company, and recruiters won’t be likely to use these terms to find candidates.
If you’re struggling to identify which words to use, you can quickly reference other job postings at the same company. See which specific-position skills appear in the Product Manager role but not other jobs at the organization.
However, identifying keywords is just the first step in customizing your resume. Next, you need to insert them into your resume, as well as your cover letter and LinkedIn profile.
How Do You Insert Keywords Into Your Resume?
First, strategically add keywords to your resume’s professional summary. If your resume doesn’t begin with a career summary, you will want to add one ASAP, as it’s an opportunity to quickly synthesize your career history, experience, and skills for the reader.
Second, if you don’t already have one, place a section titled “Key Strengths” immediately below your summary, with approximately 10–12 areas of expertise. That way, you can update this section with keywords from each job posting.
Third, I advise adding keywords to the beginning of each bullet point on your resume. This allows you to target your career accomplishments to each posting without spending hours rewriting your entire document.
While each situation is unique, it sometimes makes sense to include the title from the job posting at the top of your resume (example: “Target Role: Product Manager”), particularly if you’ve never held that exact title before. This is helpful for getting your resume into the ATS, as I mentioned earlier.
A quick note: You can also insert keywords into each cover letter you submit. And while you can’t customize your LinkedIn profile for each job you apply to, you should ensure that any keywords that are common to many of the jobs you’re applying for appear in your headline, About section, and Experience section.
Remember, the goal of learning how to customize your resume with keywords is to land an interview, and these strategies can increase your chances of making that happen. You’ve got this!