Laura Berlinsky-Schine

Along with the cover letter, the resume is one of the most crucial parts of a job seeker’s tool belt. Not only can it push you forward in the interview process as a candidate, but it can also get you noticed by recruiters and lead to a better job offer.

If you’re not receiving interviews for jobs for which you know you’re qualified, your resume may be at fault. Perhaps you’re being too humble. Or maybe you’re using the wrong language to articulate your skills.

Many large companies use programs to initially screen candidates. That means they may be looking for certain words, such as managed. However, these programs are more likely to pick up the content of a bullet point on your resume than the verb you use to convey it. So when HR or the hiring manager takes a closer look, make sure you’re using powerful language to convey your achievements.

Power words allow you to demonstrate your skills and the strengths you possess. Action verbs are one type of power word that can help you articulate your skills. Since these power verbs can be subjective, using a stronger word in place of a weaker one can help you stand out among candidates with similar skills.

Action Verbs

Did you handle a team of web designers who created a beautiful website? No, you didn’t. You oversaw and supervised that team, spearheaded the project, and executed your client’s vision.

Did you team up with other departments at your company to produce a seasonal catalog and make sure all team members stayed on task? Nope. You coordinated and organized team efforts and facilitated catalog production.

Ultimately, if you can think of a strong action verb to replace weak, common, or cliché words, use it. For instance, say initiated or launched instead of began, or enhanced or modified instead of changed.

Don’t lie, of course. That is, don’t say you did something you didn’t do or claim to have skills you don't possess. Instead, think of better ways of stating what you did do. You can describe the same bullet point in multiple ways, so go for the way that makes you and your accomplishments sound the best.

Remember: action is always better than inaction. That's why action verbs make sense on your resume. If you're using the passive voice, you're indicating that you don't have a strong role in your job and may not have the skills the hire manager wants—even if you're actually qualified.

If you're having trouble coming up with words to use in your resume, make a list of the demands of your job and how you've met them. Write out full sentences, such as "I formulated a plan to meet such-and-such deadline" or "I collaborated with colleagues and executed a project." If your words seem passive or weak, replace the verbs with action-oriented words. You might also making a list of powerful verbs, particularly ones related to the work environment of your industry, and insert ones that meet your resume objective.

First-Person Pronouns

Even if you accomplished a task as part of a team, you still had an active role in it. Recognize your own efforts.

Perhaps you formulated a plan with your team, but you, personally, still had an active role in it. That's why you should use first-person verbs to describe your achievements. You don't need to actually insert the pronoun "I," but don't recognize the rest of your team in your resume. For instance, say, "persuaded the client" rather than "my team persuaded the client." Write "counseled the department head," instead of "my team counseled the department head."

Tense plays a role as well. If you're still performing an ongoing duty, use present tense. For projects you've completed or tasks you no longer perform, use past tense.

Key Words

Read over the job description. Or better yet, read several job descriptions for similar roles. Do you see the same words popping up again and again? Use them in your resume.

Words generally associated with the job you want to do should be in your resume. Chances are, if the role is similar to your current position, you perform those functions now. Go through your resume and see if you’re using synonyms of verbs you see in job descriptions. If you do, change them. However, make sure you’re not using the same word too frequently. Combine them with other action verbs to keep your resume from sounding repetitive. That way, a screener will pick up the key words, and the hire manager who takes a closer look at your resume won’t be bored.

Industry Jargon

Many industries and positions with them use specific language that laypeople may not recognize or understand. Using industry jargon in your resume will demonstrate that you know what you’re talking about.

Don’t worry about the hire manager or HR team not understanding the language. If the words are typical to that position and industry, they will be familiar with them. If they’re not, this probably isn’t the right job for you.

Do make sure you really understand the language you use. If you use industry jargon incorrectly, you will appear unqualified.

When potential employers read your resume and cover letter, they're looking for candidates who are doers and have the accomplishments to back up their skills. You need to be able to communicate your strengths to demonstrate what you've achieved. Revising your resume with verbs that convey action can show that you're a professional who makes things happen.