Building a Better Resume with the Right Words

About 10 seconds. That’s how much time a typical hiring manager will spend on one resume if he has a stack of them to study. You want yours to end up in the very small pile of ones that deserve another look.

The words you choose will make the difference. Use the same words everyone else uses and you’ll be just another applicant. Words like “responsible,” “effective,” “creative,” and “strategic” topped the list of overused words according to a study LinkedIn conducted of online resumes and profiles. An overused word loses its meaning, and you lose points by using any of them.

Jargon, buzzwords, and vague language have the same effect on a reader – they just don’t convey how special you are.

Instead, when I craft a resume, I like to replace the meaningless words and phrases with specific examples. If you tell me you are an “expert” I will ask for examples where you have demonstrated your expertise. If you tell me you have great “organizing skills,” I will probe you to describe a project that proves it.  Are you “driven?” Or “analytical?” Or “innovative?” Let’s gather evidence for your resume!

I tell my clients that if they need help coming up with examples that document their skills, talents and experience, to complete sentences that begin like these:

  • I solved…
  • I improved…
  • I oversaw…
  • I adapted…
  • I planned…
  • I led…
  • I trained…
  • I directed…
  • I strengthened…
  • I initiated…

I like to insert descriptive, active words when I rebuild a resume or cover letter. To describe yourself in a cover letter as someone who is “strong,” doesn’t mean you will impress the employer. Substituting more specific or imaginative words like “robust” or “vigorous” will earn your cover letter more credibility.

These kinds of substitutions are illustrated in a new infographic created by Grammarly.com, an online grammar checking service. Grammarly researched 500 active job postings from 100 of the most profitable U.S. companies and learned what words work best for job seekers.

Did you know, for example, that companies prefer the term “job” over “work?”  “To work” indicates you are not as serious about your career.  Fascinating stuff!

Let me build a better resume for you. Trust me, I know all the right words.

Here’s a musical reminder of the importance of grammar.

Photo: tlnt.com

Mir Garvy

Author: Mir Garvy

I’ve written resumes for 2,000+ job seekers just like you—and helped my clients land jobs with companies like Amazon, SAS, Google, Duke University, Travelocity, Cisco Systems, GlaxoSmithKline, Expedia, and IBM.