Job seekers often ask me, “How do I identify resume keywords?” Until recently, that was a tough question for me to answer with an explanation that was easy for someone to operationalize.
While I could suggest they upload job listings into a word cloud, it’s a pretty crude tool. Word clouds tell you which words show up most frequently in a job posting, but counts aren’t necessarily proxies for importance.
Natural Language Processing for Resume Keywords
Thus, to solve this problem, I started playing with NLP tools several months ago and finally found one that’s 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.
A Fresh Approach to Identifying Resume Keywords
BTW, I searched Google on “resume keyword* AND parts of speech” and “resume AND parts of speech” and didn’t get a single useful result. Thus, using a parts-of-speech parser to identify keywords is a new resume writing and job search 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.”
- Click “Parts of speech” on the top horizontal rail.
To show you a sample result, I grabbed an Airbnb job posting for educational purposes. 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.
How to Identify Resume Keywords in Rewordify
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 job posting looked like this after I parsed it for nouns:
With the nouns in the section highlighted in gray, the posting was easy to skim. Then, I red-lined 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 red-lined “around the world” and “191 countries” because they describe a global operation. When writing a resume, 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.
I also noted words and phrases I might want to use in a resume to make it resonate with the job posting. Per research done at Stanford, deploying this type of linguistic similarity increases your chance of being hired.
While I haven’t shown screenshots and red-lines for the rest of the posting here, other noun categories/types of keywords that caught my attention included:
- Previous experience
- Hard skills
- Soft skills
- Job titles
- Working relationships
- Partner organizations
As you can see, once you make it easy to spot the nouns in a job posting, your resume keyword opportunities increase significantly.
LinkedIn Skills & Nouns
Note that 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 two 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.
You can also use Rewordify to make a list of candidate characteristics like the one below. Then, share it with people who are writing LinkedIn recommendations and serving as references for you.
You can say, “These are some of 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. Because of this, 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.
Recent research found that a 50% match with a job posting is as good as a 90% match for getting interviews. 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 identify resume keywords.
If you have any questions about resume keywords, I hope you will ask them in the comments below.
Updated July 2020
Image: designer 491
© 2019 – 2020, 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 has written for and been quoted by 100+ business, general, and career media outlets, including Forbes, Mashable, Fast Company, Entrepreneur, the New York Times, USA Today, Time, CBS, the BBC, Lifehacker, Social Media Today, IT World, SmartBrief, Payscale, Business News Daily, and the Muse.
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