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The 24 Best Resume Keywords for Your Job Search

They'll help you show up better in an employer's applicant database

By Susan P. Joyce

(This article previously appeared on

Most resumés end up in a database of some sort: in the resumé database of a job board, in an employer's applicant tracking system, in social networks like LinkedIn and Google Plus or even in a recruiter's email inbox.

Regardless of where they are stored, those resumés and social profiles need to be "findable" when someone types in their search terms, commonly called "keywords."

The list below has the 24 best keywords for a resumé. Look through it and choose the words that are appropriate for you.

(MORE: 4 Secrets of an Attention-Getting Resume)


1. Your professional name In these days of search engines and social media, your name is probably your most important keyword phrase. You need to consistently use a relatively unique version of your name for your LinkedIn Profile, resumés, networking cards, email and other visibility, so recruiters doing research on you can connect the dots between you and your professional visibility. (Read “Your Most Important Keywords” for more information.)

2. Your location (or your target location) If appropriate for your location, use both your city and state plus regional names — like Oakland, Calif. and East Bay Area or Manhattan and New York City — so your profile shows up in the search results for either.

3. Your languages If you speak more than one language, note which languages you speak. Also indicate your level of proficiency and whether you can read, write, and/or speak the languages.


4. College degrees or post-secondary education Include your school and your major if that’s relevant to your target job.

(MORE: Read This Before Cutting and Pasting a Cover Letter)



5. Your target job title This is the title for the job that you want next, preferably the version(s) used by your target employers. When in doubt about which job title to use, become a slash person: Project Manager/Senior Project Lead or Senior Administrative Assistant/ Executive Assistant.

6. Your industry Specify your current or target industry, such as civil engineering, management consulting, market research, health care and so on.



7. Current and previous job titles Focus on the standard job titles that are used now by your target employers, particularly if your current (or former) employer(s) used non-standard titles.

8. Current employer If you’re now employed, be sure to include the name of the firm, agency or nonprofit where you work unless you are doing a confidential search.

(MORE: How to Find 'Hidden' Jobs)

9. Former employers Particularly if you have worked for well-known and well-respected companies in your field, be sure to include those names, even if your experience there was more than 10 years ago.

10. Volunteering If you volunteer anywhere, include what you do and who you do it for, particularly if this helps fill in an employment gap or is related to your career track.



11. Your skills Include the ones that are most in demand for the job you want next, even if they’re not ones you use primarily for your current job.

12. Licenses relevant to your profession Add ones that show you are qualified to do the job you want, including the organization who does the licensing and how long you’ve held the license.

13. Job-specific, profession-specific, and industry-specific tools and techniques Add the ones you use or are qualified to use because of training, education, and experience

14. Job-specific or industry-specific software and hardware Include any required for your target job that you use or have been trained to use, particularly if they’re unique to your job, industry, or profession. Add any hardware that may be required for your target job if you have experience using it or have been trained to use it, particularly if it is unique to your job, industry or profession.

15. Relevant laws and regulations If experience, understanding or training in specific laws or regulations is required for your target job — and you are qualified — include their names (such as Sarbanes-Oxley).

16. Internet tools and apps relevant to your job or profession Include ones you use or are qualified to use because of training, education, and experience (e.g. Facebook, LinkedIn, Hootsuite, Google Analytics, etc.).

17. Honors, awards, and recognition If you've been employee of the month, salesperson of the year or received other recognition from your employer, a customer or client, or your industry, be sure to include them.

18. Relevant industry and professional organizations  Include ones you have joined plus any committee memberships and current or former officer titles.

19. Industry, professional, and/or technical names and acronyms  The more acronyms, the better, as long as they are appropriate to your experience and education. Include what they represent as well, in case someone searches for the complete term, like Early Childhood Education (ECE) or ISO (International Standards Organization).

20. Certifications or other proof of professional or industry knowledge  Particularly focus on ones that are current, such as applicable course work, post-graduate courses, professional training, on-the-job-training, and certifications.

21. Clients and/or categories of clients Mention those groups of clients who need your services, such as national specialty retailers or small and medium enterprises. If one of your clients was a very well known or well-respected company or person, like the Department of Defense or Warren Buffett, include those names — unless the relationship was classified or company confidential.

22. Major projects If you were involved in any, name and describe them, highlighting the relevancy to your target job.

23. Your publications If you have written any books, white papers or articles that are relevant to the job or profession you are targeting, be sure to mention them.

24. Patents If you have created anything(s) that was then patented, use the complete name(s), keyword-rich description(s), and patent number(s).

Now that you understand more about keywords for your resumé (or for this version of your resumé), put them to use. Read “How to Optimize the Right Keywords for Your Resumés” for methods of researching and using the best keywords.

Susan P. Joyce is editor and chief writer at and and chief blogger at, websites devoted to helping job seekers find employment. She is also a visiting scholar at the MIT Sloan School of Management. Read More
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