November 28, 2013

A Cornucopia of Keywords for Your Resume

Happy Thanksgiving card and scarecrow among a cornucopia of autumn vegetablesThe job search is never a good time to be at a loss for words – especially keywords. In these days of fierce job seeker competition and increasingly swamped hiring managers, choosing the wrong words make the difference between getting called for an interview and getting lost in the stack. Luckily, in honor of the Thanksgiving holiday, the Grammarly team has pulled together a cornucopia of keywords for your resume.

Finding the Right Words

One of the easiest ways to find keywords to include in your resume is to look at the job posting itself. By matching the language in your resume to the language a potential employer uses to describe the job, you reinforce the impression that you’re the right person for the position. If they want a “tech-savvy content manager,” then describe yourself using those terms rather than as a “computer-literate media manager.”

Once you’ve examined the job posting and the company’s website, you may need to look farther afield to generate relevant keywords. The New York State Department of Labor has an excellent list of general keywords as well as industry-specific terms. You might also try searching for jobs in your field on a site like or to get ideas. can be another great source for inspiration; scan the resumes of people in your network to get ideas about how other people describe their skills.

Beware of buzzwords for the sake of buzz, overly technical jargon, or vague terms that take up space without adding value. Be specific, especially when you list software proficiencies. You also want to avoid acronyms, which may get overlooked by applicant tracking systems.

Beating the Gatekeeper

Many companies are using electronic scanning systems, called applicant tracking systems or ATS, to weed out weak resumes before they’re ever seen by an actual person. These programs match keywords and accomplishments in resumes with the criteria the hiring managers are looking for. However, simply stuffing your resume with non-grammatical keywords can backfire, according to James Brian of, as quoted by CNN. He says that Monster’s software detects “keyword bombing,” where applicants frontload their resumes with keywords designed to beat the program.

Even if you don’t have to beat ATS software, keywords are still a good way to catch the eye of a hiring manager. In the six seconds they look at your resume, those keywords will jump out at them. While it may not guarantee an interview—after all, you still need to have the skills and experience to meet the company’s needs—it certainly can’t hurt.

Incorporating Keywords Skillfully

Susan Ireland recommends incorporating keywords into your resume in a subtle way. She advises, “Weave your keywords into the statements in your resume. For example, you could talk about your management skills in one of your Summary statements.” Tweak your job titles and the language you use to describe your experience, but be wary of twisting the facts just to use as many keywords as possible.

You should also be sure to use the same keywords throughout your resume, cover letter, LinkedIn profile, etc. Consider your communication and web presence as your brand. Be consistent across all platforms.

Remember, no matter how stellar your skills are or how hot your keywords are, sloppy writing will cost you every time. Always proofread your resume, especially if you’re updating it frequently.

Read more in Resume Writing

A self-proclaimed word nerd, Allison VanNest works with Grammarly to help perfect written English. Connect with Allie, the Grammarly team, and nearly FIVE MILLION Grammarly Facebook fans at
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