How to Find & Use Keywords for Your Job Search

Keywords in your resume, LinkedIn profile, emails and ‘pitch’ help to communicate your value. To job prospects, your use of the right keywords tells them you are an “insider” (everyone wants to hire insiders) and that you understand the problems they face. Organizations use keyword filters for candidate searches, so your use of strategically placed keywords will improve your likelihood of being spotted.

When someone is searching on LinkedIn for a candidate with your skills (increasingly LinkedIn is the first stop for candidate searches), keywords in certain parts of your profile  matter more than others. In fact, keywords in your Headline, Company Name, Job Title and Skills are weighted more heavily (although all sections matter in search results).

So how do you know that you are placing the right keywords in the right places of your profile? Simple- search for yourself! For example, I worked with a client who built equity and derivatives trading systems. He felt that anyone searching on LinkedIn for his skill set would enter “trading systems” in the people-search box. So he searched within his own network using the term “trading systems.” On his first search, he landed on page four of the search results. By the time we were finished optimizing his profile for keywords, he was at the top of page 1.

LinkedIn’s various features can help you to identify keywords for your profile, resume, emails and pitch. Here are three ways to identify keywords that will resonate:

Do an “Advanced Job-postings Search”
Make use of LinkedIn’s broad and deep listing of job-postings to identify relevant keywords. Click on “Jobs” in the top menu, then click “Advanced Search,” and finally “More Options.” You will see a number of search fields that will enable you to fine-tune your search for job postings. Enter keywords that represent job postings in which you may be interested.

For example, if you are looking for a Marketing Director position in the Marketing and Advertising sector, you could try the following:

  1. Enter in the Title field: “Marketing AND Director AND NOT (analysis OR analytics).” Note, the connectors AND, OR, NOT must be capitalized.
  2. Then, select the appropriate industry, in this case “Marketing and Advertising.”

The result: you will find job postings for the industry you selected that have these keywords in the posting title. You may need to refine your search criteria depending upon the results.

Once you have found two or three postings that match your job target, review them to look for keywords. For example, when I performed this exact search, I found keywords like “digital marketing,” “cross-channel marketing,” “communications,” and “campaigns” (in addition to the Marketing Director keywords I used to search on).

Create a “Word Cloud” for the Job Postings you found
Word clouds enable you to visually see the frequency of words that show up in a block of text. If you google “Word Cloud” you will see the many free tools that can enable you to create word clouds. I use “TagCrowd” at

Copy the job description text from each of the two or three postings that you found into one “word cloud.” I copied the text from the combined job descriptions into the word-cloud input box, checking off “100 words maximum” and “show frequency.” I then clicked “visualize” and additional keywords jumped out, including “leadership,” “management,” and “clients.”

Do an “Advanced People Search”

Select “people” from the dropdown menu to the left of the search box on top of the LinkedIn page. Then click on the “advanced” link that appears to the right of the search box.

Enter the same search criteria that you used for Title and Industry in the “Advanced Job-postings Search,” with one addition: make sure you select “current” after you enter keywords in the Title field, so that these keywords are in the user’s current job title. Browse through the LinkedIn profiles of those people that you found through this search, with a specific focus on the “skills” section of their profile, to identify keywords.

By the way, I discuss other ways to use the “Advanced People Search” feature and be “found” on LinkedIn in my book Your Social Media Job Search.