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How to Use Sales Resume Keywords in 2022

Resume keywords are the most important ingredient you need to craft a sales resume that lands interviews. Recruiters use keywords to search for professionals that fit their job openings. And companies use Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) to reject resumes they receive for their job postings that don’t contain enough of the correct keywords. In this blog (and the video above), we will share what keywords are important for sales resumes, what an ATS is, how ATS use keywords to accept or reject your resume, and how you can choose the right sales resume keywords to advance your career.  Although this blog was written with sales positions in mind, these tips apply to positions in any field.

What Keywords are Important for Sales Resumes?

Resume keywords are words that describe job-related experience, skills, or traits. Here are some examples of keywords that are critical to include on a sales resume.

Experience keywords 

  • software sales
  • medical device sales
  • sales manager
  • outside sales
  • account manager
  • inside sales
  • account executive
  • business development
  • marketing
  • lead sales team
  • territory management

Skills keywords

  • cold-calling
  • consultative sales
  • sales pitch development
  • relationship management
  • prospecting
  • communication skills
  • social media skills
  • sales leadership
  • customer success
  • business development
  • account management
  • lead generation

Traits

  • self-starter
  • ambitious
  • team player
  • Customer-focused
  • competitive

Keywords are also the way that recruiters find professionals that fit their job openings and Applicant Tracking Systems accept or reject your resume when you apply for a job. This brings us to why your resume must contain the right sales keywords. 

What’s an Applicant Tracking System?

An ATS is a computer program or bot that scans and scores your resume when you apply for a job. Despite most ATS companies’ claims, ATS aren’t very good at picking the right sales resumes to approve and forward onto the HR professional or recruiter working a job opening. This is due to how they score your resume. The ATS does an analysis of the job description for the job you applied to and extracts relevant keywords. The keywords it finds on your resume are then compared to the list of keywords from the job description to determine your resume’s match score.

Typically, if there isn’t a 60% or higher match score your resume gets rejected. Did we mention that ATS are dumb? If the job description lists “cold-calling” as a requirement and your resume contains “prospecting” as a skill, the ATS won’t recognize that as a match. 

So why do employers use a flawed keyword-based system? 

Companies get overwhelmed by the sheer number of resumes they receive. As an example, Google received 3M resumes in 2020. ATS are an imperfect solution, but they beat all of the alternatives.

Defeat the Bots – Tailor Your Sales Resume Keywords to the Job Description.

So how do you build a sales resume that contains the right keywords for all of the different jobs you want to apply to? Unless you are applying to similar, entry-level sales representative jobs, you won’t be able to build just one resume that will have the sales keywords your resume will need to get past the ATS. 

Tip 1. Tailor your resume for each job you apply to. 

The further you are along in your sales career, the more important this becomes as the required keywords get more specific. Fortunately, online keyword matching tools are available that can help you dramatically speed up the process and improve your resume’s match scores. In short, get your keywords right and your job search will take off.

How to use Keyword Matching Tools to Get Past the ATS

Tip 2. Utilize an online keyword matching tool to take a lot of the work out of optimizing your resume to match the sales jobs you desire. 

The two we recommend are jobscan and skillsyncer. Both start with you uploading a copy of the job posting you want to apply for and a copy of your resume. Within seconds, the tool will score your resume and give you a list of keywords that your resume is missing. You can watch the video above where Charity from our team demonstrates the skillsyncer tool and shares several insider tips to help you land more interviews. 

Make Sure Your Sales Keywords Impress Recruiters and Hiring Managers

Tip 3. Optimize your keywords to appeal to recruiters and hiring managers. 

Once you get past the bots, your resume still has two big barriers to get by before you’ll get an interview – recruiters and hiring managers. Research by the career site Ladders reveals that recruiters spend an average of 7.4 seconds reviewing a resume. 

If you simply stuffed sales keywords onto your resume to raise your match score it will read like a jumbled mess. Recruiters and every sales manager we’ve ever worked with will reject you. In the video on this blog Charity shows you how to insert keywords into your way in a way that will help you stand out with hiring managers.

Bonus Tip. Most recruiters and sales managers don't read cover letters. 

Use the time you would have spent on that cover letter and invest it to employ Charity’s insider resume tips in the video above. Her tips will make your resume stand out with recruiters and hiring managers and land interviews.

To gain even more tips we’ve learned directly from sales managers, read our blog Top 10 Sales Resume Mistakes that can cost you an interview. Then download our free 5 Insider Sales Resume Tips Guide to finish building the ultimate resume for your career search.

Start with the Right Sales Resume Template.

Tip 4. Humans (recruiters and hiring managers) and ATS both prefer a clean, simple resume format. 

You can download our free sales resume template if you haven’t started crafting your resume or suspect that the formatting of your sales resume may be wrong. When you apply for a job, always send your resume in Word format. Most ATS can handle pdf formatted resumes, but some can’t… why take the chance?

Before we leave the topic of resume keywords, let’s discuss how to optimize your keywords when you will be placing your resume on a job career board such as Monster. These same tips also apply to your Linkedin Profile as recruiters rely heavily on LI to find talent.

Sales Keywords for Job Boards and Linkedin.

Tip 5. Tailor your resume before placing it on a career website like CareerBuilder or Linkedin.

Before uploading your resume to a career website, tailor it to the type of sales job you are looking for. Do this for your Linkedin Profile too! For example, you might be looking for an inside software sales representative position. Start by compiling a list of common resume keywords found on inside software sales job descriptions. Focus more on experience and skills-related keywords as recruiters rely more on these when they search for a professional that fits their job opening and less on trait-related keywords. 

As software sales recruiters, we know that other recruiters also search by company name and industry when they are looking for sales professionals with industry experience. And remember, your resume will only be found if there’s an exact match between what the recruiter is looking for and what’s listed on your resume. So take the time to spell out the different versions of popular keywords such as how your employer or industry can be listed. For example, Automated Data Processing and ADP or SaaS and Software as a Service. 

Here’s a final tip when posting your resume on career job boards. Avoid keywords that relate to sales jobs that don’t interest you. For example, if you are looking for an Account Manager role, don’t list cold-calling as a skill. Instead, list your account management skills. 

Whether you’re early in your career and looking to move from inside sales to outside sales or you’re ready for a Director or VP of Sales position after achieving success as a sales manager, we hope this guide helps you land the sales job of your dreams.

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Chris Carlson

My name is Chris Carlson and I’m the founder and President of Sales Talent. This blog grew out of my desire to document and share what I’ve learned in my two plus decades of sales recruiting and leading Sales Talent. We post a new blog once a quarter on the 3rd Thursday of every January, April, July and Oct. These posts are aimed at sales professionals and leaders that speaks to talent selection, team building, or career advancement. If you have a topic that you’d like my take on, please reach out to me.

You can find Chris Carlson on LinkedIn or contact him directly at:
chris@salestalentinc.com.