resume, keywords, job search, career, job switchPhoto:


Keyword richness is an important factor to consider when you optimise your resume, no matter what application process you will be going through.

Resume keywords and phrases reflect the skills and experience necessary for the position and industry you are targeting. Resume optimisation involves using keywords unique to a specific job description to increase your chances of being ranked highly for that job by an applicant tracking system (ATS) or hiring manager.

You can easily identify the right keywords by comparing your resume to any job description.

Also read: 5 ways to be more assertive at work

Resume keywords tend to fall into the following categories:


Examples: Software engineer, purchasing agent, marketing manager, controller, administrative assistant, account manager, program director.


Examples: Systems analysis, application prototyping, rapid application development (RAD), market research, strategic planning, new product launch, cost variance reports (CVR), data entry, accounts payable and receivable (AP/AR).


Examples: Certified Network Administrator, CNA, Bachelor of Science in Computer Science, Certified Public Accountant, CPA, Six Sigma Black Belt.


Examples: TCP/IP, C++, RAD; MRPII, Windows Server 2008, Microsoft Excel, Computer Assisted Audit Techniques, Computer Aided Audit Tools (CAATS), Computer Assisted Audit Tools and Techniques (CAATTs).

Also read: 5 easy ways to manage work stress


Resume optimisation is important and can give you an edge over other candidates. After resumes are scanned into an applicant tracking system, they will be searched and ranked. A hiring manager decides which keywords best identify the skills needed in a candidate for a particular position.

Typically, the reviewer will have several mandatory keywords, and others that are desirable. An ATS search submits resumes for those keywords. If you optimise your resume for each application, you will have a far better chance of being highly ranked by the ATS.

Resumes are ranked according to the number of keyword matches, along with other criteria. The number of keyword matches is known as “keyword density”.

A keyword summary can provide an opportunity to increase your keyword density, and give you a space to include keywords that did not fit elsewhere in your resume. As keywords can be subjectively chosen by the resume reviewer, recruiter or hiring manager, resume optimisation can help you boost your chances of having the right ones.

Also read: 3 ways to look confident instantly


Think about the job titles, skills, and educational qualifications that would be most important to someone looking for candidates for the position you are seeking.

Print out your resume and highlight the keywords you can find. Make a list of the synonyms and alternate forms and tenses of your existing keywords, such as “procurement” and “procured”.

When you use acronyms, abbreviations, or industry-specifc terms, such as ISO or TCP/IP, make sure to also spell them out completely.

Look for opportunities for resume optimisation in each section of your resume, and use different forms of keywords in different sections. Look for similar opportunities to include a good range and number of keywords in your cover letter.

For best results, remember that both nouns and verbs can serve as resume keywords. “Managed donor database using Raiser’s Edge”, for example, contains four possible keywords: “managed”, “donor”, “database” and “Raiser’s Edge”. A hiring manager or ATS could look for any or all of those keywords. A resume analysis tool can help you instantly find the most important keywords for the job you are targeting.


Article by James Hu, the founder and chief executive of Jobscan, a web tool that helps jobseekers land interviews by optimising resume keywords.


This article was first published in The Straits Times Classified.straits times, classified
Download The Straits Times Classified app available free at the Apple App or Google Play stores.