Where You Should Be Adding Keywords On Your Resume | Resume Rescue, Episode #5 [VIDEO]

Are you dazed and confused as to why your resume isn’t getting you interviews for jobs that you know you’re qualified for? You’re not alone.

Hiring processes and job search best practices have changed so much in the last 5-10 years. There’s a ton of outdated and false information online about what works and what doesn’t, too. It’s easy to get overwhelmed and start doubting your skills, abilities, and even character.

You’re not being rejected or ignored because of you, so you can toss out that feeling of “imposter syndrome.”

The culprit is ATS.

What Is ATS

ATS stands for applicant tracking system, and this software is the first to see your resume when you apply for jobs online. It’s programmed to look for specific keywords in your resume. Job titles, skills, and results are the top three types of keywords this software will look for.

For the first 10 years of its existence, ATS gained a bad reputation for its ability to read resumes. That’s why designing an ATS resume became a top priority for job seekers. Years ago, that meant no fonts other than Times New Roman. No color. No bold or underlined font. Nothing but plaint text because ATS looked at the code behind the document. Yes, your resume needs to be digitally compatible with ATS but not to the extreme it used to.

In fact, ATS has become more intuitive in the last five years. What I mean by intuitive is it’s not looking at the code behind your document but the text itself. Many of these programs can even understand messages on top of keywords. For example, “managing complex IT projects” would be understood as an example of the keyword “project management.”

The key to getting through ATS now is including the right keywords (and messages) in your resume.

Where To Add Keywords On Your Resume

Luckily, you can find the right keywords in the job posting of the job you want to apply for. Once you find them, you need to add them to these places on your resume.

Your Resume Title

Your Resume Title goes beneath your contact information as a part of your resume header. Instead of listing an outdated and self-serving Objective Statement, just list the job title you’re applying for. Remember I said that job titles are one of the top three types of keywords to add to your resume?

This helps ATS pick up that specific job title even if you’ve never held it previously, and it shows employers that you targeted your resume for this specific job.

Your Branding Statement

This is the perfect place to add in those results-based keywords. A Branding Statement is a short paragraph that should introduce your qualifications, highlight your top job-related skills, and showcase the value you offer to employers. The value you offer is directly related to the results you can produce for that company based on the results you’ve made for past employers.

Once your resume gets through ATS, employers tend to read the top third of your resume and skim the rest. Using a Branding Statement to show that you understand and can meet the goals of the role and company is key to getting them to read more rather than skim.

A Skills Or Areas Of Expertise Section

This section should also be found in the top third of your resume’s first page and focus on the top 8-10 job-related skills listed in the job posting. You can use bullet lists in a multi-column layout or symbols to separate these skills so they’re easy to skim.

Make sure that all of the skills are in the same tense, though. Using the same IT project management example from before, you wouldn’t want to list “IT Project Management” and “Cutting Costs.” Instead, you can incorporate “cutting costs” in your Branding Statement or Experience section and use “Cost Control.” This keeps this section consistent, easy to read, and more polished.

I bet you’re thinking, ”But you said to take these keywords directly from the job posting!” I get the frustration, but your resume needs to be written for three audiences: ATS, Human Resources, and your direct supervisor. Resume writing is a balancing act, so make sure it’s written for human eyes as well as software.

Your Job Summaries In Your Experience Section

Your resume shouldn’t look like one long bullet list of achievements. Yes, this approach keeps your resume to one page (a common but busted myth, by the way!) but it doesn’t help you get through ATS. Instead, create a short job summary for each job you held before listing your achievements and contributions toward achieving organizational goals.

Keep your job summaries short and on-point by only describing typical tasks that align with the keywords you found in the job posting you’re applying for. This not only helps you add more relevant keywords to your resume but brings focus to your likely diverse background.

Your Bullet Lists Of Achievements

Finally, add in those skills and results-based keywords to help present you as the best fit for the job in bullet lists that showcase your achievements and contributions toward achieving organizational goals. These bullets should follow a 3-part framework that outlines (1) what you achieved, (2) in what context, and (3) how you achieved it. This framework makes it easier to incorporate both skills and results-based keywords in each statement you use.

Since your past achievements and contributions toward achieving organizational goals are tied directly to the value you offer employers, make sure that these bullets are cherry-picked to speak to the specific goals of the company and role you’re applying for.

Conclusion

You can make ATS work for you rather than against you when you add the right keywords to the top third of your resume’s first page and frequently throughout the rest of your resume. The keywords found in the top third of your resume’s first page are considered more recent (or more relevant), but the frequency of these keywords throughout your resume is linked by ATS to your years of experience.

That’s why you shouldn’t just swap out keywords in your Skills or Areas of Expertise section when targeting your resume for each job application.

Need help organizing your skills for upcoming job applications? This Skills Inventory (bonus Work History Examples Guide included!) will help!


You can create a job-winning resume with the Do-It-Yourself Resume ($60 value), which includes:

  • An ATS-approved modern resume template,

  • A Branding Statement Cheat Sheet,

  • The Skills Inventory (with a bonus Work History Examples Guide), and

  • A Resume Targeting Checklist!


I challenge you to use these ATS insights to revamp your resume more effectively for each job application moving forward.

How much time do you typically spend retargeting your resume for each job application?