How to Use Keywords in Job Applications (Plus Tips)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published July 13, 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

When applying for jobs, it's important to use the right keywords to ensure recruiters and hiring managers find your application. These keywords can be related to your experience, skills, or qualifications. Knowing about it keywords in job applications is important as you can use this information to make your application scan through the employer's system. In this article, we discuss what keywords in applications mean, how to use it, its benefits, how to identify it, and share some tips to follow.

What are keywords in job applications?

Keywords in job applications are the specific skills, qualifications, and experience that an employer is looking for in a job candidate. Employers usually list them in the job posting or description. Employers often use applicant tracking systems (ATS) to help screen candidates. ATS software scans resume and cover letters for specific keywords that match the job requirements. Using keywords properly can help your application get through the ATS and increase your chances of getting an interview.

Related: 10 Resume Attributes to Include in Your Job Application

List of top 50 keywords employers look for in job candidates

Here are 50 keywords employers make look for:

  1. communication

  2. teamwork

  3. problem solving

  4. organizational skills

  5. time management

  6. customer service

  7. interpersonal skills

  8. computer skills

  9. work ethic

  10. dependability

  11. flexibility

  12. initiative

  13. creativity

  14. stress management

  15. persistence

  16. motivation

  17. sales skills

  18. leadership

  19. organization

  20. analytical skills

  21. detail-oriented

  22. results-oriented

  23. strategic thinking

  24. change management

  25. conflict management

  26. planning

  27. budgeting

  28. financial analysis

  29. cost containment

  30. revenue growth

  31. profitably

  32. market share

  33. brand awareness

  34. account management

  35. new business development

  36. negotiation

  37. closing

  38. presentation

  39. public speaking

  40. client relationship management

  41. business development

  42. project management

  43. cross-functional team leadership

  44. process improvement

  45. implementation

  46. training

  47. technical writing

  48. editing

  49. research

  50. social media

Types of keywords for job applications

There are several different types of keywords you can use in your job application, including:

Skills keywords

Skills help you complete the tasks required for the job. They can be soft skills, like customer service or teamwork, or hard skills, like experience with a certain software program. Some examples of skills keywords include:

  • Analytical skills

  • Communication skills

  • Computer skills

  • Customer service

  • Leadership

Qualifications keywords

Qualifications are the credentials, education, and training that you have that make you eligible for the job. Including these keywords on your application will show employers that you have the required qualifications. For instance, if a job posting requires a “Bachelor's degree in Business Administration,” you may include that same phrase on your resume or cover letter. Other examples of qualifications keywords include:

  • Bachelor's degree

  • Certifications

  • Master's degree

  • PhD

  • Skills training

How to use keywords in a job application

You can follow this step-by-step guide to help you use keywords in your job application:

1. Read the job posting carefully

The first step is to read the job posting carefully to get a sense of the specific skills, qualifications, and experience the employer looks for in a candidate. Make a list of these keywords and try to use them in your resume and cover letter. Some examples of keywords include Microsoft Office, customer service, and bilingual.

2. Look for accurate keywords

When scanning the job posting for keywords, it's important to ensure that you're using exact keywords. For example, if the job posting says customer service representative, don't list customer service as a keyword. Instead, use the exact tense, abbreviation, or spelling used in the job posting. You can also use the same job title listed in the posting to ensure that you use the correct keywords. When applying for different positions within the same company, it's also important to use different keywords so your application routes to the right department.

3. Use keywords throughout your application

After identifying the keywords relevant to the job, try to use them throughout your application. You can also use keywords throughout the body of your resume and cover letter to highlight how your skills and experience match the job requirements. For example, in your resume, you can use keywords in the following sections:

  • Skills sections: You can add keywords like customer service, Microsoft Office, or bilingual in the skills section. It helps the employer identify your relevant skills.

  • Work experience: In the work experience section, you can include keywords in the job title and description to show how your previous experience applies to the potential job. For example, you can use keywords in this section for project management, client relations, or data analysis.

  • Cover letter: You can use keywords like problem-solving or communication throughout your cover letter. It helps to demonstrate how your skills and qualifications match the job requirements.

  • Education: In the education section, you can include keywords such as MBA or Ph.D. if relevant to the job. You can also include the college or university name to show that you have the required education.

Related: How to Write Your Applicant Tracking System (ATS) Resume

What are the benefits of using keywords in a job application?

There are several benefits of using keywords in a job application, including:

Helps you get through the applicant tracking system

If you're using the correct keywords, you're more likely to get through the applicant tracking system and have your resume seen by a human recruiter. It helps the employer know you're a qualified candidate for the job. It also helps the employer find your application when searching for candidates.

Distinguishes you from other candidates

Using the right keywords makes you more likely to stand out from other candidates who have applied for the same job. This is because you're using the same language as the employer and highlighting the skills and experience that they're looking for in a candidate. It also shows that you've read the job posting carefully and understand what the employer wants.

Makes your application more searchable

When you use keywords in your job application, it makes your application more searchable and easier to find. This is especially important if you're applying for a job online. Many employers use online databases to store applications, and they often search these databases using keywords.

Makes your qualifications and experience clear

Using keywords in your job application can clarify your qualifications and experience using industry-specific keywords. This is especially important if you're applying for a job in a technical field. It's also beneficial if you're changing careers or industries.

Related: What Are Resume Keywords and Why Are They Important?

How to identify keywords in a job posting

When you're looking for keywords in a job posting, follow these steps:

1. Read job postings for the same job title

When looking for keywords, it's helpful to read several job postings for the same job title. This gives you an idea of what keywords employers commonly use to describe the job. This way, you can find accurate data on the keywords that employers look for in job postings.

2. Use a keyword research tool

There are many free keyword research tools and applications that you can use to find keywords related to a job title. These tools allow you to enter a job title and generate a list of related keywords. It's a good idea to use a few different keyword research tools to get various results.

3. Know what you want

It's important to know what you want before looking for keywords, whether you're researching for specific skill or software keywords. This way, you can focus your keyword research and narrow down the results to find the most relevant keywords for your needs. It also helps to keep your job search focused.

Tips to remember when using keywords in a job application

There are a few things to keep in mind when using keywords in a job application, including:

Avoid keyword stuffing

Try to use keywords throughout your application in a way that sounds natural. It's better to use a few relevant keywords that sound natural than to stuff your application with keywords. For example, if you're applying for a marketing job, use keywords such as social media marketing and email marketing throughout your application.

Use related keywords

Related keywords are similar keywords that employers might also be searching for. For example, if a job posting mentions the keyword accounting, you can use related keywords such as bookkeeping and QuickBooks. You can also use expand your search by using related keywords in your keyword research.

Use location keywords

If you're applying for a job that's in a specific location, be sure to use location keywords. For example, if you're applying for a job in Los Angeles, use the keyword Los Angeles in your job application. This can help your application appear in search results for jobs in Los Angeles.

Examine the company's website

To get an idea of the keywords most important to the employer, look at the company's website. Look for keywords in the job postings, on the About Us page, and in other website areas. This gives you a good idea of the employer's language and keywords.

Use industry-specific keywords

Using industry-specific keywords like data analyst or marketing specialist can make it easier for the employer to find your application when searching for candidates. It can also help show that you're familiar with the industry keywords and can use them naturally. Plus, it can help to highlight your relevant skills and experience.

Proofread your application

Make sure to proofread your application before you submit it. This ensures that there are no spelling or grammar errors. Make sure you use the same tense as that of the job posting. It can also help someone else proofread your application to catch any errors you may have missed.

Please note that none of the companies, institutions, or organizations mentioned in this article are affiliated with Indeed.

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