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Written by Anna MuckermanAnna Muckerman

How to use CV keywords (with best examples)

9 min read
How to use CV keywords (with best examples)
Artwork by:Liza Gagarina
CV keywords ensure your CV impresses the employer and lands you an interview. In this blog, we’ll explain what keywords are and how to best use them in your CV.

Every spend hours applying to jobs only to hear nothing from hiring managers or to get a generic rejection email months later? CV keywords can help make the difference between this all-to-common experience and landing that great new job.

But what exactly are CV keywords and how should you most effectively use them on your CV? This blog will answer those questions and more to help make CV keywords more accessible for jobseekers. Here’s what we’ll look at:

  • What are CV keywords?
  • How to find the right keywords for your CV?
  • Where should keywords be placed on a CV?
  • What are some good examples of CV keywords?
Statistical insight

It’s been estimated that up to 75% of CVs get filtered out by automated CV scanners before ever being reviewed by a hiring manager. CV keywords are one of the best ways to prevent that from happening to you.

What are CV keywords?

CV keywords are essential words or phrases on a CV that show the hiring manager a candidate is qualified for the position. There is no one exact set of CV keywords that should be on every CV, although there are certain ones that come up time and time again as they are skills that relate to multiple jobs. 

CV keywords are used by hiring managers to evaluate a candidate’s abilities, but they’re also useful to Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) that scan CVs as they are submitted and rank applicants against one another. That’s why it’s important to think of both a human reader and the CV-scanning robots when adding keywords to your CV.

Statistical insight

According to a survey by Criteria, three out of four hiring managers say they are either currently using an ATS or plan to use one in the future. That means CV keywords are important in virtually every position.

Where do I find keywords for my CV?

The best place to find keywords for your CV is within the job description of the position you are applying to. This is because many hiring managers use the job description to tell the ATS what to look for when scanning CVs. 

Keywords can vary from the name of a specific computer program to soft skills like conflict mediation or a certain number of years of experience. That’s why it's important to always use the employer’s exact language when adding keywords to your CV. 

For example, if the job description asks for “5+ years of experience” the ATS may not find a candidate who has written “6 years of experience” on their CV.

Expert tip

The company name and the name of the position are often keywords programmed into the ATS so make sure to add those to the summary of your CV.

How to add keywords to your CV

There are a few rules to follow when it comes to placing keywords onto your CV. The most important sections for CV keywords are generally considered to be the professional summary and the skills section. 

The skills section is a great place to add in hard skills like the names of specialised programs while the summary is better suited to the soft skills or personality traits the hiring manager is looking for.

While adding keywords, make sure to avoid keyword stuffing which is the practice of overusing keywords or adding them randomly throughout your CV in an attempt to artificially increase your chances of beating the ATS. While this may work in some situations, you’ll almost certainly put off the human hiring manager and land yourself a swift rejection.

Expert tip

Never use keywords to lie about your experience. You don’t have to have all of the skills asked for the job description. Just focus on the ones you do have to create a compelling portrait of your qualifications.

How to format your CV keywords

In order to make the most of your CV keywords, it’s important to incorporate them correctly into your CV. While you should never bold or italicise your keywords, you should make them easy to read by choosing a professional font style and a size between 10-12 point. Here are a few more tips:

Do
  • Create an organised layout that both the hiring manager and ATS can read
  • Save your CV as a PDF or Docx file depending on what the employer asks for
  • Use common section titles like “Employment History” and “Education”
Don't
  • Place text within images which the ATS may not be able to read
  • Forget to proofread your CV – keywords with spelling mistakes won’t be counted
  • Place keywords in white text underneath the main copy of your CV or do anything sneaky – the hiring manager will find out!

Best examples of CV keywords

While the best keywords are always from the job description of the role you are applying to, these examples can give you an idea of what to look for as you begin to place keywords on your CV.

Medical: 

  1. Public health
  2. Emergency management
  3. Electronic Medical Records (EMR)
  4. Empathy
  5. Preventative medicine

Engineering:

  1. AutoCAD
  2. Development cycle
  3. Data modelling
  4. Problem-solving
  5. Regulatory compliance

Accounting & Finance: 

  1. Financial modelling
  2. Cost/Benefit analysis
  3. Loan administration
  4. Operating budgets
  5. Risk management

Marketing:

  1. Digital marketing
  2. Social media strategy
  3. Brand management
  4. Competitive analysis
  5. Google analytics

Government:

  1. Campaign organisation
  2. Community outreach
  3. Policy development
  4. Public relations
  5. Crisis management

Administrative:

  1. Attention to detail
  2. Google Suite
  3. Confidentiality
  4. Billing
  5. Schedule management

Education: 

  1. Lesson planning
  2. Remote learning
  3. Curriculum development
  4. Classroom management
  5. Compassion

Hospitality & Catering: 

  1. Food preparation
  2. Sanitation regulations
  3. Front-of-house
  4. Point of sale
  5. Inventory management

Information technology: 

  1. AI & machine learning
  2. Python, D, C++
  3. Data management
  4. Network administration
  5. Troubleshooting

Human resources:

  1. Conflict management
  2. Talent acquisition
  3. Electronic applicant screening
  4. Diversity, equity, & inclusion
  5. Performance incentives

Sales:

  1. Customer retention
  2. Direct sales
  3. Incentive planning
  4. Market positioning
  5. Sales forecasting

Transport & Logistics:

  1. Supply chain
  2. Dispatch operations
  3. Driver leasing
  4. Port operations
  5. Hazmat

Real Estate:

  1. Competitive bidding
  2. Preventative maintenance
  3. Project development
  4. Property management
  5. Site development

Business & Management: 

  1. Business development
  2. Financial management
  3. Long-term planning
  4. Market development
  5. Performance standards

Legal:

  1. Administrative law
  2. Juris doctor
  3. Legal advocacy
  4. Legislative review
  5. Mediation

Retail:

  1. Sales goals
  2. Customer service
  3. Customer retention
  4. Inventory management
  5. Loss prevention

Maintenance & Repair:

  1. Electrical systems
  2. HVAC
  3. Mechanics
  4. Troubleshooting
  5. Wiring

Of course, when deciding which CV keywords to use in your next application, research is everything. You can use the words we have highlighted here as inspiration. However, it’s important to also do your own research. Make sure that you delve into the job specification and find the most relevant keywords and phrases there too. 

Key takeaways

  1. CV keywords are essential when it comes to beating ATS CV scanners and impressing human hiring managers.
  2. The best place to look for CV keywords is in the job description of the position you are applying to.
  3. Make sure to adapt each CV for the job posting and use the employer’s name and role on your CV.
  4. Don’t try to cheat the ATS by stuffing your CV with keywords where they don’t make sense.
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