The average hiring manager skims through hundreds of applicants each day. In fact, recruiters glance at a resume for just 6 seconds before moving to the next one.
What that means for you is — if you want to make it to the interview — your resume needs to show employers you’re qualified. Fast.
That’s why it’s important to use the right resume words in your application. Leveraging strong power words, adjectives, and action verbs in your resume grabs the hiring manager’s attention, makes your experience look impressive, and communicates your strengths.
To help you start, we’re going to show you the best resume words to use, what makes them effective, which words not to use in a resume, and many more tips:
- What are Resume Power Words?
- Best Action Words for a Resume
- How to Use Strong Resume Words
- Good Resume Adjectives
- Resume Keywords
- Resume Buzzwords to Avoid
Ready to effectively use resume words and start landing more interviews? Let’s dive in:
1. What are Resume Power Words?
Resume power words are strong, decisive action words for your resume that quickly signal to employers that you have the right skills and qualifications to succeed on the job.
Typically, these words help you communicate certain hard skills or soft skills, target specific resume keywords, and demonstrate past accomplishments.
Why is it important to know which words to use in a resume?
Employers don’t just want to be told that you’re good at your job — they want to see it.
Good resume words not only command the hiring manager’s attention by highlighting the difference between you and the competition, but they also more clearly illustrate your strengths to hiring managers.
For instance, here are two versions of a bullet point from a candidate’s resume experience section. The first sentence does not use resume power words:
“Responsible for increasing sales.”
Based on this bullet point, it’s impossible for recruiters to determine what the candidate actually did, and whether they succeeded at their job.
Here’s that same bullet, but with the language optimized using resume action words (the action words have been highlighted):
“Developed a new sales strategy, generating over $4,700 in revenue for our line of handmade articles of clothing.”
By using great resume words, this bullet point not only becomes more interesting, but also clearly conveys what the candidate accomplished at their job (hiring managers love this).
Which resume action words should I use?
Deciding exactly which resume words to include isn’t always easy.
While certain words will give your application a boost, others come across as cliché and unoriginal.
2. Best Action Words for a Resume
These strong resume words effectively communicate key skills and grab attention.
Use them in your experience section to power up your resume and show recruiters you’re an expert at what you do.
1. Resume Verbs for “Communicate”
Employers love candidates with strong communication skills.
But just putting “communication skills” on your resume isn’t enough. You need to show hiring managers how you can put those skills to work.
Here are some resume action verbs that highlight your communication abilities:
2. Resume Action Verbs for “Manage”
It’s no secret that companies value employees with good management skills.
But saying that you’re “good at management” on your resume isn’t going to impress the person reading it. After all, what does that even mean?
Can you effectively mentor someone? Are you adept at delegating tasks? Nobody knows except you.
Instead of using vague language, include resume power verbs that prove to employers you know how to manage:
3. Resume Verbs for “Collaborate”
Collaboration is the grease that keeps the gears moving at any company — so recruiters are always looking for candidates who know how to collaborate.
But how do you communicate that you’re a team player without using the overused term “team player”? Easy — use any of these powerful “collaboration” words for your resume:
4. Resume Verbs for “Organize”
No matter what your job is, good organizational skills are a must. Staying on task, managing your time effectively, and being able to balance different priorities are each important aspects of being a valuable employee.
However, hiring managers see “organized” listed on resumes all the time. To stand out, use one of these strong resume action words instead:
5. Resume Power Words for “Achieve”
Employers love to see what you’ve accomplished over the course of your career. Such information gives them some insight into your strengths and — better yet — what you can achieve for them if hired.
Show hiring managers what you’re capable of by using these “achievement” resume words:
6. Resume Action Words for “Innovate”
In today’s economy, it’s more important than ever for companies to stay ahead of their competition with fresh, new ideas.
That’s why employers are always looking for candidates who have the ability to innovate.
But saying you’re “innovative” means nothing if you can’t back it up. Instead, use these resume power words to leave hiring managers with the impression that you can think creatively:
3. How to Use Strong Resume Words
A huge mistake job seekers make is using big, descriptive words on their resume, hoping it will win them rave reviews from hiring managers.
However, even the best resume words are not a replacement for ensuring the wording on your resume is clear and descriptive.
First, focus on providing impressive, quantified examples of your experience. Then, you can use powerful resume words — ideally ones that complement your work history and qualifications.
Take a look at these examples to get a better idea of how to use resume words in your application:
“Used a customer-retention program to ensure clients returned to use our services.”
While it may sound impressive, this sentence doesn’t actually provide much quantifiable information for a hiring manager to work with. What kind of budget objectives did this candidate handle? What types of expenditures were they overseeing?
“Implemented a customer-retention program to ensure clients returned to use our services, boosting revenue by 12% on average.”
This is a good example of using resume words in a work experience bullet because the candidate:
- tells you directly what they accomplished, and how they accomplished it by using numbers and percentages.
- uses strong resume action verbs to emphasize the impact of their achievement on the company.
If you use resume action verbs to strengthen concrete examples of your accomplishments rather than to hide your weaknesses, your resume will immediately make a better case for your hireability.
4. Good Resume Adjectives
Resume adjectives have a bad reputation among some hiring managers. To be fair, there are a million job seekers who describe themselves as “self-starting.” If you were a hiring manager, you’d get tired of seeing that too.
However, we disagree with these feelings about resume adjectives. As long as you avoid clichés like “hard working,” “persistent,” and “cutting-edge,” strong adjectives are a great way to highlight and emphasize your experience.
Our key tip for successfully using adjectives is combining them with accomplishments on your resume. This way, they enhance your professional achievements rather than just take up space.
To help you improve your word choice, here are some good adjectives for your resume:
5. Resume Keywords
In addition to powerful action words and adjectives, including specific resume keywords on your application can help you get noticed by hiring managers.
Resume keywords are words or short phrases that highlight industry-specific skills that employers are looking for.
When a hiring manager looks through a pile of resumes, they scan the pages for these words to determine whether you have the basic hard skills required for the job. Including resume keywords shows you meet the minimum requirements to succeed in the role.
Keywords and Applicant Tracking Systems
Many companies now give applicant tracking systems (ATS) the responsibility of checking your application first to simplify the hiring process.
ATS software automatically scans your resume and cover letter for particular keywords. If your resume is missing those keywords, your application gets filtered out before a hiring manager even sets eyes on it.
So how do you determine which resume keywords you need to include? Easy — just look at the job posting.
Usually, a job advertisement directly mentions the skills required for the position under “requirements” or “qualifications,” as well as anything extra — such as expertise — that the employer values (but doesn’t require).
Additionally, many job listings pepper keywords throughout the “responsibilities” section.
Keep an eye out for these cues. Whenever you see industry-specific terms and skills repeated throughout the description, incorporate them into your resume if they relate to you.
Including such terms helps ensure your resume gets read by a human, and increases your chance of getting an interview.
6. Resume Buzzwords to Avoid
Just as some words can enhance your resume, there are also words that can make it less viable to hiring managers. They’re called resume buzzwords, and employers don’t like them.
Fortunately, they’re easy to spot. Resume buzzwords always have two things in common:
- They’re overused — hiring managers see them a lot
- They talk up your experience, but don’t actually convey any information of substance
For reference, here are five common resume buzzwords, and what you should use instead:
This is one of the biggest resume clichés hiring managers complain about. If you’re trying to communicate that you take initiative, cut the buzzword and talk about a time you managed a project instead.
Instead, use words like:
This buzzword is a common punchline in the business world — and for good reason. It sounds powerful, but it’s almost meaningless. Instead of saying you “synergized” something, be specific: did you collaborate with a different department? Did you increase cooperation?
You can use words that elaborate on your achievement instead. For example:
This is another generic term that’s too general to be helpful. Instead of saying you’re a “self-starter,” prove it by mentioning a time you went beyond the expectations associated with your role.
You can use one of the following verbs to emphasize your self-starting personality:
Hiring managers don’t want to see candidates describe themselves as “hard workers.” It’s a quality everyone says they have, but is so vague it tells you little about their actual skills. Instead, highlight a time when you took the initiative and put in the extra hours at work to finish something.
You can use these action verbs to demonstrate you’re a hard worker:
Again, this buzzword tells hiring managers nothing about your strengths. Don’t just say that you’re results-driven, use real-life examples of your achievements to demonstrate how you get results.
Consider using one of these action verbs instead:
Now that you know the best words to use in a resume (and words to not use), it’s time to polish up your application and apply for jobs.
But before you start writing, consider downloading a free, professional resume template from our site to save you some time and help make sure your application is a success.
Or — if you want to make the job search process even easier — try our simple-to-use, free-of-charge resume builder. Our software will guide you through the process so you can produce your own perfectly formatted resume in five minutes — one that’ll meet the standards of even the most critical hiring manager.