130+ Resume Buzzwords + Resume Power Words—What to Use and What to Avoid
Jan 06, 2022
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Rule #1 of Resume Writing: Don't Be Too Wordy
A mistake we see all too often at Career Contessa is people wanting to sound “smart” on their resume. What do they do? They sprinkle in nonsensical business jargon
and fluffy words. Instead of hitting their goal, they do the opposite and confuse recruiters.
Don't be afraid to use your own voice.
We are huge proponents of infusing creativity wherever we can—especially in stiff hiring documents like a resume
or cover letter
—but we’d recommend ditching the jargon and instead infusing your resume with strong action verbs that highlight your skills and catch the recruiter’s eye.
This means swapping out sentences like “results-driven team player who managed the onboarding process” with something more specific, like, “I developed an onboarding process that reduced the number of employees involved by 20%, which allowed our team to focus on more important hiring priorities.”
For this reason, we created this looooong list of alternatives for buzzwords commonly found in resumes
, cover letters
, and LinkedIn profiles.
Resume Power Words to Use
Most resume bullet points start with language that is repetitive and boring. When a recruiter is skimming the page, it’s easy for them to glaze over your accomplishments.
That’s where power words come in. Power words help punch up any resume bullet point. They help you stand out, they help relate your experience to the specific job better and faster, and they can help tell your story in a more concise way.
Most companies will use an ATS to collect online applications. Next, the ATS will read/scan your resume to see if it’s a match for the job.
Specifically, the ATS is comparing your resume to the job description
and the way it does this is by looking for keywords or phrases in your resume that are also used in the job description.
How to Actually Use Power Words
If the job description
is looking for someone to “manage client relationships” then you’ll want to include the keyword “client relationships” on your resume.
Don't: Don't stop by just including the keyword with little or no context.
Make it POP. This is what will make the recruiter be eager to review your experience
. Do this by starting your bullet point with a power verb like “cultivated” or “organized.” Both those power verbs give us a better idea of your role vs. a general term like “manage.”
So in the end you might say “Cultivated 35+ client relationships and organized the sales process from lead to signed contract each quarter.”
By putting in a little extra thought to add some power verbs,
your bullet points will set you apart from other candidates.
Resume Action Verbs
They are used to add impact to a sentence in order to provide relevant and important information, so they are key to an impressive resume.
Some examples include:
- Accelerated: Accelerated development of the company's inaugural internship program.
- Collaborated: Collaborated with a team of eight people to raise $1.5 million for charity.
- Supervised: Supervised a cross-departmental initiative that resulted in a 10% increase in revenue.
- Implemented: Implemented framework and best practices for customer success.
- Designed: Designed a wireframe for the company’s first-ever mobile application.
- Enhanced: Enhanced customer experience with a new platform
If this is beginning to seem like a grammar refresh lesson, it is!
Another type of power word is a power adjective. A power adjective is a word that describes the noun or pronoun. For example, in the phrase “hot day” the word “hot” is the adjective that is describing the day.
They are used to describe the quality, quantity, or state of a noun. These are especially important in a resume because recruiters love to see quantitative details included—like “I increased revenue by 10%.” vs. “I increased revenue.”
Some examples include:
The goal with adding power adjectives is to enhance what you’re describing—not to make it wordy.
Include an adjective with an accomplishment or example.
How to Transform Your Sentences with Power Adjectives
Before: Launched a new project management tool.
After: Launched seamless integration of a project management tool that increased team productivity by 15%.
Before: In charge of cross-communication across many departments.
After: Created templates to ensure smooth and accurate communication with customers across five departments.
Before: Responsible for responding to customer emails each day.
After: Filtered 100+ high-priority customer emails each day in order to decrease monthly churn rates.
Before: Oversee donor relations program.
After: Secured $30 million of dedicated funding from donors, families, and campus outreach organizations.
3 Tricks to Help Avoid Using "Bad" Power Words
We’ve covered a lot of the reasons why you want to include power words in your resume and before we give you even more examples of power words, let’s discuss some that you should avoid.
You’ll want to avoid these resume power words because they are overused, don’t showcase your accomplishments as well as other words, and lack the ability to stand out in a sea of resumes.
Know the Difference Between Self-Promotion vs. Self-Initiation
You might be tempted to use terms to brag about yourself such as go-getter and point-person, but it would be more impressive if you focus on your skills to take initiative and get stuff done.
Ultimately, you’re showing you can bring value to the company
. Try something like “self-starter” and then give an example of a time when you took initiative and the positive impact it had on the company.
Avoid the Overly-Obvious
Don’t waste precious resume real estate stating things that are obvious and don’t help differentiate you at all. Words like “team player,” “people person,” “hard worker,” etc.
Today, it’s a given that you’ll need to work well with people so give us an example of how you worked with others
to get something done.
Please Avoid Business Jargon (for Jargon's Sake)
We mentioned this already but let’s get more specific.
Getting too fancy with the lingo can confuse the recruiter. Instead, stick to clear, concise language. Business jargon
to avoid includes synergy, wheelhouse, bandwidth, ecosystem, etc.
The Top Ten Most Overused Resume Buzzwords + Helpful Alternatives
According to a 2017 study by LinkedIn
, here are the top ten most-used buzzwords. We have shared this list on our Instagram—and were pretty surprised by how many recruiters had true feelings of repulsion towards many of these words.
Chances are, if you scour your own LinkedIn profile or resume right now, you will come across some of these guys—maybe even all of them.
Is that bad? Not necessarily. It’s a good practice to be aware of the more commonly-used buzzwords so that you can dare to be different (just like that motivational poster says!).
There are 171,476 words
in the English dictionary, so we have some serious options. So, we took to our trusty thesaurus to find you some great alternatives to these commonly-used buzzwords.
We also starred our favorite buzzwords that we are definitely going to use. And if you ever need step-by-step help creating a new resume, check out The 24-Hour Resume Makeover
. Yes, we really can help you create a recruiter-approved resume in under 24 hours.
Feel that ~*synergy*~? Let’s dive in.
Resume Power Verbs to Replace “Specialize”
It’s great to specialize in something—especially if it’s a hard skill or a certain piece of software, but yikes, this word is overused. Here are a few alternatives.
- Concentrated expertise
Resume Power Verbs to Replace Experienced
As we go through this list, it’s important to recognize that these resume buzzwords are not all bad.
If you want to say experienced, say experienced! However, if you want to zhuzh it up or say that you are experienced in a multitude of things, use a few variations.
- Old hand
Resume Power Verbs to Replace Skilled
You’ve got skills, whether they’re hard skills, soft skills
, or a hybrid of the two.
Showcase your impressive skills using some of these alternative terms.
- Tuned In
Resume Power Verbs to Replace Leadership
Here’s a big one. Let’s use some other words to describe your real leadership abilities.
Resume Power Verbs to Replace Passionate
Passion in the workplace is very attractive to a hiring manager.
Use your resume, cover letter
, and LinkedIn profile to demonstrate how your passion has affected and propelled your work throughout your entire career.
Resume Power Verbs to Replace Expert
Who doesn’t want an expert on their team? Here are some synonyms to expert—as well as a few terms to further illustrate your particular expertise.
Pro Tip: Proceed with caution with a few of these. While you want to demonstrate your expertise, you don’t want to come off too strong.
- Old Pro*
Resume Power Verbs to Replace Motivated or Motivator
If your motivation
has proven to be contagious to other employees, highlight that too!
Resume Power Verbs to Replace Creative
Creative employees are arguably the best employees.
Connecting with creativity
is not only useful in the “creative” fields of design and written communication. Rather, real creative employees are great at problem-solving
, building effective solutions, and implementing uncharted paths to success.
Resume Power Verbs to Replace Strategic
Strategy is huge in the workplace. Whether you're working in a fast-paced startup or an organization with stone-age era practices, strategies always need to be improved, tested, and proven.
But “strategy” or “strategic” are the buzziest of buzzwords out there, so here are a few alternatives.
Resume Power Verbs to Replace Focused
Focus is the key
to getting long, arduous projects completed with painstaking precision.
Look at all of those buzzwords we just used. Focus is important
, so here are a few other words to describe your dedication to the task.
How to Find Power Words In a Job Posting
When looking for a new job, the job posting
can be a huge resource—if you choose to use it.
To further demonstrate that you’re a good fit for the specific company and job, turn to the job posting. Inside the job posting, you will find keywords and phrases the company uses to describe itself—and the skills required for the job
Your goal is to identify the words used to describe the company’s values. Highlight the keywords used in the job description that relate to the skills and responsibilities of the role. Volley those same words and phrases back in your resume, cover letter
, and in your interview.
If the company describes its culture as “multi-passionate creators” include that phrase in your resume or cover letter with an example of how you fit that description.
You can use these exact keywords and phrases in your resume and edit your bullet points so your experience looks and sounds like a perfect fit for the job. For example, if the job is looking for someone who can “analyze data using Excel” then you will want to include your experience “analyzing data” and/or “using Excel.”
We have an entire guide
that can walk you through the process as well.
Another place to find these keywords and phrases is on the company’s career page or About Us page.
One Final Pro Tip: And our last pro-tip is to print out the job description for the job at hand.
Next, go find 3-4 other job postings for similar jobs at similar companies. Print those out as well.
Once you have them all in front of you, highlight the skills, experiences, and words that are used among them all. That will give you a good foundation for what are the keywords and phrases for those types of jobs.