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 postings into a word cloud, they give pretty crude results.
Word clouds can count and show which words appear most frequently in a job posting. The trouble is, counts aren’t necessarily proxies for importance.
Resume Keyword Search Software
So, to solve this problem, I started playing with NLP tools 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. You know, the nouns, verbs, adjectives, adverbs, and prepositions.
Once you parse a job posting, it’s easy to find the keywords and phrases that matter to the applicant tracking system (ATS) and the hiring manager.
Thus, parts-of-speech parsers can also be used 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 helpful 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.
- You have all the skills you need if you can copy and paste.
- It color-codes each part of speech.
- It lets you isolate one or more parts of speech.
Job Description Keywords Finder
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 like 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 used in job postings. Hence me showing you how to start parsing job postings above.
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 ATS 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 ways to show 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 Stanford research, linguistic similarity with the job posting increases your chance of being hired.
While I haven’t shown screenshots for the entire posting, 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 spot the nouns in a job posting, your resume keyword opportunities expand.
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 expect recruiters and hiring managers to look for skills keywords. Examples include finance, planning, forecasting, variance analysis, and management reporting.
While there are other methods to find skills (here), if you want to customize your resume to a specific job, this is the best way to do it.
Weave Your Skills Into Your Resume
Then, don’t use a skills list. Eye-tracking studies have found most recruiters don’t read them. Rather, weave your skills into the language of your resume.
Look at the samples here for ideas on how to do that.
BTW, 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, the verbs you find in job postings can be resume keywords, but I like them for another reason.
They make terrific starter words for accomplishment statements.
My 10 favorite action verbs from the Airbnb posting included:
Again, isolating the verbs makes it easy to spot the good ones. Do that, and you will write more compelling accomplishment statements.
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
Then, use Rewordify to make a list of desirable candidate characteristics (see below). Share your list with people writing LinkedIn recommendations and serving as references for you.
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 best used by third parties, not you.
Next, and the last part of speech this post covers, prepositions describe relationships between words. They give subtle clues about your work style.
Thus, always parse job postings for prepositions. In the Airbnb ad, the prepositions “with” and “across” popped for me.
I would be sure to weave those words into a resume for the listed position.
The Resume Black Hole
Finally, while it’s wise to do the analyses described above, you don’t have to use every keyword you see to feed the ATS. A 50% match with a job posting is often good enough to keep you out of the black hole and to get an interview.
So, exhale and enjoy!
I haven’t analyzed the entire Airbnb job posting here. However, I think you get how to use Rewordify and the parts of speech strategically in your job search.
If you have any questions about resume keywords, I hope you’ll ask them in the comments below.
Resume Parsing Software
One more note, you can also use Rewordify to find keywords in your resume.
Copy and paste your resume into Rewordify. It will parse your resume and let you take a quick inventory of the keywords it contains.
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Featured by Career Sherpa & 3Plus International
Updated January 2023
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© 2019 – 2023, 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.
Let her expertise inform your job search strategy and decision-making.
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I like it!
Thank you. I find it akin to magic. Keywords made easy!
This is an interesting new tool for job seekers. It requires only a little more work on our part, and looks worthy of a test drive.
I’ve been driving it for a while. I don’t leave home without it.
It makes digesting job postings so much easier. It’s interesting how different parts of speech relate to different aspects of self-marketing and the job search.
Donna, this is an amazing approach to selecting keywords to improve a job candidates success with ATS Systems, LinkedIn, and other Social Media.
And it’s implications are not just electronic, human eyes (of the recruiter and/or hiring manager) will pick up the keywords they are looking for as well.
I’m so glad you lead us, step by step, on how to use this tool. It may seem daunting at first, but I know it will yield amazing results and be worth the initial learning curve.
I love the idea of identifying Action Verbs to start you bullet points with this process.
And this is just brilliant:
“Don’t tell prospective employers about yourself with adjectives and adverbs. Rather, exemplify their desired qualities in your resume’s accomplishment statements.”
Using Rewordify (or other Parts of Speech Parser) to identify an employer’s desired qualities and then write bullet points to highlight a candidates matching qualities is just the kind of super-sleuthing you’re so fantastic at, Donna!
Thank you so much. It’s actually super-easy to use.
I’ve been working on how to parse job descriptions with different NLP tools for months.
I’ve tried several categories. When I found this tool it fascinated me to see how the different parts of speech track to separate, important aspects of the job search. And to be able to isolate different parts of speech with a few clicks, wow!
Oh man, this is awesome.
At first my thought was, ugh, another thesaurus.
And then I thought, huh, well ok, identify words by parts of speech. I’d do it another way.
AND THEN Donna pulled the rug out from under me to say HOW to do fabulous things with all of these different types of words and now I think I have a fan girl crush on this article.
Thanks Donna – you made this English major workforce professional very happy today.
Thank you. I have found this so useful. I was excited to find Rewordify, which alleviates the pain of sorting words by type and lets me get right to the money keywords for my clients, plus so much more.
This is a great example of a new, automated tool that pairs with a professional to make the professional more effective.
Love this, Donna! Super helpful for people in career transition (or anyone making a client pitch against an RFP, for that matter); I’m going to share far and wide!
I agree. Useful anywhere you want to be responsive to a set of requirements!
Nice key wording tool Donna Svei, Executive Resume Writer. This discovery should help those #JobSeekers who are #VisualLearners. Keep sharing the good stuff.
Kevin Turner @ TNT Brand Strategist LLC
Thank you so much. You too!
Donna, you’re helping job seekers harness the power of the words that are locked in the Job Ad/Job Description. Your process and tool gives the job seeker a key to unlock the puzzle to show the patterns patterns that are almost impossible to see.
Your comment is a great summary to grasp the power of this key:
“When I found this tool it fascinated me to see how the different parts of speech track to separate, important aspects of the job search.”
It was sitting in plain sight!
It is a great way to deconstruct a job posting and mine it for different ways to communicate with recruiters and hiring managers on “their terms.”
Donna, great tool made for English and I will try it out in Dutch job postings. I will register and try the words learning tool to look if it will understand Double Dutch. Thanx I was looking for something like this I hope!
I would guess there’s a similar tool for Dutch.
Microsoft OneNote is a possibility, although its parser doesn’t let users select particular parts of speech to highlight. I started with it, noticed its deficiencies for my use case, and started googling to find other options. That’s how I got to Rewordify.
It’s a great resume keyword and resume writing tool!
This is brilliant! Have you developed a webinar for this? I think it’s great for resume writers as well as “civilians” who insist on going at it alone. Also, although it seems a lesser focus above, it’s a great scaffolding for prepping references — which everyone either forgets or are not sure how…
No webinar in the works, although I’d be happy to collaborate with NACE on something that would be available to all Career Services offices. It would be really useful!
Can keywords be detected by applicant tracking systems in PDF files? Are creative resumes which are created outside of Word only doing the applicant a disservice?
There are too many applicant tracking systems for me to give you a reliable answer. I would give the ATS a .doc file to be safe.
Regarding “creative” resumes, research has shown that they don’t perform as well as conventional resumes. The exception might be a creative resume from a professional working in a creative role. However, my creative clients use conventional resumes to describe their backgrounds and portfolios to demonstrate their creative abilities.
how will it work for a french/german/spanish resume
You will have to test it.
I dropped some German text in and it did a pretty good job of identifying parts of speech.
Hope that helps!
In looking for a better tool/alternative than WordCloud praised by YouTubers, I found your article (https://www.avidcareerist.com/2019/09/16/resume-keywords/) and read it thorough and found it extremely helpful.
I wanted say thank for this article and its related content, for the way you present the information is clear, concise and doable.
Lance, Thank you very much! Donna