DePaul University Career Center's Blog

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Maximizing Keywords on Your Resume

Megan Boone

Are you applying to jobs or internships online and becoming frustrated by the lack of response from employers? Often, it can feel like you are sending out thousands of applications for opportunities and it can almost feel impossible to gain a response from the other side. The search process can be exhausting and frustrating. Maintaining consistency and ensuring you take a few extra steps before clicking apply is essential.

Though it may seem tedious, you must be tailoring your documents (i.e. your resume, cover letter, and supplemental documents) to the specific opportunity you are applying for. When applying to opportunities online, employers often use a system called Applicant Tracking System (ATS) which essentially matches keywords from your resume to the job description. In other words, the system is looking for specific words from the job/internship description on your resume to ensure that the applicant has the essential skills and experience for the position. This is where tailoring your resume comes in and maximizing the use of keywords. 

Here are five steps to complete the tailoring process and maximize keywords on your resume: 

Copy and Paste All of the Content from Your Master Resume Document Into a Blank Word Document

It’s always recommended to have a master resume that can be up to several pages which includes all of your previous experiences, skills, projects, educational history, etc. You never know when you will need to pull from a certain experience from your past and include it on your tailored resume.

Carefully Read Over the Job or Internship Description and Highlight Key Words, Statements, Experiences, or Skills You Feel You Have a Background and Proficiency In.

Reflect on all of your previous experiences and assess your background, are there aspects of the description that align with these things? Make sure you are thinking holistically about your background, these experiences and skills don’t just have to come from paid work experiences, they can also come from volunteer work, class projects, etc.

Edit Your Master Resume down to the Core Relevant Experiences and Strategically Order the Various Sections in Order from the Most Relevant to the Least Relevant.

Now that you’ve closely taken a look at the job/internship description, it’s time to look at your master’s resume and assess what experiences and sections are the most relevant to the position. Ask yourself, do I feel this experience or specific section is relevant or transferable to the position I am applying to? There is no strict formula for how your resume should be ordered. Browse through the job description to get an idea of how you may order your resume. For example, if a position is very technology and skills-heavy, you may choose to list your skills and technology section first. 

Within Each section, Especially Within Your Accomplishment Statements and Technology section, Ensure the Language and skills you Highlighted in the Description are Reflected in These Various Sections.

Look at the words and skills you highlighted from the description in the second step and make sure these get added to your resume within your accomplishment statements and separate skills section. It may seem redundant to list these, but it’s crucial to mirror the language from the description onto your resume so the keywords are identified by ATS and your application moves forward to the next step.

Copy and Paste Your Resume into a Resume Optimizer Such as Lightcast

Once you feel like you’ve tailored your resume to the job/internship description, the next step is to copy-paste the content into a resume optimizer to check for readability and identify which skills get picked up by the system. This is vital to test and an opportunity to add additional skills if there aren’t many identified. Lightcast also specifically allows you to enter the job/internship description and receive a recommended list of skills to include in your resume if you want inspiration for different types of skills. 

Maximizing the use of keywords and tailoring your resume (and cover letter!) to each opportunity you apply to can make all the difference in moving your application along to the next step. Remember that the documents you submit are a direct reflection of your background but also an opportunity to showcase specific experiences and skills that make you a good candidate for the position. 


Want support identifying keywords from a job/internship description? Need assistance tailoring and reorganizing your resume to a specific position? That’s exactly where we come in. Whether you’re a freshman or an alumnus, it’s never too early (or too late) to utilize our services. Book an appointment with Megan, or another member of the advising community through Handshake, or by calling the front desk at (773) 325-7431.

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