How To Find The Keywords Recruiters Are Looking For

Anu IyerBusinesses, Career Seekers, Career Tips, How ToLeave a Comment

A woman in a business suit peers through binoculars into the distance, searching for the perfect job candidate. In the background is a LinkedIn career infographic.
Written by Jennifer Mayberry
Graphics by Krystn Stockbridge

Why You Need Keywords on LinkedIn

So, it turns out that LinkedIn is a search engine. Like other search engines, LinkedIn uses keywords to bring up relevant results. In this case, the relevant result is you. Your skills are the keywords that will make you magically appear before a recruiter. You can add keywords throughout the written sections of your profile as well as to the separate skills section. When recruiters search for potential applicants, these are the types of keywords that they are plugging in.

Without keywords, the search for you and your otherwise brilliant LinkedIn profile will be futile. Someone else will fill the void. It will be like the time you parked your car at a big outdoor concert, didn’t pay attention to the section, and searched for it for two hours after the show let out. In this case, however, the recruiter won’t even know they’re looking for you. They just won’t find you.  If you don’t mark yourself with keywords, you’ll be indistinguishable.

Help Them Find What They Are Looking For

A recruiter may come across your profile simply by plugging in a particular set of keywords. This only works, however, if you have the keywords they are searching for.  According to an article by Forbes, using keywords is “The single best way to ensure you’ll show up in searches.” They also point out that using keywords increases your LinkedIn rank, which further increases your visibility.

So how do you find these all-important keywords?

Perform a LinkedIn Title Search

LinkedIn offers a feature that allows users to search for their career titles under the “jobs” section. The feature links them to a useful infographic page. The page features various information about careers, including keywords commonly used to describe given job titles. To access the infographic page for your job title, you would go to LinkedIn, and in the browser type in, /title/your profession. For instance, say you are a graphic designer, you would enter LinkedIn com/title/graphic designer. Just enter your desired position after “title.” An infographic page on that profession will then appear. Keywords associated with the inputted title will appear in a horizontal bar at the bottom of the page.

Not every skill listed will apply to every person in a given field, but it might give you ideas for skills you might not otherwise think of or have forgotten to include. For a different approach, LinkedIn also has an alphabetically ordered skill directory, which can be found here.

Pay Attention to Current Terms

Observe the language used by people in your industry and make sure you are current on terminology. Knowing the lingo used to describe your profession will ensure that you are using relevant keywords. Keeping up on what people are talking about can also help you find out about skills that you don’t have but would benefit from learning. There are many amusing lists out there that compile buzzwords and jargon to avoid. People disagree on some of these, but it’s good to know which ones recruiters will regard as the worst offenders.

Harvest Job Postings for Information

As Erin Urban explains in this article, “Any descriptor in the job description is a keyword.” You can search LinkedIn for job postings by typing a job title into the search box. Go to the search box at the top left of your LinkedIn page. As soon as you put your cursor in the search box, LinkedIn will give you search options. Type in your job title and then click, “in jobs” to search for posts for positions in your field.

Often, if you share keywords with those in the job listing, they will appear in checked boxes on the right side of the post. Sometimes, you may only have a couple of skills they are looking for in common, but seeing the list of keywords on the job posting can lead you to skills you have forgotten to add.

Check Out the Competition

Other job seekers and professionals in your field can also give you ideas for skills to list or skills you may want to acquire. Look at the language that other people use. Some phrases may sound fancier or more pretentious than something that little old you would do. Try keep an open mind. A supportive adviser, friend, or mentor can remind you that you too have done scary, impressive sounding things.

But Don’t Lie

Looking at skills you don’t have in a job posting or stranger’s profile can be as intimidating as enlightening. It can be tempting to lie, but it’s much better not to. You might actually get caught. That would be more embarrassing than not having some skill.

Maybe you have that friend who for years has gotten away with pretending she has an English degree. However, if you didn’t suffer through Literary Theory at least once then it’s just wrong to pretend you did. The shadowy figure of some red-penned English teacher past may be silently judging you; the one who always scolded you for being too wordy, or the one that circled the same misspelled word on every paper. However, it’s actually not English Major skills that dominate LinkedIn’s list of top hard skills for 2018. Tech skills do.

You Can Learn

While lying is bad, learning is good.

It can seem that some industries other than yours have all of the luck.

You may view a list of sought-after skills and realize that you not only lack those skills, you don’t even know what most of them are.  The link between these types of skills and anything you would actually do may seem as questionable as the connection between nourishment and the ingredient list of a food additive rich meal.

It’s true, many tech skills may not apply to your particular industry, but it’s worth considering if there are any areas of crossover. This Business Insider article discusses the 25 skills most likely to get you hired in 2018 and courses you can take to learn them. Of course, there are also plenty of other courses online and learning certifications on LinkedIn, so you can also expand the skill types that you have already developed.

Soft Skills

LinkedIn has a section for soft skills in their top skills list for 2018. After all, employers seek personal qualities, as well as professional traits. For some ideas, has published this list of soft skills that the World Economic Forum predicts will get you hired in 2020.

Be open-minded and comb various sources when considering keywords. Be thoughtful with your final choices. Look at job postings, other profiles, and LinkedIn title searches for ideas. Remember that personal qualities can serve as keywords. Use your assets as keywords so that recruiters can find you. For more insight into our current LinkedIn era, see this excellent article by David Gilbert.