Ask an Expert: What Are Keywords and Why Do I Need Them on My Resume?

resume keywords


An AOL reader asks: What are keywords and why do I need them on my resume?

We've all searched for something online by typing in a word or phrase that closely resembles the type of information we are looking for. We find information and make decisions about products and services via these types of searches. Employers use a similar method to find the applicants that best match their open positions. Many companies rely on applicant tracking software to source candidates. By typing certain relevant keywords or phrases into the applicant tracking system, hiring managers can quickly find candidates that fit the requirements for their open positions.

Resume keywords are words used on resumes to describe a competency or skill or to acknowledge experience in a certain job function or industry. If your resume lacks the appropriate keywords, it may never be found by the hiring manager. Here are some tips for increasing your chances of being found by hiring managers by including appropriate keywords to optimize the compatibility of your candidacy to an employer's needs.

The right keywords

1. One of the best ways to find the keywords that the hiring manager will be searching is to check the job posting or posting for similar jobs. By including those keywords in your resume, you stand a greater chance of being found by the hiring manager. Another great resource for selecting keywords is 'Best Keywords for Resumes, Cover Letters, and Interviews' by Wendy Enelow.

2. Stem keywords and vary your word choices. For example, rather than just using the word analyst on your resume, include variants such as analysis or financial analyst as well. If you have knowledge of merchandise planning, also include the word merchandising or assortment planning to the resume to cover your bases.

Also, include different ways of saying certain titles. So, a CFO should include both CFO and Chief Financial Officer in the body of the document. A candidate in the pharmaceuticals industry should use both pharmaceuticals and pharma to describe their industry. A job seeker with experience in mergers and acquisitions should also list the abbreviation M&A, and an HR professional with experience in employment law such as the Family and Medical Leave Act should also use the acronym FMLA. By including variations on the word or phrase, you can increase the likelihood that your resume will be found regardless of the keyword the hiring manager is using for the searching.

3. While it is important to optimize the resume, it must be done in a way that still makes sense to the human reader. Be sure to balance the needs of the human reader with search engine optimization techniques to create the best results. Weave word variations into your document in a logical and natural way.

4. Extend the keyword concept past the resume. Keyword searches are not just limited to applicant tracking tools. Recruiters and hiring managers frequently perform keyword searches on social networking sites such as LinkedIn to find appropriate candidates. Make sure your profile on LinkedIn is robust and also includes a lot of keywords.

Keyword suggestions

Below are some examples of how to incorporate keywords into your resume.


Hedge Funds -- Start Ups -- High Growth

  • Operations Risk Mitigation
  • SEC Registration/Compliance
  • Acquisitions
  • Due Diligence
  • Vendor Selection and Management
  • Technology Upgrades/Integration
  • P&L Management
  • Forecasting/Budgeting
  • Human Resources
  • Administration
  • Hedge Fund
  • Product Marketing
  • Investor Reporting
  • Client Relationship
  • Management
  • Office Openings and Closings


Core competencies:

  • Talent Acquisition
  • College Recruiting/Internships
  • Management Development
  • Employee Handbook Writing
  • Competitive Benchmarking
  • New Hire Orientations
  • Payroll Administration
  • EEO and I-9 Compliance
  • COBRA Administration
  • ERISA Administration
  • Reductions in Force
  • Benefits Design/Administration
  • Policy Writing/Implementation
  • Applicant Tracking
  • Budgeting/Forecasting
  • Corrective Action Plans
  • Staff Management


Core competencies:

  • Apparel Merchandising
  • Merchandising Strategy
  • Production/SKU Planning
  • Competitor/Market Analysis
  • Cross Functional Team Building
  • Product Development/Launch
  • International Licensing Relations
  • Vendor Sourcing/Supplier Relations
  • Product Standardization
  • Inventory Management
  • Leadership and Mentoring
  • Account Relationship Management
  • Purchasing Negotiations
  • Costing
  • Budgeting
  • Color and Trend Forecasting
  • Staff Development

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