Do you consider yourself a hard worker? A team player? A people person? Whatever you do, don’t tell that to the person reading your résumé. Why not? Because if they hear about one more of those, they’re going to tear the résumé into itty-bitty shreds.
As good as certain terms might seem, they’ve been on a few billion too many résumés to mean anything to potential bosses. When you’re updating your résumé, make your accomplishments stand out by using words that are powerful and descriptive rather than stale and clichéd. Résumé power words are important.
And it’s not just about the specific word: it’s also about paying attention to the company’s buzzwords and focusing on skills related to the job. Read on to get the nitty-gritty on those important steps, or jump straight to the suave and sexy synonyms that will make your résumé words pop and let you ditch the duds like “dedicated,” “leader,” and “manage.”
Capitalize on company keywords
First things first: whether you’re applying to be a CEO or an intern, tailor your résumé and your cover letter to the company you’re applying to.
This is important not just to get the attention of the person reading your résumé, but also to ensure that a person does read your résumé. Some companies automate the hiring process with applicant tracking systems, which screen for résumés that use specific keywords—and if you don’t have the keywords, you don’t get the interview.
But whether the company uses an applicant tracking system or has a human reading résumés, including words related to the company’s mission shows that you did your homework and would be a good fit for the team. Here are a few examples:
- If you’re applying for a job involving writing, don’t just write “wrote.” Use words like published, reported, and investigated. If possible, include page views, social shares, or the circulation of your pieces.
- If you’re applying for a job in education or one that involves helping people, use words like mentored, trained, cultivated, or facilitated.
- If you’re applying for a job in finance or business, use words like enhanced, expanded, developed, yielded. Any specific numbers on gains or savings you’ve produced for previous employers will also give you a boost.
- If you’re applying for a job at a startup, use words like innovated, disrupted, spearheaded.
- If you’re applying to a job involving customer service (whether in a store or UX research), use words like reached, served, communicated, aided, and experience.
That doesn’t cover every job out there, but it shows how you can shape your résumé based on what you’re applying to. In general, it’s a good rule of thumb to read the company description or the “About us” page on their website and go from there. Use some of their words—without copying language verbatim—and you’re more likely to get your foot in the door.
Showcase résumé power words related to the job
Obviously, you wouldn’t throw in the phrase “user experience” if you’re applying to be a teacher. It’s also important to focus on skills that you’ll be using if you get the job you’re applying for. In other words, no matter how great a camp counselor you were in high school, that probably won’t seem relevant when you’re applying to business school.
Look very closely at the job description of your desired position for hints about what they want. For example, a list of responsibilities on a job description might include a line like this: “Analyze, create, and document business and system processes through the use of templates and process flows.”
In your résumé, take a similar work experience you’ve had and tweak it to mirror, but not exactly match, the language in the job description. For example: “At previous company, created template for documenting analytic process and streamlining business flow.” Takes the language, tweaks it, and makes you look like you’ll fit right in.
Résumé power synonyms to make your accomplishments pop
Based on the specific achievements and accomplishments you want to highlight, here are lists of power words that will make your résumé stand out from the crowd. Trust us: these look impressive whether you’re applying for your first job or trying to land a CEO gig.
“I wrote stuff, created something, or did things”
If you’re at an entry-level position or are shooting for something new, you may not have accomplishments like “headed company” or “raised $2 million.” But you can still showcase what you’ve done in a way that will highlight your ability to rise to bigger challenges.
- Produced (articles, reports, spreadsheets)
- Coordinated (your own project, a group effort)
- Created (a process, program, venture)
- Founded (a student club or organization)
- Organized (an event or group)
- Fundraised (money, and how much)
- Designed (a website, poster, method)
- Analyzed (a spreadsheet, lab project, data set)
“I led or managed a team”
Here are some ways to communicate that you were in charge of a group of people and wore your leadership mantle well. Whether it was a student group or a company of thousands, these words will make you look the part.
“I came up with or was in charge of a project”
Regardless of the position you’re applying for, you likely want to demonstrate that you can think critically and come up with solutions to the types of problems your potential company might face. These are great words to show that you’re a responsible leader and a thoughtful problem solver.
“I made something better”
Maybe you improved a process, or you helped increase your company’s sales, revenue, or efficiency. These words are an improvement on “improve.” And remember to back up your claims with numbers if you can. Words can take you far, but it’s hard to beat an applicant who gives evidence with hard facts.
- Accelerated (a process)
- Boosted (sales, efficiency, experience)
- Amplified (output, readership, response rate)
- Delivered (results—and be specific)
- Expanded (audience)
- Generated (revenue)
- Stimulated (sales, innovation)
- Sustained (growth)
- Transformed (a system, structure, method)
- Expedited (a process, a set of outcomes)
- Maximized (success—but again, be specific)
“I fixed something”
Here are ways to say that you came up with an idea and implemented changes. As you can see, there’s nothing like a “re” word to show that you took something good and made it great.
“I saved my company money”
You found waste, and figured out a way to get rid of it. In other words:
- Conserved (money—how much?)
- Reduced (expenditures)
- Deducted (overhead)
- Yielded (savings)
- Diagnosed (a problem—how big?)
“I dealt with difficult people”
Here’s where tactfulness really comes in. Whether you were herding kindergarteners or managing relationships with finicky clients, this is an area to emphasize your impact without sounding bitter about the tough folks you had to face
- Navigated (a situation)
- Negotiated (a solution)
- United (disparate individuals or groups)
- Arbitrated (an issue)
- Resolved (a problem)
- Consulted (a company)
- Forged (a relationship)
- Secured (a deal)
Where are the synonyms for “hard worker” and “team player,” you ask? If you picked the right power words to showcase your skills in a meaningful and evocative way, those qualities will come across all on their own.