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Where to Place Resume Keywords

Keywords are important in on-line resumes. A resume that lacks the proper keywords will yield little chance of an interview if it's evaluated in digital form. The trickier question is: Where is the best place to put the keywords in your resume?"

The possibilities are daunting. You can sprinkle keywords throughout. You can have a separate keyword section. You can put keywords in your profile or professional summary. Or you can use a combination approach. The paradox of choice!

Placing keywords at the very beginning is a good idea. Keywords represent the important, industry specific language and "insider talk" that will get immediate attention from a hiring decision-maker. I like resumes that start with a profile or professional summary. Including keywords in that section is always a powerful approach.

Should Keywords Get Their Own Section?

Should you list keywords in a separate section? Yes and no. Keyword summary sections give you an opportunity to include modifications of a keyword that will not easily integrate into the resume. Repetition makes for a keyword-rich resume, which is a good thing. Keywords sprinkled throughout your resume usually take the form of nouns coupled with action verbs, such as: "managed the trading desk." Keyword sections, on the other hand, are usually just a list of nouns. Having both can give you the flexibility to say something important two different ways for impact.

However, don't sacrifice other sections to include a separate keyword section. I strongly prefer resumes with an "Interests" section, for example, because it gives the interviewer a non-business point of conversation which may work in a positive way for the applicant. Who knows, you may both love football, or music. Don't underestimate the importance of chemistry. While an automated resume scanner won't care about football, the hiring manager might. I would not include a separate keyword section if it means leaving out your interests. But if you do have room, go ahead and have the section in addition to the words scattered throughout.

Where Can You Find Them?

Because keywords represent skills and experience an employer is looking for in an applicant, the best places to find words that reflect those skills are in job postings, job descriptions, industry blogs, newsletters and Web sites. Track the words you see over and over - those are most likely keywords.

Keeping common industry acronyms is a good idea too. If a word or acronym is not easily recognizable to someone outside the industry but completely familiar to an insider, include that word. The Boston College career center advises: "The best source of keywords is the actual job listing, which is likely to contain many, if not all, of the keywords that an employer will use to search the resume database."

Summing up, a job-seeker has some freedom of choice about placement of keywords, how often and in what form. If you keep in mind that keywords are an integral part of an excellent resume that will get you noticed, you'll be able to use that leeway to your advantage.

AUTHORAlice Ain Rich Insider Comment
  • li
    24 September 2009

    I haven't had anyone ask about my personal interests section since I was in my 20's. My impression is that section is important for making conversation when the young applicant's experience is thin.

  • Al
    17 September 2009

    Bob, you make an excellent point and one I have discussed with many applicants over many years. That is why it is such a personal choice. There are people for whom bringing in personal information is not a good idea. Others will flourish when given a chance to talk about interests or passions in their lives, even if it is not strictly work related. We spend so much time with our co-workers that at some point the chemistry of "will I like working with these people" comes into play. Should it come up in the resume phase or even in an early interview? Your team or mine? Will this person spend time on his hobbies and not focus on work? The answer is not the same for everyone. I do know, based on my years as a HR Executive and Career Counselor that I give clear preference to a resume with interests IF the professional qualifications are outstanding as well and the interests are "clean and healthy". I am aware that there are 11 opinions for every 10 people you ask about this topic but that is my observation. Ultimately each of us is responsible for the content of our resume and our comfort level with what is said. Thanks for your thoughts.

  • Bo
    17 September 2009

    With regard to "Interests" section and inclusion of such information in one's resume...Have you considered the possibility that, using football as an example, there is a very high probability that you and the hiring manager are not only fans of different teams, but the teams that are rivals? What do you think that would do to your chances of getting the job? Why would you bring irrelevant to business and your qualifications information into the interview?

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