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Resume Keywords: What you need to know
Deb Ward / AUGUST 18 2021

What are keywords? Keywords are words or phrases that describe the specific skills and attributes the hiring manager is seeking in a job posting. Because hiring managers often receive hundreds of resumes for open positions, they tend to scan for particular words/phrases that indicate you have the specific skills and experience they want. Many companies employ an Applicant Tracking System (ATS) that uses a computer to scan for those keywords and rejects resumes that don’t mention them… so the hiring manager may never even see your resume.

Also, the location and frequency of the keywords in your resume matter. Typically, the better you match your resume to the job description, the higher you’ll rank in the ATS. And it’s common for recruiters to start at the top of that list to award interviews. Using keywords effectively means you’re more likely to get in front of a human being for an interview; helps you focus on what’s most important to the hiring manager for this position; shows that you’re savvy about conveying your specific skills and qualifications.

Finding the right keywords: 

  • Take a good look at the job posting for the skills and experience they want – employers clearly lay out the criteria for a strong candidate. Check out the first paragraph of the listing.
  • Look at other company’s postings for similar jobs and see what keywords they’re using – pick out the top keywords and phrases used and see which are the most commonly used.
  • Check the “About Us” page on the company website to see how they describe themselves – see how the company reflects their brand and values and use those keywords to show you’re a good fit.
  • Take a look at postings one level above the job you’re looking for at this time – Discover any common skills you already possess that are listed and add those to your application to set yourself apart.

How to use those keywords:

  • Use a variety of words that mean the same thing – find synonyms and acronyms for keywords to account for a range of words the company might be scanning for.
  • There may be location-based keywords – this job may be in a specific city or region, so be sure to mention your city and state on your resume. 
  • Hard skills should be listed based on the job posting – soft skills (people skills) are better identified in an interview, but hard skills should match what you’re bringing to this job. ATS filters can be programmed to prioritize hard skills.
  • Make sure you use the keywords throughout your cover letter and resume – include the most relevant words/phrases in your introduction as well as the job title the employer has listed.
  • Be specific by using keywords that are as closely related to the specific job as possible – the more specific you are, the better the match.

Typical keywords for common hospitality jobs:

Summary: Use your keyword wisely. Be sure you show results that are measurable and don’t go overboard “stuffing” your resume with keywords and action verbs that don’t apply. It can also help to place the most important keywords in a dedicated “core competencies” section at the beginning of your resume.