Using Industry Keywords / Buzzwords in Your CV

Job seeking has changed over recent years, with the advent and rapid growth of digital communications. This means that when you prepare your CV, you are no longer writing it for one scenario, in which an employer receives a paper copy in an envelope via the regular post.

You now have to prepare your CV for digital consumption, with an employer or recruiter either receiving it via email or accessing it in a database – either their own or on a job board – through use of an electronic scanner. These readers are most likely to be large companies or recruitment agencies who know exactly what they want and use scanning software to ensure they get the best match possible.

As your CV is a marketing document, you therefore need to write for its different audiences. In most instances when the reader uses scanning software, they will be searching for keywords and ‘industry buzzwords’.

We can categorise keywords as any words that help a document to come up in search engine results. Industry buzzwords are also keywords, but they relate more closely to the terminology of specific industries or work sectors.

While keywords can be fairly general, buzzwords tend to relate more closely to the industry. It is therefore essential that you are thoroughly familiar with what employers might be searching for so that you can ‘optimise’ your CV.

How Searches Are Conducted

Sophisticated software that undertakes CV scanning, coding and retrieval is used to conduct searches of CVs loaded onto databases for industry buzzwords. This software either belongs to the Human Resources department of a major company, to a large recruitment agency searching on behalf of an industry client, or is built in to a careers website, where job seekers have uploaded their CVs.

This software enables the search of many 1000’s of CVs, narrowing the field down so that a human recruiter can then read them individually.

Different Kinds of Buzzwords

Let’s say that keywords are a general category, including general skills areas, proficiencies, activities and business processes. Industry buzzwords can be grouped into the following categories.

  • The most frequently appearing verbs and nouns used in the adverts for positions within this sector or industry.
  • Specific job titles and departments found in that industry or profession.
  • Specific hardware or software programs used in that industry or profession.
  • Vocational degrees or certifications.
  • Companies active within that industry or profession.
  • Jargon specific to that industry or profession.
  • Acronyms used commonly in that industry or profession.

The more closely an industry buzzword is linked in with the vacancy or the work sector, the more weight it will carry in the search criteria.

Making Lists of Buzzwords

Even if you are the most qualified person for a vacancy, you are unlikely to be short listed if there are few buzzwords in your CV for the scanning software to pick up. It is, of course, impossible for you to know the exact string of words and phrases that the employer will enter when they use the scanning software. However, you can make an educated guess at anticipating many of them.

Different employers and recruiters will come up with different lists of buzzwords that they consider important. You will find the most important in their job advertisements, with the others close behind in the job descriptions.

You can visit any careers websites, search for similar jobs and check out the job descriptions and person specifications that can be accessed online. It is then an easy step to make lists of these and prioritise according to how often and, as importantly, how high up they appear in the adverts and supporting documents.

If you are tailoring your CV to a specific vacancy, then visit the corporate website and take note of the language used there. If press releases are viewable on the site, read these too, as they will reflect the current jargon.

You should also look in current industry magazines and articles to gain a sense of the words and terminology that are being used in this industry sector. This will help you to decide which buzzwords are likely to be most heavily weighted.

Including Buzzwords in Your CV

The higher up your CV you include buzzwords, the more likely it is to rank highly in the lists produced by scanner software. Some people believe in adding a paragraph composed entirely of keywords and buzzwords at the top of their CV, reducing it to a small font size so that it is there for the scanners, without intruding too much when a recruiter or employer comes to read it in person. While this may satisfy search criteria, it will not necessarily the human who gives it an initial read.

The best recommendation is to include the buzzwords in the text of your CV. Once you have drafted your CV, you can go through and insert buzzwords in such a way that it still reads fluently. This may mean removing some of the original text.

The Profile at the top of your CV can include your three strongest and most relevant skills and experience areas, expressed in buzzwords. You can continue with an Achievements section, which can also be heavy with buzzwords. These sections should take up the first 1/2 to 2/3 of the first page, meaning that they will also be included in the vital first 30 seconds that a human recruiter spends scanning your CV.

Continue to use the buzzwords you’ve identified throughout your CV, in the Career History, Training, Education and Other Skills sections.

Keep it Genuine

Your CV should never look like groups of buzzwords ordered into unconvincing bullet points. If you do not have experience in an area that appears critical, then do not claim to possess it. Your CV should read smoothly, giving a sense of you, the candidate, rather than reading like cut-and-paste text from job descriptions. Ideally, the end result should describe a candidate who is wholly familiar with the work area and conversant with all the requirements of the vacancy being advertised.

Quick Exercise to Improve Your CV

It’s really easy for you to quickly improve your own CV by adding keywords / buzzwords – so, do the quick exercise below now, don’t put it off and spend at least 10 to 20 minutes on it (you can spend longer if you want).

  • Jot down a list of keywords / buzzwords that come straight into your head, when you think about your profession / industry sector.
  • Now go and visit your favourite job site and perform a search on the sort of jobs that you want to apply for – make a note of the specific keywords / buzzwords in the job adverts.
  • Prioritise your list and then update your CV, ensuring that you’ve included the most important keywords / buzzwords at least once.
  • Remember, the more time you spend on your CV, the better your chances of getting interviews – so, when you next look at a job advert, industry / professional publication, etc, note down any keywords / buzzwords that aren’t on your list and consider adding them to your CV.

If you have any comments or questions about this article, or you’d like to share your keywords / buzzwords with other readers, please leave a comment below.

Kindest regards,

Paul Bradley.

Bradley CVs Ltd.

13 responses to “Using Industry Keywords / Buzzwords in Your CV”

  1. I work as an employment consultant and creating CVs is a large aspect of the Job. I have been doing this for 10 years and usually find CV advice offered on blogs and websites somewhat stayed. I’ve got to say how impressed I am at the advice on using buzzwords. I am always looking for new ways to sell my clients and having now put your advice into practice on 3 occassions, the positive response received by both employers and clients speaks volumes…I’m going to send your link to various team members and clients who I know would find it as helpful, informative and as usefull as I have. Thanks again.

  2. Dear Bradley CVs,

    Thank you so much, your company has given me lots of ideas on how to make my resume more effective.


  3. Excellent article, Paul! I have been analyzing hiring trends for some time now and have designed an automated process for identifying key buzzwords for specific technical industries. My algorithm is now implemented and available for anyone to use at Just look for the ‘Buzzwords’ button in the toolbar.