3 Strategies for Using Keywords While Job Searching

So you apply for a job online. You are confident that you are the best fit for the position. Your resume has all the bells and whistles. You attached a cover letter, references, and everything else that was required of you. So now the waiting game begins. Days turn into weeks and still no response. After a while you may say to yourself, I KNOW I was qualified for that job!!! Why haven’t I heard anything?”

With so many people applying for one job, just having a resume and cover letter is not going to get you noticed. To make the cut, you have to STAND OUT. You may think your resume, cover letter, and LinkedIn profile are great. Well, if you are not getting the attention of recruiters and employers, you may not be doing enough to get seen. So you are probably not using the right keywords.


What are Keywords?

Keywords are the terms and phrases hiring managers give to human resources and recruiters to create job posts. The keywords are then used to find matching resumes for open positions. In modern job-searching, keywords can separate your resume from the rest of the hundreds of applicants.

Most companies use some type of applicant tracking system (ATS) software  to filter resumes before they’re ever seen by a person. Without the right keywords, your resume, cover letter, profiles (and you) are invisible. It doesn’t matter how well-qualified you might be for the job you want, your resume may never be seen by a recruiter without the proper keywords.

The importance of keywords in a resume can’t be overstated. They help connect resumes with current openings.  They also ensure that searches for future job openings will get the right resumes out of the database and put them in front of hiring professionals.

If you are having trouble getting noticed, try the following 3 keyword strategies. They may give you the boost you need.


Job Search Keyword Strategies

 1. Revise your LinkedIn Profile

When someone is searching on LinkedIn for a candidate with your skills (increasingly LinkedIn is the first stop for candidate searches), keywords in certain parts of your profile matter more than others. Although all sections matter, the keywords in your Headline, Company Name, Job Title and Skills are weighted more heavily.

Having the right keywords in your LinkedIn profile is important to making yourself visible. Recruiters and hiring managers use LinkedIn often when searching for qualified job candidates. With the right keywords in your profile, it will appear in search results. Appearing in search results is the way you are found.

So how do you know that you are placing the right keywords in the right places of your profile? Simple – search for yourself! Whatever you feel your skill set, type that into the search box to see where your name appears. If your name is not on page 1 or 2, you may want to consider editing your profile.

Recruiters see your use of the right keywords as a signal. It tells them you are an “insider” (everyone wants to hire insiders) and that you understand the problems they face. So your use of keywords placed in the right places will improve your likelihood of being spotted.

 2. Figure out what kind of job your resume fits

Use job boards to research keywords used for similar job postings.  Try the following process to find the right keywords to use.

  • Make a master list of keywords that appear in similar jobs.
  • Search as if looking for that job.
  • Go to Web sites that represent companies and associations related to the candidate’s target industry and look for other buzzwords.
  • Pull keywords from specific job descriptions for jobs you want to submit an application to.
  • Search LinkedIn profiles of users who have similar jobs to see what keywords they’re using.

3. Create a “Word Cloud”

Word clouds allow you to visually see the frequency of words that show up in a block of text. TagCrowd is a popular free word cloud tool. However, if you Google “Word Cloud” you will see the many free tools that can enable you to create word clouds. Find one that works for you.

Once you find one that you like, copy the job description text from each postings that you found into one “word cloud.” Then follow the directions to find the keywords that jump out from the job postings. You will begin to see words like “leadership,” “management,” and “clients” being repeated. These are the keywords that you want to include in your resume and LinkedIn profile.


Other keyword tips:

  • Include acronyms, but also spell them out. That’s especially helpful since the person that has to go through resumes might not know all the relevant acronyms.
  • If you are not sure what keywords to use, use synonyms or various forms of keywords to cover yourself.
  • Review your keyword strength by highlighting all keywords used in your resume.
  • If changing careers, emphasize keywords that describe the new position.   Be sure not to overdo it. Don’t create “Keyword” category on your resume. It may appear as only a ploy to trick the system and cause you to lose some credibility.
  • Use keywords in your elevator pitch for consistency. Repetition creates credibility.
  • Use keywords in headings and the body of your resume.


The bottom line is that  most companies search databases for keywords.  If your resume doesn’t have the keywords the company seeks for the person who fills that job, you are pretty much dead in the water. So get to beefing up those resumes and social profiles. Just remember, DON’T GO OVERBOARD!!!!


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