It may be every young professional’s worry that sticking to the script and using a few tried and tested buzzwords is going to hurt their chances at landing a job interview. While it’s often true that tossing tired old clichés like “experienced in time management” into your resume content can hurt, rather than help.
There are some keywords that when used appropriately, can show a hiring manager just how much of an asset you can be and get your name on the shortlist of interviewees.
Tell a (relevant) story
For a resume that is generally just one page long, professional resumes are huge drains on your time and energy. I’ve found that the absolute best way to start writing (or updating) is to sit down with a pen and paper and make a list of all of the qualities that an employer in your field of work would look for.
If you are applying for positions as a project manager, read through several job related descriptions, then make a list of the qualities you need to have.
As you write, make sure to illustrate experiences and accomplishments that an employer in your field would want to see.
It’s all about action!
Action words. That is what a resume is all about. Recruiters want to see what you are capable of…so show them!
Look at the list of tired professional resume clichés that you should avoid and instead work in the below terms for some resume gold!
Generally speaking, there are a handful of specific qualities that almost all recruiters find attractive in a candidate. Many of these qualities fall under the umbrella term “professional”, so let’s hope that you already possess some of these skills and attributes.
Concretely demonstrating to potential employers that you possess desirable skills and qualities requires some rhetorical finesse. You have to make your experience stand out in a stack of other professional resumes with other equally qualified candidates.
Do some prep work
A useful way to start thinking about this is to create a list of the qualities that a hiring manager in your field wants to see. To illustrate tenacity and dedication, even in the face of challenges, you must choose verbiage that exemplifies your ability to be dedicated and tenacious (*duh*). Think in the realm of “resolved” “worked through” “untangled” or something similar.
It’s all about the action verbs, people!
The buzzwords I’m going to mention below are just twenty of many that you can effectively employ (employ…get it?) in order to bring some depth to your resume and demonstrate the actions and achievements that make you a great candidate.
Some (“questioned” and “trouble-shot”) may not be as obvious as others (“managed” and “coordinated”), but all are useful action-oriented words, which is what you want in a resume!
20 resume buzzwords that hiring managers want to see
I’m going to break these all down into specific traits that employers want to see – as we’ve already talked about, you need to rewind a bit and figure out which qualities your target employer is looking for, then tailor your professional resume to those qualities.
This list will (hopefully) help you start thinking in that frame of mind.
The categories appear in no particular order, just remember that some positions will require an emphasis on things like intellectual curiosity over leadership, so you need to prioritize what to emphasize.
Supervised, managed, oversaw, facilitated
While not everyone can be a leader in the workplace (and not everyone wants to), the majority of positions we apply to as young professionals require some sort of leadership experience.
Demonstrating leadership shows confidence, initiative, the ability to think for yourself, and reassures employers that you will be engaged and interested once you join their company.
This word is one that hits on the “confidence” point. I would use it sparingly (you don’t want to come across as close-minded or a bully), but when used correctly, it can show that you are intelligent, involved, and well…influential in the workplace.
Trained, mentored, coached, tutored
These ones belong under the “teamwork” and “communication” categories as much as they do “leadership”.
Showing that you have successfully worked with a group of interns to help them achieve a goal is translatable into your willingness to participate in the company culture, take on additional responsibilities, and overall be an involved member of the company.
Entrepreneurship & initiative
This is another one of those buzzwords that most people will include on their resumes.
It isn’t bad, but you just need to earn it. Show how much of a go-getter you are and talk about an achievement that sets you apart from the crowd.
It doesn’t have to be a fancy award, but it should be something that shows how professional, self-motivated, and dedicated you are.
To pursue something (especially something meaningful that contributes to the health of a company or a team) shows that you have the initiative to chase after goals.
Being able to carry your own weight means being able to come up with useful ideas and contribute them. That’s a huge asset to any team, so discuss the things you’ve brought to the table that made a difference in your previous roles.
Hiring managers are no longer just looking at your degree and work history. They’re also looking for examples of your contribution to the communities you’ve been a part of.
Here, for example, I’d include instances where you volunteered to be part of a large project that added 15 hours of work to your week for three weeks (and ended up being a huge success). Show your willingness to get involved.
Show that you can take tasks or goals and get them done ahead of schedule and under budget – folks like that are a hiring manager’s dream.
Streamlined, Simplified, Improved
Having an entrepreneurial spirit isn’t just reserved for people who are angling to start their own businesses. It’s a trait that is valued across the board.
If you can illustrate examples of when you improved a standard operating procedure at your old company, or figured out a way to make a project run more smoothly, it’ll demonstrate how useful you could be to a new company.
Teamwork & communication skills
These days, a company can be hurt by bad company culture, which means hiring managers are looking for people who can join in and play well with others.
Being able to mediate a solution between two opposing parties is professional resume gold.
This should probably be under “problem solving skills” but I think that the importance of being able to communicate effectively, especially between two parties who aren’t seeing eye-to-eye, is also a valuable demonstration of your versatility as a communicator.
Problem solving skills
I’m not talking the interpersonal stuff here. Now is the time to illustrate your commonsense and ability to think on your feet to come up with solutions.
Diagnosing intimates a certain level of examination and critical thinking. This verbiage demonstrates your willingness to identify and solve problems…a quality valuable to any employer.
Intellectually curious & clever
Employers are looking for someone who loves to learn and improve. Someone who has the capacity for independent thought and will contribute their ideas to the company, rather than just fit themselves into the box of their cubicle and keep their mouth shut, even when they see things that can be improved.
This one shows up on lists of what to include as well as lists of what NOT to include. Take it or leave it, but if you take it, you best have a solid example of your creativity and it best have nothing to do with any high school art projects or Painting 101.
This verb can be easily used to show how flexible and conscientious you are in terms of pleasing the client. Did you customize code, modify pre-existing proprietary software, or even create a customized meal plan for your client at the gym you worked at in college?
All are transferable accomplishments.
Show that you are able to operate with an end goal in mind. While this could be more relevant to creative professions, being able to craft something based on an end goal speaks to your ability to stay on task and use what you have to get what you need.
Organized & reliable
These ones are fairly obvious – if you delivered, you delivered. Not only are you organized and reliable, you are tenacious and the type to get things done (or so a hiring manager will think).
Delivering on assignments is one thing…being able to sustain a long-term project or team is another (and equally valuable) quality.
Recruiting is an expensive process, so hiring managers are looking for someone with a track record of loyalty and dedication, not flightiness.
For those of you going for positions requiring any sort of project managerial experience, this will be a key one for you.
Employers want to know that you won’t get frazzled, make mistakes, or lose your cool when you are given multiple unique projects or tasks.
Use this to discuss a time when you had a lot on your plate. Get into the specifics (use numbers if possible) about what they were and how you handled them all with (obviously) the greatest of ease.
A few weirdly highly effective last words
Tell the truth
Resumes these days all seem to be embellished or spun in some way. Don’t give into the temptation. Landing an interview at your dream job only to show up and have the interviewer tell you that the last 15 minutes would be a discussion of your professional resume…in French…will do nothing for you if you aren’t actually fluent in French!
Rely on your friends for some objective advice
If figuring out a way to illustrate your experiences in a way that makes them jump off the page of your resume stresses you out, (like it did me and probably every other professional resume writer) go for a coffee with a friend and chat with them about the stuff you’ve done and what you learned.
Record your conversation, and then give it a listen when you are ready to sit down and start writing.
You’ll find that the ideas and stories you want to get across are all there, and you just need to get them down on paper in resume-friendly language.
Chillout, then re-read your resume
Take a break from your professional resume and come back to it in a week (provided you aren’t rushing to submit it for an opportunity). I find that clients are most served by this when they are still in the early stages of writing their resumes.
Get some distance and come back to your resume objectively!
Be an adult about your resume
Keep it updated. It’s the single most helpful piece of your application package, so you’ll want it to be dusted off, sparkly and shiny every single time you need