The Ultimate Guide to Resume Keywords and How to Use Them (Includes Examples by Industry)

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Resume keywords can ensure the success of your resume getting through the screening process and into the hands of a decision maker. It’s why you hear resume writers and career coaches talk about them so often. Once in the hands of the hiring manager, these keyword phrases and buzzwords will determine whether your resume will attract employer attention, make it through their initial resume scan, and get you an interview. So it benefits you to know exactly what keywords are, how to use them, where to use them, where you can find good keywords, and examples of the best keywords by industry. Let’s get started!

What are resume keywords?

Keywords are buzzwords that relate to a specific position, industry, or profession. They typically refer to nouns but can also include action verbs. Although, when hiring managers are scanning a resume for keywords or using applicant tracking to search a resume they’re typically using the nouns as the keywords and phrases they search for. Action verbs are used when the hiring manager is reading your resume. Action verbs present your accomplishments, qualifications, and results in a direct and active way.

What is resume keyword scanning?

Keywords are how the potential employer or recruiter will screen your resume. This is done through applicant tracking systems and through the hiring and job search process. Potential employers use ATS to electronically search your resume to determine if you match their specific hiring criteria. If your resume does not include the right keywords to match the search, you’ll be overlooked.

How do you use resume keywords?

You can use keywords on your resume and cover letter to highlight the qualifications and accomplishments that correlate to a specific company or position. These key phrases can be used in your summary, career profile, executive summary, work history, or in a separate keyword section. Technical skills and hard skills often make for great keyword phrases on your resume.

To increase your chances for successful keyword scanning, incorporate relevant keywords as you write about your achievements and accomplishments. Optimize your resume by using keywords to communicate your skill set and experience.

Resume keywords can also be used on your cover letter, thank you letter, networking letters, and LinkedIn profile. I especially recommend including keywords in your LinkedIn profile headline, summary, and under each place of employment.

Where should keywords go in your resume?

Keyword phrases should be used in the following resume sections:

  • Job title / position title
  • Branding statement underneath position title
  • Career summary
  • Accomplishment section
  • In a separate keyword section dedicated to listing 10-15 keywords together
  • Work history section; in relevant accomplishment bullet points

What keywords should you use on your resume?

You should use the keywords and buzzwords that are most relevant to the position, industry, and company that you’re targeting. Think about the skills that the employer posted in the job description or what they would value most in the position. If you can find a list of the most applicable keyword phrases, try to incorporate those that are the most important in your resume. Remember you don’t want to be passed over because your resume doesn’t include the right buzzwords. Hard skills usually make great keywords. Soft skills are not terms that recruiters will use to search applicant tracking systems.

Chances are, the candidate with the most relevant keywords—and experience that is a good fit—will get the interview.

How do I find keywords for my resume?

Human resources professionals are trained to scan your resume for keywords that match the position and industry. If you aren’t sure what those are, do some research online to start getting ideas. You can search Indeed or Glassdoor; look up positions on job boards like; visit the company’s website to research the company, industry, and position more thoroughly; or find books like 1500+ Keywords by Wendy Enelow for a list of industry-specific keywords.

What are good keywords for a resume?

The best keywords and keyword phrases are usually industry and position-specific keywords. Think about terms you would type into a search engine if looking for someone to perform the job—these are usually the terms the recruiter would use to perform a search. A prospective employer usually isn’t going to search by years of experience or soft skills.

How many keywords should you use on your resume?

There’s no magic number for the right amount of resume keywords. What’s important is that you’re including the most relevant keywords and mentioning them a few times throughout your resume. I do advise you to include a keyword section at the top of your resume that would typically include 9-15 keywords. A section like this makes it easy for the employer to scan and digest.

What are keyword phrases on a resume?

Keyword phrases can refer to personal characteristics, action verbs, or phrases that carry impact. Examples of these high-impact phrases include best-in-class, entrepreneurial vision, peak performer, world-class leadership, and team building. They’re not exactly the terms that potential employers would use to search in applicant tracking systems, but they add clarity and impact to your resume.

What are action verbs?

Action verbs are words that allow you to describe your accomplishments and achievements in an action-driven style. They’re much more effective than using passive language on your resume. In resume writing, the action verb is usually the first word in a sentence because we omit the “I.” The idea is you’re communicating to the reader that you’re the person taking the action. It’s a more powerful way to state what you’ve accomplished.

Here’s an infographic that lists 100 action verbs alphabetically. This ought to help you choose powerful action verbs for your resume.

Examples of action verbs are words like achieved, created, designed, developed, pioneered, negotiated, managed, spearheaded, increased, and delivered.

Examples of resume keywords

I thought it might be helpful to provide some examples of keywords based on industry. This is not an all-inclusive list. It doesn’t cover every industry and every position within each industry. It’s more like a summary and an example to give you an idea of the keyword possibilities for the different industries listed.

Resume keywords for nonprofit management

Positions might include agency director, board director, committee member, executive director, or special events director.

  • Advocacy
  • Budget oversight
  • Community outreach
  • Corporate giving
  • Corporate sponsorships
  • Fundraising
  • Member communications
  • Special events management
  • Volunteer training

Resume keywords for banking

Positions might include branch manager, bank manager, lending officer, regional vice president, vice president, underwriter, managing director, and credit officer.

  • Asset management
  • Branch operations
  • Commercial banking
  • Credit analysis
  • Loan administration
  • Loan processing
  • Portfolio management
  • Relationship management
  • Return-on-equity (ROE)
  • Secured lending

Resume keywords for customer service

Positions might include account manager, director of account relations, key account manager, or vice president of customer service and retention.

  • Account relationship management
  • Customer loyalty
  • Customer retention
  • Customer satisfaction
  • Key account management
  • Service measures

Resume keywords for engineering

Positions might include chemical engineer, design engineer, director of R&D, electrical engineer, industrial engineer, laboratory manager, process engineer, project manager, R&D engineer, software engineer, and test engineer.

  • Chemical engineering
  • Experimental design
  • Facilities engineering
  • Field performance
  • Process development
  • Process engineering
  • Product development cycle
  • Project planning
  • Project management
  • Quality assurance
  • Statistical analysis

Resume keywords for healthcare

Positions might include chief nursing officer, finance manager, medical affairs director, or medical director.

  • Acute care facility
  • Ambulatory care
  • Clinical services
  • Community outreach
  • Healthcare administrator
  • Managed care
  • Outpatient care
  • Practice management
  • Primary care
  • Provider relations
  • Public health administration
  • Quality of care
  • Risk management

Resume keywords for hospitality

Positions might include banquet manager, certified food and beverage executive, club manager, general manager, restaurant manager, and sales director.

  • Back of house operations
  • Catering operations
  • Club management
  • Contract F&B operations
  • Guest relations
  • Hospitality management
  • Meeting planning
  • Occupancy
  • Resort management
  • Relationship building
  • Vendor sourcing

Resume keywords for human resources

Positions might include benefits and compensation administrator, employment manager, HR manager, recruiter, labor relations specialist, or learning and development manager.

  • Benefits administration
  • Change management
  • Benefits and compensation
  • Hiring process
  • Interview/interviewing
  • Performance reviews
  • Succession planning
  • Contract negotiations
  • Unions
  • Arbitration
  • Negotiation
  • Performance appraisals
  • Staffing

What are the keywords recruiters are looking for on your resume?

Recruiters are searching for hard skills on your resume or cover letter. Hard skills will make the best keywords and phrases to communicate your skills and experience. While years of experience may be a requirement for a position, stating you have 10 years’ experience usually isn’t a term that the employer would input into a search engine or applicant tracking system to scan resumes. JobScan put together a list of the top 500 resume keywords to boost your resume that is a great tool to research overall keywords.

How do you optimize your resume for keywords?

Include buzzwords in multiple sections of your resume. The position title can be a key search term employers use to screen resumes so make sure it’s front and center at the top of your resume. A one-line branding statement underneath your position title could also include keywords. Create a separate keyword section on your resume where you list 9-15 keywords and adjust these as you apply to different positions. You always want to include the most relevant keywords first.

As Jon Shields points out in his JobScan article, terms like guru, wizard, goddess, ninja, or rock star won’t help you when it comes to keyword scanning and popping up in search results. They may be fun but there isn’t much usefulness to them.

Need more resume help? Check out these other popular articles:

12 Resume Writing Tips for 2019

How to Write a Resume for Career Advancement and Promotion

Infographic: 127 Resume Writing Tips

Are you tired of your resume being rejected by applicant tracking systems? I know how frustrating it is to submit your resume and receive no response. I hate seeing qualified people never breakthrough the screening process. It shouldn’t be that way. That’s why I created this guide and I encourage you to download the FREE PDF so you can start seeing better resume response rates!

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About the author

Jessica Hernandez, President, CEO & Founder of Great Resumes Fast

Hi, I’m Jessica. I started this company back in 2008 after more than a decade directing hiring practices at Fortune 500 companies.

What started as a side hustle (before that was even a word!) helping friends of friends with their resumes has now grown into a company that serves hundreds of happy clients a year. But the personal touch? I’ve kept that.

You might have seen me featured as a resume expert in publications like Forbes, Fast Company, and Fortune. And in 2020, I was honored to be named as a LinkedIn Top Voice of the year!

I’m so glad you’re here, and I can’t wait to help you find your next perfect-fit position!


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    Thanks for this,
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