Keywords are nouns joined by short phrases and adjectives with action verbs. In the corporate world, recruiters use them to search and retrieve e-resumes from databases to find the right candidate for a job. If an employer is searching for a person with knowledge in Microsoft Excel and PowerPoint, your name won’t appear in search results unless your résumé has those exact words.

Résumé keywords show your education and experience in these categories:

  • Technical knowledge
  • Professional certifications and licenses
  • Skills
  • Achievements
  • Famous schools or past employers
  • Other notable events in your work history

Recruiters prefer keywords with industry jargon because they show the vital credentials for fittest candidate in a position. They use them to search a résumé database; thus, instead of stopping with action verbs, add your achievements onto your resume. You handled what? You oversaw what?

In the next few examples, the ones in italic are the keywords that relate to the action shown by the verbs.

  • Managed procurement, allotment, stock levels, and cost analysis.
  • Handled client database, product updates, and upgrades.
  • Led marketing campaigns and special events.
  • Functioned in cross-functional management role.

For experts, keywords should appear throughout your résumé beyond the summary or profile section. Most applicant-search software search not only for keywords. Such ranks them, too, by how often they show up on your résumé and how important they are to the job criteria. More so, hiring managers treat a few keywords as important while others as useful.

If your résumé has no required keywords, search tools will ignore it. Yet if it reaches the needed level of “keyword density”, then it will move to the next level of screening. By standards, the more exact a keyword is to a job or industry, the “heavier” it will appear. The search software considers skills that apply to various jobs and industries “lighter”.

In conclusion, if you apply for a job with a company that combs databases for keywords, equip your résumé with them. If your tool does not have the keywords firms seek in people who will fill the job, you are hopeless.

Read more on the value of keywords in resume format in our article Make Keywords Count. For more tips on how to use them well, How to Choose the Right Words for Your Resume may help.