How to Find the Best Resume Keywords & Work With the ATS  [+ Examples]

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April 9, 2024
Edited by
Kayte Grady
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min read

3 key takeaways

  • What a resume keywords are, and why they are important
  • How to find and incorporate resume keywords into your resume
  • Using Teal’s AI Resume Builder to streamline this process

A strategic resume goes beyond a list of qualifications and skills; it also incorporates another necessary element: resume keywords.

Resume keywords are specific terms, words, and phrases employers look for when identifying candidates with the best skills and qualifications for a particular job. 

Once you know where to find these terms and how to add relevant keywords to your resume, you'll increase your chances of being found in the ATS, standing out from other candidates, and landing an interview.

Ready to find the right keywords for any job? Sign up for Teal today.

What are resume keywords?

Resume keywords are specific words or phrases that an employer may use in a job listing and in their internal systems to identify qualified job applicants. Applicants add these words to their resume (and cover letter!) to align their skills and qualifications with each unique job.

Keywords in a resume:

  • Help recruiters throughout the hiring process determine if a candidate is the best fit for a job
  • Increase a candidates visibility in applicant tracking systems (ATS)
  • Typically relate to the skills, qualifications, and experience required for a position
  • May include industry-specific jargon, software and tools, and other relevant terminology
  • Often include both types of resume skills—soft and hard

The keywords you choose are going to change for each job posting and company. Even if you are applying to the same job title, companies are be looking for something slightly different, so your resume buzzwords should differ on each document. 

For in-depth breakdown of how, when, and where to use certain words on a resume, head over to this resume synonym glossary for specific guidance with word choice.

Why are resume keywords important?

Before you get into the “how,” let's discuss the “why.” Why are resume keywords so crucial in your job search? The answer lies in their impact on multiple levels—from ATS optimization to highlighting your skills and experiences.

1. Optimize for applicant tracking systems (ATS)

ATS are used by many employers to scan, file, and sort resumes. A hiring manager or recruiter can use these systems to filter through applications based on specific keywords related to the job description. By including these relevant keywords in your resume, you're helping those humans actually reviewing your resume to easily identify and match your qualifications and skills to the specific job requirements.

Check your resume score with Teal

Keywords are't the only way to optimize your content for the ATS. Use Teal's Resume Checker to quickly scan your resume to find any gaps in your content (and keywords!), formatting, and more.

A graphic of Teal's Resume Checker to align keywords and content with ATS
Check your ATS alignment with Teal's Resume Checker.

2. Boost resume relevance

Next up is relevance. Resume keywords help to emphasize the alignment between your qualifications and the job requirements. When a hiring manager sees keywords that match their job description, it signals that you're not just another applicant but a potentially strong fit for the role.

3. Increase visibility

Including the right keywords also ramps up your resume's visibility. Keywords help your application stand out. It's like adding a spotlight to your skills and experiences in a stack of applications.

4. Showcase skills and experience

Lastly, resume keywords are your tools to showcase your skills and experience effectively. They can succinctly highlight your career journey and the expertise you've garnered over time, providing potential employers a clear and concise snapshot of your capabilities. And with Teal’s AI Resume Builder, you can leverage AI technology to do this with ease and efficiency.

Understanding applicant tracking systems (ATS)

An applicant tracking system (ATS) is a software tool used by employers to streamline the recruitment process. It is used to sort, filter, and manage resumes and job applications, making the process more efficient and less time-consuming for recruiters and hiring managers.

Hiring managers and recruiters can use the ATS as a resume keyword scanner to search for specific keywords, qualifications, and other criteria that match the requirements of the job opening. This helps them identify the most qualified candidates quickly.

What impact do resume keywords have on ATS?

Resume keywords and applicant tracking systems (ATS) are closely related. Here's how it works.

  1. When a job opening is created, recruiters and hiring managers will typically identify a set of qualifications and skills that are required for the position. (job titles, technical skills, certifications, and industry-specific terminology, etc.).
  2. These qualifications and skills are then used to create a list of keywords that should be included in a resume and cover letter submitted with a job application.
  3. The ATS is designed so hiring professionals can then search this digital filing cabinet for those specific keywords and phrases.
  4. If the words a hiring professional is searching for aren't listed in your resume, your resume won't be pulled.

And while many businesses use ATS systems as an organizational tool, it's important to remember these digital screeners are just that—tools. They don’t have the final say in whether or not your application makes it through to the next phase in the screening process. It call comes down to your qualifications. Remember real human recruiters are still reviewing your resume—so it’s equally as important to speak to the human side of things!

Teal Note: In addition to including the keywords, it's also important to format the resume in a way that is easy for the ATS to parse. This includes using simple formatting, avoiding graphics or images, and saving the file in a compatible PDF format.

How do you find the right ATS keywords?

Having discussed the importance of ATS resume keywords, let's jump into how to uncover them. Identifying the right keywords is an art, and there are multiple avenues to explore to find the ones that fit your profile and desired role best. Teal's Job Description Keyword Finder allows you to craft stronger applications, by quickly identifying the most important keywords for the role.

Find relevant keywords in job descriptions

Job descriptions are a great source of information. They offer a more in-depth look at the responsibilities and requirements of a role. Also called job listings, they can help you identify the necessary skills and qualifications that make for potent keywords.

Identifying action verbs for your resume in the job description usually provides insight into the soft skills needed for the role.

Then, you want to look out for hard skills or technical skills, like technology tools, functional skills, and anything that is teachable and measurable.

The Teal Job Application Tracker streamlines this process by extracting the top keywords like hard and soft skills so you can quickly customize your resume keywords for each application.

Keywords in a job description
Find the best resume keywords in any job description with Teal.

Company research

Don't underestimate the power of researching your target companies. By understanding their culture, goals, and values, you can pick up on the language and terminology they use. Reflecting these in your resume can be an effective way to align yourself with a company's vision.

Use the free Company Tracker in Teal AI Resume Builder platform to jot down important details you want to refer to later on.

Resume keywords documented correctly
Save resume keywords in Teal's Company Tracker.

Examine other industry professionals’ LinkedIn profiles and resumes

Looking at the LinkedIn profiles and resumes of other professionals in your industry can provide insights into commonly used keywords. Remember, you're not copying; you're gathering inspiration and ensuring you're speaking the industry language.

Research on industry-specific websites

Industry-specific websites, forums, and blogs can provide a wealth of information and trends about your field. The terms and jargon that pop up frequently are likely to be important keywords.

Remember to use resume keywords that are relevant to your qualifications and experience and use them in a natural way so you avoid keyword stuffing and your resume sounds professional and not forced.

How to use the right keywords in each section of your resume

Having gathered your keywords, let's focus on embedding them naturally across your resume. Each section presents a unique opportunity to use these words and demonstrate your suitability for the job. Remember, the key is to incorporate them seamlessly into your targeted resumes without disrupting the overall flow.

It's important to note that using too many keywords can make your resume sound unnatural and forced. So, use keywords strategically and in a way that makes sense for your resume and your qualifications as they relate to the job description.

1. Professional Summary

Your resume summary is the gateway to your candidacy. It's where you can place prominent keywords that reflect your professional identity. Use them to summarize your skills and experiences. However, avoid stuffing too many keywords and always strive to maintain a natural and engaging tone.

2. Target job title

When listing your desired job title (also known as a target title on your resume), align this as closely as possible with the title you've identified from the job posting. If the job ad seeks a 'Graphic Designer' with 'branding' and 'digital marketing' experience, ensure 'Graphic Designer' or a similar title is listed as your target title and that those keywords appear in your professional summary and work experience achievements if they align with your skills and experiences.

3. Work history and experience 

The "Work Experience" section is your opportunity to showcase how you've used your skills in practice in a previous job. When detailing your past roles, integrate keywords into the descriptions of your responsibilities and achievements. Aim to showcase impact and demonstrate how you used the skills represented by the keywords to bring about tangible results.

4. Related skills

In the "Skills" section, directly include the keywords that highlight your relevant abilities. If 'project management certification,' 'AirTable,' or 'Webflow' are keywords for your targeted role and they’re part of your skillset, make sure they're clearly listed in this section.

5. Education and certifications

Finally, the "Education" and "Certifications" sections. Include any degrees, courses, or certifications that are relevant keywords. For example, if 'MBA' or 'Certified Public Accountant' are keywords that popped up in your research and you possess these qualifications, make sure they're featured prominently.

Overall, think of keywords as the DNA of your resume—important components that tell your professional story in the language that the hiring managers understand and appreciate.

Incorporate resume keywords in every section with Teal

Adding the right keywords in job descriptions to every section of your resume can be a challenge. But with the Teal AI Resume Builder, it becomes intuitive and easy. 

With Teal, you can effortlessly identify, integrate, and optimize each resume section with the most relevant keywords—ensuring your qualifications and skills align with the specific language of every unique job description.

Sign up for Teal to easily integrate vital keywords into your resume sections today.

5 steps to leverage resume keywords for a job description

When you've pinpointed a specific job that you're interested in, tailoring your resume to that particular job description becomes critical.

As each job ad will be looking for something different, you'll want to take these 5 steps for every job posting. It can be time-consuming without the right tools, but it's a necessary step to present the best version of yourself

Here's a step-by-step process to help you strategically incorporate keywords into your resume.

Step 1: Save the job posting

First things first, save the job posting in a place where you can edit and highlight keywords. You can use a word-processing program or even a simple note-taking app. The point here is to create a working document that you can refer to throughout the process.

Keep yourself organized by saving all the job descriptions that interest you in one place, like a job tracker. Teal's free Chrome Extension is compatible with 40+ job boards to easily bookmark jobs with one click and save them directly to Teal's Job Application Tracker.

Step 2: Highlight the keywords

Next, read through the job description two to three times. On each pass, you'll likely spot more and more important keywords and phrases. Highlight them as they'll be important when updating your resume.

Don't want to miss any important words? Teal's AI Resume Builder highlights the keywords from job descriptions for you!

Resume keywords from a job description
Find and prioritize the right resume keywords from job descriptions.

Step 3: Segment the Skills

After you've identified the keywords, it's time to categorize them. Segment these skills into two primary buckets: soft skills and hard skills. Soft skills might include attributes like "team player" or "effective communicator," while hard skills are job-specific qualifications like "coding in Python" or "financial modeling."

Pro Tip: Teal does this for you and takes it one step further. After highlighting and categorizing the high-priority words in the job description, the AI Resume Builder matches these words to those in your resume, showing you the words to consider incorporating into your document.

Step 4: Prioritize repeat keywords

As you analyze the job description, pay close attention to the keywords that occur multiple times. These repeated terms are likely to be essential skills or qualifications for the role, and these are the ones you should prioritize when updating your resume.

Step 5: Frame your accomplishments

Finally, make your achievements shine by incorporating the relevant keywords you've found.

Frame your accomplishments in a way that displays what you achieved and how you used the desired skills to make those achievements happen.

Then, try Matching Mode in the Teal AI Resume Builder to see where your resume stands. Matching Mode compares your resume to job descriptions—giving you a Match Score. Use more of the language you've identified in the steps above to improve your score. With Teal, customizing your resume keywords is easy and effective. Match, compare, and optimize it for any job description in one central location.

Find the best keywords for your resume
Match your resume keywords to job descriptions with Teal.

Example of keywords in a job description

ATS resume keywords list by industry

Creating a resume that stands out from the competition is crucial for job seekers when job hunting. One way to make your resume more effective is by including keywords that are specific to your industry. These keywords help to highlight your relevant skills and qualifications and make your resume more likely to be noticed by potential employers.

In this section, we will provide you with a list of keywords that are commonly used in various industries to help you tailor your resume for your desired field.

Sales keywords 

  • Sales management
  • Business strategy
  • B2B/B2C sales
  • Customer service
  • Negotiation
  • Account management
  • Customer acquisition
  • CRM
  • Pipeline management
  • Lead generation

Marketing keywords

  • Digital marketing
  • Social media
  • Search engine optimization (SEO)
  • Content marketing
  • Branding
  • Marketing strategy
  • Marketing research
  • ROI
  • Marketing analysis
  • PPC

Engineering keywords

  • Software development
  • Java
  • SQL
  • Agile methodologies
  • Python
  • Design
  • CAD
  • Troubleshooting
  • SaaS technologies
  • MS Office Suite

Customer service keywords

  • Customer relations
  • Problem resolution
  • Customer satisfaction
  • Multitasking
  • Communication skills
  • Customer retention
  • Complaint handling
  • Conflict resolution
  • Time management
  • Relationship building
  • Technical support
  • Empathy
  • Active listening
  • Troubleshooting
  • Customer experience

Project manager keywords

  • Project planning
  • Risk management
  • Time management
  • Quality assurance
  • Task prioritization
  • PMP
  • Agile (scrum) methodologies
  • Budget management
  • Problem solving
  • Stakeholder management

Along with technical skills, don't forget to include interpersonal skills like those below alongside impact:

  • Organization
  • Teamwork
  • Innovative
  • Adaptability
  • Initiative
  • Cooperation
  • Reliability
  • Emotional intelligence
  • Leadership
  • Communication

Remember, these keywords can be listed throughout each resume section, such as education, achievements, experience, professional summary, etc. Here are a few quick examples:

  • Bachelor's degree in computer science
  • Customer service representative with a proven track record in customer satisfaction
  • Harvard business school grad excelling in time management and task prioritization
  • Conducted financial analysis and increased business profitability by X
  • Collaborated with software developers in a test-driven environment

Automate your resume keywords with Teal

Going back to the job description to pinpoint important keywords is the most promising way to ensure you're using the best keywords throughout your resume.

And while it takes both time and practice to be able to identify keywords, luckily, there are tools like Teal to make it easier. 

The Teal Job Application Tracker automatically highlights hard skills, soft skills, and emphasis words from the job description to see if the job matches your experience. Then, use Teal's AI Resume Builder to quickly compare the skills and keywords in the job posting to those in your resume. Make sure to add any relevant experience to your customized resume and to your application answers.

Try Teal for free to find the best resume keywords and incorporate them the right way today!

Frequently Asked Questions

What are some common mistakes to avoid when selecting ATS keywords for my resume?

One common mistake is keyword stuffing, which is the overuse of keywords that can make the resume unreadable and may flag it as spam to the ATS. Another mistake is using the wrong keywords that don't match the job description or industry terminology. Lastly, using acronyms without spelling them out at least once can be problematic, as the ATS may not recognize them.

How often should I update the keywords on my resume for the ATS?

You should update the keywords on your resume each time you apply for a new position. Analyze the job description of the role you're interested in and tailor your resume keywords to align with the skills and experiences sought by the employer. This ensures your resume is always relevant and has the best chance of passing through the ATS filters.

Can I use color or graphics to highlight keywords in my resume for the ATS?

While a visually appealing resume can be beneficial in catching a human reviewer's eye, ATS systems may not process colors or graphics effectively. It's best to highlight keywords through strategic placement, such as in the professional summary or skills section, and use standard text formatting to ensure the ATS can read and understand the content of your resume.

Becca Dershowitz

Becca is a former special education teacher turned content marketer. With a unique blend of experience from the classroom to SaaS, she leverages a variety of insights and perspectives to support marketing teams.

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