Get Your Resume Seen With ATS Keywords

By Indeed Editorial Team

Updated January 10, 2023

Published February 25, 2020

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Many employers rely on software known as applicant tracking systems (ATS) to help them sort through the resumes they receive to find qualified candidates. It is important to know how to write your resume using keywords so the ATS identifies you as a strong candidate. In this article, we discuss how to use keywords in your resume to get past the ATS, and get noticed by recruiters and hiring managers.

What are ATS keywords?

ATS keywords are specific words or phrases employers identify as requirements for a specific position, and therefore you should use them on your resume to help you get noticed by employers. ATS keywords can include words that identify qualified candidates based on education, skills, experience and the industry or position.

Related: What Happens to My Resume After I Click Apply? Plus Tips for Success

Why are ATS keywords important on a resume?

ATS keywords on a resume are important because the applicant tracking system quickly scans hundreds of resumes, and then it ranks candidates based on keywords chosen by the employer for the available position. This means your resume has to successfully pass through the ATS before it reaches the recruiter or hiring manager for consideration. Optimizing your resume for ATS keywords can help increase your chance of a hiring manager seeing your resume and contacting you for an initial phone screen or interview.

Related: How to Write a Resume Employers Will Notice

How to use ATS keywords on your resume

Follow these steps to ensure your resume's keywords are optimized to pass ATS:

  1. Read the job listing carefully.

  2. Include role-specific keywords.

  3. Include industry keywords.

  4. Place your resume keywords in the right location.

  5. Use spelling, numbers and abbreviations correctly.

  6. Write your resume for both the ATS and the recruiter or hiring manager.

1. Read the job listing carefully

The first thing you should do is read the job description for the position you are applying for and look for specific keywords the employer included in the description. You can find these keywords in areas of the job listing such as education requirements, duties and responsibilities, and preferred qualifications. When writing your resume, choose keywords that echo the keywords in the job description, as the employer will likely enter the same keywords into the ATS.

2. Include role-specific keywords

Next, review your resume and make sure it includes keywords that are specific to the role you are applying for. The two major role-specific keywords you should always use are the company's name and the exact position title. You can do this by incorporating the position title and name of the company into your resume's summary statement or career objective section.

You should also include any education, certifications or licenses that are specific to the position you are applying to. Finally, make sure your resume includes enough hard skills, which are the technical skills needed to be successful in the role.

3. Include industry keywords

Next, include keywords specific to your industry as well. You can find these keywords by performing a Google search for "[industry] resume keywords." Some of these keywords may have already been included in the job description. If you find industry keywords that weren't included in the job description but reflect your relevant experience, including them in your resume could help you stand out as an expert within your industry.

Related: 17 Core Competencies to Include on Your Resume

4. Place your resume keywords in the right location

Once you know which ATS keywords you want to include in your resume, you need to determine where to include them. The most important sections are the summary statement, education, experience and skills sections. Also, make sure that your cover letter includes several of your chosen keywords.

Begin your resume by focusing on the keywords that match your greatest strengths and highest level of experience in your summary statement or career objective. Then, include relevant information about your education such as the type of degree you have and specific areas of study. Use the experience section of your resume to include role-specific keywords from the duties and responsibilities section of the job listing. Finally, make sure your skills section includes a combination of hard and soft skills relevant to the industry and position.

5. Use spelling, numbers and abbreviations correctly

Next, you should review your resume to ensure your keywords are spelled correctly and that you have used numbers and abbreviations the right way. It is important to match the spelling of the keywords you choose to the way they were spelled in the job description. If the job description uses abbreviations, you should use the abbreviation in addition to the spelled out word or phrase. If the job description spells out numbers instead of writing them in numerical form, then you should write out numbers too.

6. Write your resume for both the ATS and the recruiter or hiring manager

Finally, it is important to remember that you aren't only writing your resume for the ATS. Once your resume successfully makes it past the ATS, it will be reviewed by a recruiter or hiring manager who will decide if they want to consider you as a candidate.

While it is important to include ATS keywords throughout your resume, you should make sure your resume is not simply stuffed with keywords and that it is still readable by humans. You should also make sure you are honest, as the recruiter or hiring manager will likely find out if you are not. This means you shouldn't include an ATS keyword if it doesn't genuinely match your education, experience or skills.

ATS resume keywords tips

Here are a few general tips to remember when creating a resume to pass through an ATS:

Use the right file type

The ATS must be able to scan and read your resume for your keywords to be effective. While PDF files are usually best for maintaining the format of your resume, they are not always compatible with ATS. If you are submitting your resume and the application doesn't state PDF as an acceptable file type, consider using a DOC, DOCX or plain text file instead.

Avoid images and graphics

Applicant tracking systems also have difficulty reading and identifying images, graphics, tables and charts, so it is important to avoid these items in your resume.

Avoid jargon and buzzwords

While keywords are important, avoid using industry- or position-specific jargon and buzzwords. Jargon is words or phrases that only a specific group of people understand. Buzzwords are words and phrases that are commonly overused in resumes such as "self-starter" and "hard-worker."


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