ATS resume keywords

The Best ATS Resume Keyword

Savvy job seekers use ATS keywords to help recruiters find them.

A Common Mistake People Make with the ATS & Keywords

Here’s the problem:

Many people don’t think about the possibility of more than one version of a keyword.

Consider the words I’ve written so far in this post:

  • Keywords could be key words.
  • Job seekers could be jobseekers.
  • Applicant tracking systems could be ATS or ATSs.
Multiple Versions of Keywords

When I recruited, I tried to think of all the possible versions of the keyword I wanted to find. For instance, if one of my keywords was nonprofit, then my LinkedIn search string looked like this:

Nonprofit OR “Non-profit” OR “Not-for-Profit”

How to Find the Best ATS Keyword

But not every recruiter does that.

So when I write resumes, I check LinkedIn for the most common versions of keywords and use those.

I try to think of all the permutations recruiters might use.

Here are some examples:

Nonprofit Keywords
  • Nonprofit yields 1.9 million “people” results.
  • “Non-profit” gives 319,000 hits.
  • Not-for-profit gets 281,000 results.

Thus, I go with nonprofit in resumes and LinkedIn profiles.

Attorney Keywords
  • Attorney yields 3.2 million people results.
  • Lawyer gives 1.3 million hits.

I use both of those keywords in attorneys’ resumes.

Scrum Master Keywords
  • Scrum Master delivers 671,000 people results.
  • Scrummaster gives 242,000 hits.

I use Scrum Master.

By the way, there’s a good story about that farther down this page.

Healthcare Keywords
  • Health Care yields 5.4 million people results.
  • Healthcare gives 10.7 million results.

I use healthcare in healthcare resumes.

Recruiter Keywords
  • Recruiter is the winner with 2.2 million results.
  • Talent Acquisition is next with 1.9 million results.

You’ll find several more recruiter keywords here.

The Best ATS Keyword

You get the point.

Now understand, recruiters might not build a search string to find all the versions of a keyword.

Because of that, you have to identify the keywords they’re most likely to use. Then you can put them in your resume and LinkedIn profile.

Always use the most common keyword.

Then, look for ways to weave other versions into your resume and LinkedIn profile.

Note: When responding to a job posting, use keywords mentioned in the posting.

A Happy Keyword Tale

Al Smith, co-author of Hired! Paths to Employment in the Social Media Era (not an affiliate) suggested I write this post.

Al said he looked for one of his clients by typing “Scrum Master” into LinkedIn. He couldn’t find him in his search results. Most recruiters will search on “Scrum Master” because there are 671,000 of them on LinkedIn.

It turns out Al’s client was using “ScrumMaster,” a keyword on about 242,000 LinkedIn profiles.

Consider if a recruiter looking for Scrum Masters hasn’t had any coffee. They might not think to check ScrumMaster.

Al had his client replace ScrumMaster with Scrum Master. After the change, his client ranked #15 in Al’s LinkedIn search results for Scrum Master.

I promised a happy tale. Yes, Al’s client got a job.

Let’s Connect on LinkedIn

Please invite me to connect on Linked. The more I know about my readers, the better I can make my blog.

Updated January 2023

© 2015 – 2023, Donna Svei. All rights reserved.

Comments 8

  1. Donna, in my work as a recruiter I see candidates run afoul of this every day. The example you mention are excellent, but it’s even more important with technology.

    If you’re an information security pro, you likely know all about MDM, or mobile device management.

    But if the abbreviation MDM is the only reference to it on the resume, its entirely possible a recruiter will miss you completely. Yes, the recruiter should know–but why leave it to chance?


    Exactly. Thank you for your insight, Ed. Sometimes it’s a good idea to use more than one version of your keyword!

  2. It is even worst.
    Keep in mind: if searching; are you sure that the one you are seraching for speaks your language, or you his? Maybe “Denglisch”?
    “Organized the technical setup of the Beamer, Laptop, Microphones and other equipment required for events that occur in the University.”
    No that one did not setup a Laptop, Microphones and other equipment required on top of a BMW and it also has nothing to do with textile. A projector (Beamer in German) has been also setup.
    How about 1st Level support? First Level Support=1stLevel support=1. Level=1 st Line and so on.
    So how can you handle it? Build up a repository database where you can have your “master word” accompanied by the synonyms. Have a look before you start searching and build up your strings.
    Better use more than one version of your keyword. :-)


    I love the idea of keeping a repository of all the permutations of your keywords! Thank you for the smart idea for recruiters and job seekers alike.

  3. I coach clients to use both versions of key words in their LinkedIn profile to account for this. Also think about names – you can spell Eric or Erik so if you have a name that has multiple spellings you should think about using both in your name field – Eric (Erik) Jones


    Smart! If someone is searching for us by name, then our name becomes a keyword — and we all know how many permutations of names there are.

    I list common misspellings of my last name in my summary.

    I like your approach too, Renee. Thank you for sharing.

  4. Thank you Donna, great post to make job seekers aware of this. I always ask them to put themselves into recruiter’s shoes. How would you start searching for candidates on LinkedIn to fill the positions you want to apply? ;)


    Exactly! Thank you, Marta.

  5. Hi Donna,

    Great points and, as always, a great post. One little quibble, though:

    If you’re using Boolean logic, if you search for nonprofit AND not-for-profit, you won’t find many people, because the search is looking for profiles with BOTH nonprofit and not-for-profit. A better search would be: (nonprofit OR not-for-profit OR non-profit OR ngo)..

    We’ve all made that mistake. (Boolean is SO fussy.)

    All the best,



    Thank you, Andy. I fixed it.

  6. In workshops I joke about George Boole who created algebra’s order of operation…the basis of today’s Boolean search. As high school freshmen we all hated Boole. I am convinced that freshmen algebra students threw their text books at his head killing him at a mere 49 years of age. So you might say Boole also invented “texting.”


    That’s funny, Al.

  7. Great article!! you have provided very informative post here, as a fresher i am going to create resume for myself and looking for some information about which things to include or not to, this article has cleared my doubts so thanks a lot for this article.

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