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Choose Power Words to Make Your Resumé Stand Out

It's important to use power words and terms in your resumés and cover letters to help highlight why you're the right person for the job. 

Power words are words that quickly gain an employer’s attention and effectively prove your qualifications for the job. These words are also useful when a company is using an applicant tracking systems (ATS). These tracking systems look for the keywords and terms that are important to the employer. If the program can’t find those power words in your resumé, it won’t flag it for a human recruiter. But make sure not to over use power words so that your resumé is not repetitive or boring.

Power words and terms can be divided into 4 groups:

  1. Keywords
  2. Action words
  3. Description words
  4. Number terms

Using the right ones will help you land an interview.

1.  Keywords

Keywords are words and phrases that show employers you:

  • Read their job posting
  • Studied a certain subject
  • Earned a certain credential (for example, a diploma)
  • Are familiar with a particular industry or sector
  • Know how to use specific kinds of tools (for example, a software program or specialized tool)
  • Have certain types of skills (for example, project management or materials handling)

How to find the right keywords

  • Look for keywords and phrases in the job posting or in the position profile on the employer’s website. Browse the website for other keywords.
  • Visit other websites in your industry or sector to find common keywords.
  • Read occupational profiles to find words specific to the job.
  • Research the keywords used in other ads for similar positions.
  • Ask people in the industry or at the workplace about standard qualifications.

Note: Make sure you understand the meaning of the words you choose and that they accurately represent the work you did. If you get an interview, you want to be able to speak confidently about what you've written on your resumé.

2. Action words

Action words are verbs. Skillful resumé writers often put them at the beginning of the bullet or description. Action words show your ability to succeed. For example:

  • Developed a new inventory system that reduced labour costs by 18%
  • Delivered all projects on or before the due date

You can use action words to describe your duties in your previous job. For example:

  • Analyzed monthly marketing metrics
  • Held weekly meetings with clients to foster open communication

Action words help you answer “what?” or “who?” and sometimes both. The previous example answers:

  • What: weekly meetings
  • Who: clients
  • And even why: to foster open communication

Here are some action words to help you highlight your success and describe your skills.

Action words to highlight success

Accomplished Improved Saved
Achieved Increased/raised Secured
Attained Launched Selected
Completed Lowered Sold
Decreased Multiplied Succeeded
Delivered Opened Upgraded
Doubled-tripled Realized Won
Expanded Reduced/cut  

Communication/teamwork skills action words

Collaborated Developed Proposed
Communicated Disseminated Reconciled
Consulted Negotiated Translated
Contributed Persuaded Wrote
Designed Promoted  

Creative skills action words

Adjusted Developed Revised
Conceived Improvised Revitalized
Created Inspired Simplified
Demonstrated Introduced Solved
Designed Revamped  

Data/financial/research skills action words

Assessed Budgeted Developed
Adjusted Calculated Evaluated
Advised Conducted Predicted
Analyzed    

Detail/organization skills action words

Ascertained Investigated Provided
Distributed Maintained Reviewed
Diverted Monitored Scheduled
Expedited Obtained Submitted
Installed Operated Uncovered
Implemented Prepared  

Leadership/management skills action words

Administered Equipped Organized
Analyzed Established Originated
Consolidated Executed Produced
Controlled Generated Recommended
Coordinated Initiated/started Stimulated
Delegated Inspected Strengthened
Eliminated Motivated Unified
Enforced    

Mentoring/teaching skills action words

Assisted
Counselled
Evaluated
Instructed
Supported

Technical skills action words

Constructed Reinforced Trouble-shot
Engineered Repaired Upgraded
Maintained Solved Used

3. Description words

Description words are adjectives. They describe the traits and strengths you have for the job. The following is only a partial list of words that may apply to you. Before you add them to your resumé, ask yourself how they apply. For example, how are you accurate or adaptable? Add these extra details to the strengths or attributes section of your resumé.

Accurate

Courteous

Informal

Quiet

Adaptable

Creative

Innovative

Realistic

Adventurous

Curious

Introspective

Receptive

Alert

Daring

Kind

Reflective

Ambitious

Decisive

Knowledgeable

Reliable

Amiable

Dedicated

Logical

Resourceful

Analytical

Dependable

Loving

Responsible

Articulate

Determined

Loyal

Self-confident

Assertive

Diligent

Mature

Self-reliant

Attentive

Disciplined

Meticulous

Sensitive

Broad-minded

Discreet

Modest

Sharp-witted

Businesslike

Eager

Motivated

Sincere

Calm

Easy-going

Objective

Smart

Capable

Efficient

Obliging

Sociable

Careful

Energetic

Open-minded

Sophisticated

Cautious

Enterprising

Optimistic

Spontaneous

Charitable

Enthusiastic

Organized

Stable

Cheerful

Flexible

Original

Steady

Clever

Forceful

Outgoing

Supportive

Compassionate

Formal

Patient

Systematic

Competent

Frank

People-oriented

Tactful

Competitive

Friendly

Perceptive

Talented

Confident

Generous

Persevering

Tenacious

Conscientious

Hard-working

Pleasant

Thorough

Conservative

Healthy

Positive

Thoughtful

Considerate

Helpful

Practical

Tolerant

Consistent

Honest

Productive

Trusting

Constructive

Humorous

Progressive

Trustworthy

Cool-headed

Imaginative

Prudent

Unaffected

Cooperative

Independent

Punctual

Versatile

Courageous

Industrious

Quick

 

4. Number terms

Number terms are sometimes called quantifiers. They describe size, quantity, length, and cost. These extra details help a reader measure your success. For example, “Managed a team,” is good information. But adding “of 25 employees” paints a clearer picture of the scale of your work and your level of responsibility. Here are more examples:

  • Reduced the wait time by 30%
  • Added 15 new accounts
  • Increased annual sales revenue by $1 million

If you haven’t been in the workforce for very long, you may not be able to use number terms. Just remember to use the strongest possible action words to strengthen your skills and achievements. For example:

  • Helped lead the school hockey team to the city championship
  • Contributed to the success of the recycling program
  • Increased the cleanliness of the building

To find more power words, you can use a thesaurus to look up synonyms for any of the words provided above.

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