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8 Power Words That Will Make Your Resume Stand Out

You know you have the experience and skills to help you succeed at that job... but so do lots of other applicants. Here's how the words you use could help you rise above the rest.

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Resume document with guys hands in background. Recruitment manager reads resume. Job applicant offers CV to recruiter at interview. Employer examines achievements of new company worker. Close up photo

Why they’re so powerful

Job recruiters read hundreds and hundreds of resumes, so there’s no doubt that they all start to look the same after a while. What’s an applicant to do? Well, replacing more commonplace resume words with a few of these more robust “power words” is sure to help give you an edge.

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Two businessmen talking during job interview

Action verbs

No job recruiter is going to turn his or her nose up at leadership experience. If you’ve headed up a large project or new work initiative, sell that fact—and use the power words to prove it. Steer clear of words and phrases like “led” or “responsible for,” which won’t make your resume pop. Opt instead for more descriptive, attention-grabbing “action verbs” like “orchestrated,” “oversaw,” and “executed.” The phrase “was responsible for” isn’t indicative of success in any way.

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International colleagues handshake in outdoor meeting
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Verbs that replace adjectives

Your resume is your opportunity to brag about yourself, right? So you should enumerate your best qualities, right? Well, that depends on how you do it. On resumes in particular, simply calling yourself “creative,” “hard-working,” or “driven” doesn’t prove anything to a potential employer. Instead of going heavy on the adjectives, try to “show, don’t tell” with (you guessed it) powerful verbs. If you’re creative, what did you create? If you’re hard-working, what did you accomplish? This is also a potential pitfall for cover letters, where applicants are more likely to describe themselves (rather than their achievements) in flowery language than on a resume. Also, make sure you’re not making these common cover letter errors.

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Young attractive business woman holds a job interview in a cafe during the lunch break. businesswoman searching for information on the Internet and makes notes in a notebook

Verbs showcasing your creativity

If you can do what your boss tells you to and complete projects assigned to you, that’s all well and good. But you should also consider devoting some resume space to your own unique skills, showing what you specifically would bring to your desired job. Did you design a new project from scratch, envision a new way of getting things done, or propose a plan that made your boss take notice? Words like “designed,” “initiated,” or “composed” make it clear that you had some degree of creative control over a situation. Even if the job you’re applying for isn’t the most creativity-oriented (or, maybe, especially if it isn’t!), using these power words can help you stand out as a candidate. Can you figure out what the most commonly misspelled word on resumes is? (It’ll probably surprise you!)

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Female hands typing on computer keyboard

Words indicating results

How would your previous workplaces be different if you hadn’t worked for them? How will you be more than just another employee for your new workplace? If you purely describe your day-to-day responsibilities (especially if you use “blah” verbs), a recruiter might react to your resume with a “so what?” Make it clear that you made a difference and got results, using words like “accomplished,” “implemented,” or “revitalized.”

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Job interview concept - closeup of business people sitting on chairs

Quantitative verbs

Did you “decrease” company spending, “expedite” the completion of a project, or “lessen” customer complaints? If you helped contribute to some kind of measurable difference within a past company, use words that actually indicate a quantity, instead of just using something like “changed.” How did you change things?

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Words specific to the company

Does the company’s site make a big deal out of their commitment to being friendly? Or driven? Or people-oriented? Pick out keywords that the company seems to be using to define its identity and its values. This will help recruiters identify you as a good fit for the company. If the company or job position is a major recipient of applications, they might even use an “Applicant Tracking System,” which filters out resumes through a computer program so that recruiters only see the most promising candidates. Systems like these are usually tuned to recognize specific words mentioned on the company’s site, or in the job description, so using those words could maximize your chances of standing out to computers and human recruiters alike. Yes, it is more work to tweak your resume to each specific job posting rather than simply sending out the same one en masse, but if you really want that job, it’s absolutely worth it.

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the image of business
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Words specific to your field

Using “jargon” separates the uninformed from the applicants who really know what they’re doing and have done their research. Whether you’re applying to be a copy editor, a sales agent, or a hairdresser, your desired field has its own unique terminology that you’re going to hear every day on the job—and so should be on your application.

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Female on job interview in company
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Verbs related to research (that aren’t “researched”)

If you’re applying for a research-related position, you’ll want to play up your research experience… but the word “researched” probably won’t knock any recruiter’s socks off. You’ll want to show, not tell, inasmuch as that’s possible on a resume. Luckily, power words like “analyzed,” “explored,” and “investigated” are a bit more impactful; they can hone in with a bit more specificity on the type of research you did, and just make it sound more interesting overall.

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Businesswoman sitting watching to the side with a smile while leaning on her desk with a laptop computer in a low angle view

Change it up

Just because these power words are interesting, though, doesn’t mean you should pack your single-page resume with them to the point that it’s bogged down. No matter how powerful and effective the words you use are, being repetitive on your resume won’t come across well. Make sure your resume still reads clearly, makes use of varied language, and showcases your experiences and skills accurately. Next, learn about the resume mistakes that might just cost you the job.

[Sources: thebalancecareers.com, themuse.com, Monster]

Meghan Jones
Meghan Jones is a word nerd who has been writing for RD.com since 2017. You can find her byline on pieces about grammar, fun facts, the meanings of various head-scratching words and phrases, and more. Meghan graduated from Marist College with a Bachelor of Arts in English in 2017; her creative nonfiction piece “Anticipation” was published in the Spring 2017 issue of Angles literary magazine.