Keywords….To Add or Not to Add

Dear Resume Survis Lady,

It’s been a long time since I’ve needed to update my resume and I’m sure there have been a lot of changes with how to format a resume and what you need to put on it.  I want to maximize the number of times my resume is reviewed and I’ve heard adding keywords are the way to do it.  What are keywords and how do I incorporate them into my resume? 

Ahhh….keywords!  I love keywords!  First of all let me start by explaining what keywords are for those who may not know.  Most resumes are now submitted and stored electronically.  This would include resumes that you upload to a job board such as CareerBuilder or Monster or a profile that you have online on a site such as LinkedIn.  For most positions you apply to, you will also be applying online through what is known as a company’s “Applicant Tracking System” or ATS for short.  This would be when you visit a company’s career website and apply to a position that is listed on their site.  All electronic databases have the ability to search the resumes stored through entering keywords or search strings.  Think of it like a search engine such as Google.  If you go to the Google home page to search for a specific product or specific information, you would enter your search string of keywords and hit enter to see your results.  It’s the same with electronic resume banks.  A potential employer can use a search feature to enter specific keywords of things they are looking for.  This could be something like CPM (Certified Purchasing Manager) to PE (Plant Engineer) to Automation experience, etc. 

So, should you use keywords in your resume?  ABSOLUTELY!  One of the biggest mistakes I see with resumes that are not professionally written is the absence of keywords.  A great example of this is when you list your employment history.  Do you have the industry listed or what each company does?  This is an area that is often overlooked when writing a resume.  If a recruiter is looking for someone that has experience in the “specialty chemical” arena, they will often use keywords like: Chem, specialty chemical, specialty chem, chemical.  If you do not have it listed in your resume, your resume will not be pulled back.

There are different ways that you can include keywords into your resume.  The first would be to include them in the body of your resume as you are writing it.  Enter a short “blurb” about the company after you list it on your resume such as:

XYZ Company, Milwaukee, WI                                                                                                                                                            4/2006-11/2010

XYZ Company is a Recruitment Process Outsourcing (RPO) company known as a global pioneer of innovative and uniquely effective talent sourcing and strategy for its clients.

 You can also create a keyword section at the bottom of your resume where you can list in succession all the keywords that are not already listed in your resume:

What has been your experience with keywords?


11 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Samantha Bangayan
    Mar 27, 2011 @ 09:23:42

    Wow! I had never thought about this — I will be implementing this tip right away! =)


  2. Boschii
    Mar 29, 2011 @ 20:01:19

    It has become increasingly difficult to figure out what to put on resumes. The shorter you try and get the resume…the longer it ends up being since now you have to describe the company. I couldn’t imagine writing “The New York Times – A newspaper and digital media company”…I think a recruiter would look at me like I was nuts…assuming a recruiter got as far as reading my resume. I don’t disagree with you…it just all keeps getting more and more complicated.

    Thanks so much for this information though….I am back to the resume drawing board once again: )

    BTW I LOVE the new look!


  3. avantgaard
    Mar 30, 2011 @ 10:16:15

    I guess as bloggers we really should be familiar with the importance of keywords and transfer that realization into our resume writing as well.
    My blog and my resume are for the same profession so the keywords are pretty much the same. Great post. Thank you for sharing.


  4. Dianne
    Mar 30, 2011 @ 17:10:54

    Never thought about keywords in this format. I didn’t know resumes were handled electronically nowadays, either. Where have I been!

    Good information that can certainly be applied elsewhere, like blogs. Thanks!


  5. Tony Hunt
    Mar 30, 2011 @ 19:13:08


    This = Awesome.

    I have probably written about 100 resumes (mostly just helping people with their writing), and I’ve never even thought about this. You rock!



  6. Dennis Salvatier
    Mar 31, 2011 @ 12:34:19

    I have shopped around my resume for awhile, but it’s good to know I was on the right page. Nice post.


  7. Brenda Bernstein
    Apr 11, 2011 @ 07:44:06

    Another essential thing to keep in mind when putting keywords on resumes: It is not sufficient to list the keywords in a “Core Competencies” or “Key Strengths” section at the top of a resume. The scanners will actually count that as a negative, unless the keywords ALSO show up in another place on the resume. Make sure any keywords you put at the top also show up in the body of the resume!
    – Brenda Bernstein,


  8. debmcalister
    Apr 26, 2011 @ 22:25:03

    Interesting strategy — thanks for sharing. I’d never have thought of using the complete keyword — PRSA Accredited (APR) — both in the skills section at the top and the body. I’d have thought once was enough. Now I know better.


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