4 Tips to Fill Your Job Resume with the Right Keywords


Whether you're writing your first resume or updating an existing one, stop and think about which keywords you need to add. You could be the most qualified person for the position, but yours will be lost in a sea of resumes without the right ones.

Recruiters perform thousands of keyword searches on Monster's resume database daily. Of course, you want your resume to show up when appropriate.

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The problem is that there's no magical list of perfect keywords for your job objective. Sample lists are available, but hiring managers differ in what they consider important when conducting a keyword search. In fact, two hiring managers filling the same position may enter completely different keyword terms. So what's a job seeker to do?

Through diligent research and sound judgment calls, you can maximize your resume's keyword density and improve your chances of getting noticed. Here's how:

Study Job Advertisements

This is the best way to determine important keywords. You can get into the mind of employers who literally spell out what they're looking for in job postings. In the following ad, important keywords are in bold:

DEF Company seeks an experienced human resources assistant to work in our busy downtown office. Duties include ensuring regulatory compliance with FMLA, ERISA and HIPAA laws, maintaining personnel records, coordinating new staff orientation meetings, assisting with recruitment campaigns and maintaining the employee handbook.

Requirements: The qualified candidate will have a minimum of five years of human resources experience in a fast-paced environment with strong knowledge of benefits administration, including medical, dental, life, 401(k) and COBRA. Proficiency in MS Office programs is required. Bachelor's degree preferred.

In addition to keywords found in job advertisements, think about keyword variations. In the above example, the abbreviated "HR assistant" could be important. The ad indicates MS Office is required, so adding specific computer programs you've used (Word, Access, Excel, PowerPoint and Outlook) is a good idea. Of course, only include keywords that actually match your skills or experience.

Review several job advertisements for your ideal position. The jobs don't have to be in your geographic target area. The idea is to find skills, experience, education and other credentials important in your field. You will probably find keywords frequently mentioned by different employers. Focus on the "requirements," "skills" or "qualifications" sections of job ads, and look for industry buzzwords and desirable credentials for your job objective.

Talk to Recruiters and Employers

Arrange informational interviews and ask which credentials are important in your field. Listen to the language hiring managers use to discover keywords you should incorporate in your resume.

Think Like a Hiring Manager

Imagine you are in charge of recruiting employees and are searching a resume database. Which search terms would you enter to generate the most qualified candidate list? Also, consider other keywords hiring managers might use, such as employer and school names, and be sure these are represented on your resume.

Additional Sources for Keywords

  • Employer websites
  • Government job descriptions: Visit O*Net and the Occupational Outlook Handbook.
  • Industry association websites and hard-copy publications
  • Career-related networking/discussion groups
  • Online resume samples
  • Career exploration and resume books

After conducting your research and identifying essential keywords, add them to your resume. Keywords should look like they naturally belong where you place them. At the same time, your resume should read smoothly. One strategy is to incorporate skill-related keywords in Monster's Skills section. You can also weave in keywords elsewhere, including your resume's Objective and Experience sections.

Once you optimize your resume for keywords, renew your resume on Monster and see whether your hits and responses increase. Continually monitor its success. You may need to reassess and tweak your keywords until you achieve your desired results.

Related: For the latest veteran jobs postings around the country, visit the Military.com Job Search section.

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Whether you want to polish your resume, find veteran job fairs in your area or connect with employers looking to hire veterans, Military.com can help. Subscribe to Military.com to have job postings, guides and advice, and more delivered directly to your inbox.

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