7 1-Word Resume Switches to Get You Out of the Reject Pile

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Laura Berlinsky-Schine2.3k
May 18, 2024 at 4:19PM UTC

Every day, recruiters and human resources professionals comb through hundreds of resumes. And again and again, they see the same words. “Led.” “Responsible for.” “Improved.” Sigh.

You want to make your resume unique. Otherwise, you risk landing your application in the reject pile, without the hiring manager even seeing it at all. 

Want to inject a little more creativity into your application? Try these word swaps.

What to rid of: Led

What to try instead: Spearheaded

You “led” such-and-such project or initiative. But an accomplishment like that deserves a far more powerful word. Consider switching it out for spearheaded, a word that communicates command, management — and, yes, leadership. It’s considerably more interesting than the synonym, too.

What to rid of: Responsible for

What to try instead: Oversee

Why isn’t “responsible for” the best choice for your resume? While responsibility is great, it’s a relatively weak word. Instead, consider using a stronger synonym, such as “oversee.” Not only does this convey responsibility, but it also suggests leadership — and, as you probably know, that’s a quality every employer wants to see.

What to rid of: Improved

What to try instead: Accelerated

The ultimate goal of any employee is to improve the business and its initiatives. But this is a word that’s all too common in applications. “Accelerated,” frankly, is a much more interesting word, one that can be applied to a wide variety of contexts. Perhaps you accelerated efforts or timelines, for example.

What to rid of: Participated in

What to try instead: Advanced

“Participated in” doesn’t express much of anything. It’s passive and suggests that you didn’t play a critical role in the project or team effort. Even if you did play more of a supportive role, you should still make the most of it. Try “advanced” instead — this word connotes a more active role.

What to rid of: Established

What to try instead: Developed or Created

“Established” isn’t a terrible choice for your resume. But chances are, if you did establish something at your company, such as a process or initiative, then that’s an enormous feat, one that deserves a more powerful role. “Developed” or “created” gives you more credit where credit is due, demonstrating that you actually built something from scratch.

What to rid of: Researched

What to try instead: Investigated

Again, “researched” is not the worst word to put on your resume. But “investigated” is simply a much more interesting alternative, one that denotes a more complex process. It’s a great skill to have — and chances are, if you’re a quality researcher, you’re also an investigator.

What to rid of: Assisted

What to try instead: Boosted 

Perhaps you don’t feel like you played a pivotal role in a project or process. Don’t say so! “Assisted” downplays your efforts. Not only does “boosted” suggest that you were more instrumental, but it’s also a more exciting word.

As we head into a new year, why not take the time to revamp your resume? These word swaps will certainly spice it up. 

What are some common resume words that you’ve replaced with superior synonyms? Share your answer in the comments to help other Fairygodboss'ers!

About the Career Expert:

 Laura Berlinsky-Schine is a freelance writer and editor based in Brooklyn with her demigod/lab mix Hercules. She specializes in education, technology and career development. She also writes satire and humor, which has appeared in Slackjaw, Points in Case, Little Old Lady Comedy, Jane Austen’s Wastebasket and The Haven.

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