THE IMPORTANCE OF KEYWORDS
These are industry specific words that tell the employer you fit; keywords show you understand the language of the field and occupation. Keywords and phrases can include job titles, credentials, associations, tasks and things such as tools and equipment and even employer names and place names. Because keywords are industry specific, it may take a bit of research to make sure you have the right keywords on your resume, especially if you are entering a new field. Keywords are often nouns.
The following are a few example keywords/phrases:
- Foreman, Manager, Registered Nurse, Customer Service Representative, Certified General Accountant (CGA), Sales Associate and Bookkeeper
- Human Resources Management Association, The Federation of International Trade Associations, Insurance Brokers Association of Canada
- Marketing, Project Management, Proposal Writing, Respiratory Therapy, Forecasting, Return on Investment (ROI), Performance Review
- Cardiac Monitor, Newsletters, Design, Operations, Blueprints
- Social Media, computer, hardware and software e.g. Microsoft Excel, QuickBooks, WordPress
- Bachelor of Social Work, Professional Engineer (P.Eng.), College of Occupational Therapists, Bachelor Science Nursing, (B.Sc.N.)
Note: Keywords can include buzzwords, acronyms and jargon, but be cautious with these, you may need to “spell it out” so that it is understood by everyone, especially if you are changing fields and there is a risk that the person reading your resume may not understand.
For years, action words were the main focus of resume writing because they are always the first word of each bullet point. In the last few years, resume writers have started focusing more on keywords. This interest in keywords has been driven by three things:
- Applicant Tracking System or ATS: These are the computer programs used to screen resumes. If you are being asked to upload your resume, it is likely that a computer will be doing the initial screening. These computer systems search an uploaded resume for the ‘right’ keywords; words that have been selected by the employer based on the job description. If your resume does not include the keywords the computer is looking for, your resume won’t be selected to move on to the next stage.
- The Internet (including Social Media): Keywords are critical to what is called Search Engine Optimization or SEO for short. For example, Google is driven by keywords – these are the words and phrases often typed into a search box. Anyone with a website, online career portfolio or Blog, knows how critical keywords are to Google. Additionally, you will be found online based on the word combinations you have used in your social media accounts, so think about what an employer will be searching for when you write your profile.
- For example, LinkedIn wants to direct the right jobs to you, and to help employers find you. If an employer is searching for a CGA in Halifax, it is more likely that they will find people who have included the keywords ‘CGA’ and ‘Halifax’ in their profile.
- Credentialism/Professionalization: The demand for formal educational qualifications or certifications in Canada has increased. For example, a position requiring a Bachelor of Social Work 10 years ago, may now require a Master of Social Work. A position asking for 3-5 years business experience may now require a Bachelor of Business Administration. Credentials are keywords and are often used to screen resumes.
Note: There is a growing concern about ‘educational inflation’ because it is making it harder for employers to find the right people. It also creates challenges for people who can do the job, but who may not have the credentials. It also increases the challenge for job seekers who want to change careers. This means there is an increased need for developing a resume that has the right keywords and your resume creates a clear link between you, your skills and the position.
National Occupational Classification
National Occupational Classification (NOC) is a Canadian system for organizing and describing jobs by occupation. To identify keywords for your resume visit the occupational structure area of the site to search for your occupation. The following example shows a portion of the NOC for Financial Auditors and Accountants. You will find that the keywords for this occupation have been highlighted in red.
The keywords an employer uses in a job description or job posting can give you insight into what they think is important. If you can, use the same keywords on your resume. This will catch their attention by creating a link between you and the position. When you read a job posting, identify all of the keywords (nouns) then look for these keywords on your resume. If they are not on your resume, but could be, consider how you might add them.
The following is an example of a job posting for an Account Representative, with the keywords highlighted in red.
The Bottom Line
- Keywords are usually nouns
- Keywords are industry specific
- Keywords are essential to building a strong resume, one that will work for both humans and computers (ATS)
- Keywords are included in your resume content (they are not used to start a bullet point)
- Keywords can be found on job postings, job descriptions, and credentialing descriptions
- Use the search criteria ‘keywords (your occupation or field)’.
- Search your field or occupation using online resources, then highlight the keywords (nouns) you find in the descriptions.
- Visit the NOC and search for your field or occupation or the one you are interested in entering.
- Visit the Essential Skills site – another great Canadian system for researching occupations.
- Visit the O*NET site – a US based classification system for researching occupations.
- Highlight keywords in a job posting you are interested in.
- Highlight the keywords on your current resume and check that there is a match with the posting wherever possible.
- Contact Resume Pro Canada if you have any questions about adding keywords to your resume by sending a message to or calling us at (705)745-1607.