Job seekers often ask me, “How do I identify resume keywords?”
Until recently, that was a tough question for me to answer with an easy explanation for someone to use. There aren’t many resume keyword tools.
A New Tool That’s Better Than Word Clouds
While I could suggest they upload job descriptions into a word cloud, they give pretty crude results.
Word clouds tell you which words show up most frequently in a job posting, but counts aren’t necessarily proxies for importance.
Resume Keyword Search Software
So, to solve this problem, I started playing with NLP tools several months ago and finally found one ready for job applicants to use.
It’s called a parts-of-speech parser. You upload a job description, and it tags the parts of speech for you (nouns, verbs, adjectives, adverbs, prepositions).
Once you parse a specific job posting, it becomes almost effortless to mine the keywords and phrases that matter to the applicant tracking system (ATS) and the hiring manager.
Thus, parts-of-speech parsers also function as search software for resume keywords.
A Fresh Approach to Identifying Resume Keywords
BTW, I searched Google on:
- resume keyword* AND “parts of speech”
- resume AND “parts of speech”
and didn’t get a single useful result.
I was happy to find that using a parts-of-speech parser as resume keyword search software is a new resume writing approach!
My Favorite Parts-of-Speech Parser
I like Rewordify.com because of these stellar features:
- It’s free.
- If you can copy and paste, you have all the skills you need.
- It color-codes each part of speech.
- It lets you isolate one or more parts of speech.
How to Use Rewordify to Parse Job Postings
To parse a job posting, do this:
- Go to Rewordify.
- Copy and paste your job description into the big yellow box.
- Click “Rewordify text.”
- Then, click “Parts of speech” on the top horizontal rail to get your results.
To show you a sample of how this works, I grabbed an Airbnb job posting. It looked liked this after I parsed it:
Rewordify colored-coded the text by:
- Nouns (gray)
- Pronouns (purple)
- Verbs (red)
- Adjectives (blue)
- Adverbs (orange)
- Conjunctions (pink)
- Prepositions (green)
- Articles (light blue)
- Interjections (yellow)
Be aware that Rewordify makes mistakes. It’s good, but not perfect. So, use your judgment if you notice classification errors.
What Are Good Keywords for Resumes?
The best keywords for your resume are the ones recruiters and hiring managers use in their job postings.
Beyond that, most resume keywords are nouns. Thus, if I’m mining a job posting for keywords, I want to look at nouns first.
To isolate the nouns in this posting, unclick every other part of speech on the top horizontal rail.
That will leave you with just the nouns.
Nouns as Resume Keywords
The first paragraph of the Airbnb posting looked like this after I parsed it to highlight nouns:
With the information I wanted highlighted in gray, the posting was easy to skim.
Then, I underlined keywords that recruiters might use to search an applicant tracking system or LinkedIn for candidates.
Industry keywords included travel, hospitality, (e-commerce) marketplace, and (software) platform. When I recruited, I might have searched for candidates for this job using any or all of those words.
I underlined “around the world” and “191 countries” because they describe a global operation.
How to Use Keywords in a Resume
When writing a resume for this job, I would look for opportunities to present previous employers as global companies. Plus, I would consider listing the number of countries where they have operations.
Look at the employer descriptions in this resume to see how you can share those types of keywords.
Resume Keyword Categories
I also noted words and phrases I might want to use in a resume to resonate with the job posting. Per research done at Stanford, deploying that type of linguistic similarity increases your chance of being hired.
While I haven’t shown screenshots for the entire posting here, other noun categories (i.e., types of keywords) that caught my attention included:
- Previous experience
- Hard skills
- Soft skills
- Deliverables and outputs
- Job titles
- Colleague relationships
- External relationships
As you can see, once you make it easy to spot the nouns in a job posting, your resume keyword opportunities expand significantly.
Hard Skills as Resume Keywords
For example, I parsed the Airbnb posting’s responsibilities section for nouns and found several hard skills mentioned.
Here’s a screenshot of a portion of my results:
For this job, you can absolutely expect recruiters and hiring managers to look for skills keywords such as finance, planning, forecasting, variance analysis, and management reporting.
Weave Your Skills Into Your Resume
Then, rather than using a skills list, which eye-tracking studies have found most recruiters don’t read, weave your skills into the language of your resume. Look at the samples here for ideas on how to do that.
BTW, performing the noun review described above will also help you find skills for your LinkedIn profile.
How to Use Job Posting Verbs in Your Resume
Moving on, while the verbs you find in job postings can be resume keywords that recruiters search for, I like them for another reason.
They make terrific starter words for accomplishment statements.
10 favorite action verbs from the Airbnb posting included:
Again, isolating the verbs makes it easy to spot the good ones. When you can do that, your opportunities to write compelling accomplishment statements also expand.
Using Adjectives & Adverbs in Your Resume
You can use adjectives and adverbs to describe industries, companies, and jobs. However, they get tricky when you use them to represent yourself.
Rewordify will help you identify the adjectives and adverbs in job postings. I suggest grouping them into 2 categories:
- Words that describe desirable candidates (i.e., you).
- Words that describe entities other than you.
Don’t tell prospective employers about yourself with adjectives and adverbs. Rather, exemplify their desired qualities in your resume’s accomplishment statements.
How to Use Rewordify to Coach Your References
You can say:
“These are the characteristics the company wants in the person they hire. If you think any of them match me, I hope you will mention them.”
Parsed from the job posting above, your Airbnb list might include:
- Intellectual horsepower
- Investor mindset
Because many of those words represent opinions, they’re more credibly addressed by third parties than they are by you.
Next, and the last part of speech this post discusses, prepositions describe relationships between words. They give subtle clues about your work style.
Thus, always parse job postings for prepositions. In reviewing the Airbnb job ad, the prepositions “with” and “across” popped for me — as in, working with others and across organizations.
I would be sure to weave those words into a resume for the listed position.
The Resume Black Hole
Finally, while it’s smart to perform the analyses described above, you don’t have to use every keyword you identify to avoid the ATS black hole. A 50% match with a job posting is often good enough for getting an interview. So, exhale and enjoy!
I haven’t analyzed the entire Airbnb job posting here. However, I think you get the idea of how to use Rewordify and parts of speech to help you be much more strategic about engaging with employers.
If you have any questions about resume keywords, I hope you’ll ask them in the comments below.
Resume Parsing Software
While this article is mainly about identifying keywords for your resume, you can also use Rewordify as resume parsing software.
Copy and paste your resume into the app and it will parse your resume and let you take a quick inventory of the keywords it contains.
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© 2019 – 2021, Donna Svei. All rights reserved.
Donna Svei, an executive resume writer and former C-level executive, retained search consultant, and CPA, authors all of AvidCareerist’s posts.
She is a Fast Company Contributor and has written for and been quoted by 100+ business and general media outlets, including Forbes, Inc., Entrepreneur, CNBC, the New York Times, USA Today, Time, US News & World Report, CBS, the BBC, Lifehacker, Social Media Today, IT World, and Business News Daily.
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