Resume power words vs buzzwords - what you need to know

Learn the difference and explore examples October 20, 2020 · 10 min read

How many job openings have you applied for recently?

Been wondering what it takes to get a call or email back from recruiters?

It could well be the specific words you’re using to talk about yourself in your resume.

What exactly are they?

You need to get to grips with buzzwords and power words.

Picking a buzzword rather than carefully selecting a resume keyword may see your resume get cross-cut into eternity.

We’re going to dive into what these words are and give you examples of how to add keywords into your resume and what words you need to avoid at all costs.

Let’s kick things off with buzzwords.

Power words vs buzzwords in resumeLearn the difference between power words and buzzwords in resume

What are resume buzzwords?

Buzzwords for resumes are words and phrases that sound generic and a recruiter will see on every bog-standard resume or CV that lands in their inbox.

If you asked a recruiter about buzzwords, they’d tell you:

  • Applicants use them far too much
  • They do nothing to tell them about what you’ve done or can do
  • No value is added to your resume by using them

Buzzwords don’t make you stand out from the crowd. Rather, you come across as generic and samey.

You can use general words and phrases like creative or that you’ve got excellent communication skills, but you need to back up the claims to give them some meaning.

Want a resume hack?

Get rid of all the buzzwords that have no use and find some vocabulary that actually adds to and improves your resume. Giving specific and measured examples, coupled with strong keywords is what’s going to make you stand out from the crowd of cliché-users.

If you want to ensure your resume is great-looking, check out our ready-to-use professional resume templates - you’ll have a resume with a perfect structure and layout in a few minutes!

Looking for a list of resume buzzwords to avoid?

Your wish is our command…

Overused Buzzwords According to LinkedIn

Between 2010 and 2018, LinkedIn was really helpful and published a list of the top 10 buzzwords they came across in user profiles each year. They’ve skipped out on us for the last two years, with no 2019 or 2020 list forthcoming. It’s still worth looking back on the old lists. You’ll see there are trends over the years so you can take a good guess at what's trending this year.

We’ve put the last three years of published data into this handy table, so you can see what’s been popular in the past.

List of overused buzzwords according to LinkedinList of overused buzzwords in 2016, 2017, 2018 according to Linkedin

Looking at the list of catchwords, seven of them were there each year.

«How are these words a problem for my resume?» we hear you ask.

In terms of buzzwords for resumes, they’re not particularly awful. The main thing to remember is that you use them properly, by backing them up with specific examples.

What’s important to a recruitment manager is what you specialize in and how that contributed to the value that was added in your role.

Claim to be an expert with vast and deep knowledge of your subject? You need to cite your published papers, industry speeches, and opinion articles.

Does your resume say you’re experienced? How many years of experience do you actually have?

There’s a pattern in there - back up your buzzwords.

What’s the alternative? Power words.

Pro-Tip
Keywords will make your resume, cover letter, or CV better! These are words you pull out of the job description that links up to the skills you have that make you perfect for the job. Sprinkle them throughout your resume and cover letter to make it immediately obvious you hit the job requirements and they should get you through the ATS (Applicant Tracking System) stage.

What are the power words in a resume?

Having covered the resume buzzwords not to use ever, you now know what not to do.

Next, here are the words that you should be using on your resume or CV.

Here come the resume power words.

They are also called resume action verbs.

Resume power words and phrases are powerful verbs that put the spotlight on the experience and skills you’ve got.

Why should you use power words in your resumePower words will make your resume to stand out

Recruiters see power words and know they’re going to be presented with value statements and examples of tangible results.

Let’s jump into the details.

Pro-Tip
Always remind yourself when writing your resume - the best resume power words are there to describe what you achieved and need to have details, examples, and accomplishments.

Why should you use resume power words to describe yourself?

You need to use the right words to describe your previous work experience. Doing this shows hiring managers that you’ve got evidence to differentiate yourself from the stack of other applicants.

Recruiters want you to include power words in a resume because:

  • Power words in resume highlight your accomplishments much more accurately than basic buzzwords
  • Active verbs make your resume stand out from your competitors and should help you get to the next recruiting round
  • Power words, and particularly keywords will help your application get past the Applicant Tracking System (ATS) and land in front of a human. These systems screen reams of applications to give the cream of the crop to the people making hiring choices.

Here’s an example.

On a resume, an applicant writes a brief description of what they’ve achieved in another job, along with their responsibilities, by writing:

  • Responsible for three finished projects.
  • Responsible for the HR needs of 10 people on my team.
  • Responsible for putting together the annual customer service plan.

Is that setting you mind racing with excitement to work with this person?

Exactly...

Looking at these lines above, a recruiting manager has no idea if the person has actually done well with all these responsibilities.

Now…

Here’s the exact same information, but optimized to include powerful action verbs for a resume:

  • Delivered three projects that hit all performance metrics, exceeding RoI targets by 35%.
  • Managed the resourcing and personal needs of a team of 10; organized scheduling and training for five months.
  • Designed and delivered the annual plan for customer services, adapting and optimizing it for season variations.

Think like a recruiter for a moment: which person would you want to hire?

Obviously the one, who provided you with valuable facts about their past accomplishments.

Do you see what we mean?

A well-written resume can take dry and bland information and turn it into engaging and interesting bullet points.

Yup, that’s why power words are so important.

Pro-Tip
Resume strong words give you different language to use on your resume. You’ll have more varied language and what you write will be more compelling.

A list of resume power word examples

Depending on your skills and the sector you operate in, some power words are going to be more relevant and effective for your resume than others.

Knowing that, how do you pick the right ones?

  • To start, read the job posting and see what the company requires that you’ve got skills and experience in.
  • Next, find action verbs that encapsulate your attributes and achievements.

Here are some of the best resume power words you can use:

  • Managed
  • Developed
  • Identified
  • Learned
  • Implemented
  • Completed
  • Adapted
  • Built
  • Controlled
  • Diagnosed
  • Established
  • Formulated
  • Mobilized
  • Designated
  • Arranged
  • Reached
Examples of using power words in resumeExamples of using power words in resume

As a general rule, you should be choosing resume power words that are active - that describe things you do rather than what you are.

Your resume will rise to the top of the pile like perfectly cooked pasta in a pan.

Pro-Tip
Want to show that you produce results with your hard work? Bring your numbers game. You’re not just an «excellent digital marketer», you «Grew online traffic and conversions by 200% with a corresponding revenue uplift through digital marketing». Real numbers are more impressive than just words.

How to swap out buzzwords with power words

Buzzwords to avoidWhat to write instead
Results-driven Give some facts and figures to the recruiter.

«Identified inefficiencies in schedule allocation and rolled out a new adherence system, cutting the overtime bill by 40% in six months.»
Experienced Note exactly what and where your experience has been and for how long.

«Studied and applied the intricacies of sales in a startup, spending five years on the sales floor across two employers.»
Motivated Highlight some examples where you went the extra mile.

«Participated in the New York Marathon for seven years and counting. I’ve set a personal best each time and raised over $25,000 for charity.»
Creative Talk about a creative idea you’ve brought to the table in your previous jobs.

«Proposed my client offer treats and water for pets of customers free with any drinks purchase to build footfall and increase marketing channels to pet owners. Revenue jumped by 20% in the first month.»
Focused Write about a time when you exceeded a tough target.

«Submitted a fully functional, 25-page website within three weeks that was live one week later and no bugs reported within the first month.»
Team player Show how you brought a team together to achieve a goal.

«Designed a collaboration and communication strategy for a newly- remote team, ensuring project deliverables remained stable during a time of change.»
Responsible Specify exactly who, what, or how much money you were responsible for.

«Managed and led a design team of four artists to produce theatrical sets for three musical productions.»
Successful Providing results will demonstrate your success rather than just talking about it.

«Redeployed and retrained team members from servicing to sales to harness their product knowledge, increasing new clients by 70% for the year.»
Passionate Exciting words and energetic examples will show all the passion you need.

«Instigated a new content calendar with a diverse range of social media and designed new segmented audiences to drive sales, increasing site conversions by 150%.»
Specialized Examples of what you specialize in will show where you can add value.

«Undertook a two-year remote MBA and attended two seminars and an exhibition on business development.»

Your resume is there to show what you can do and how well you do it - broad strokes and cliches aren’t going to give the substance a hiring manager is looking for.

Pro-Tip
Not sure where the power words belong in your resume? Find all the verbs you’ve used and think of a stronger, more active synonym to replace it with - these are your power words and phrases.

Summing Up

Each word you use on your resume has value.

Some words you use add to your resume, but there are plenty that can detract from your writing and make you a less attractive hire.

The words to avoid are resume buzzwords - employers and HR professionals hate them.

Luckily, they lurk in plain sight so you can weed them out. Resume buzzwords will be:

  • Overused - hiring managers see them all the time, and you’ll probably spot them in dodgy MLM adverts online, too.
  • All about an experience but lacking in any kind of detail or substance.

To get the most into your resume, you need to offer up quantifiable and objectively impressive examples of what you’ve already done.

Strong resume active verbs make your work history and educational attainment stand out.

When you use power words in resumes you’ll be:

  • Letting the reader know exactly what you’ve achieved.
  • Proving your words with specific examples and numbers.
  • Emphasizing what your actions were able to add to your previous employer.

At the end of the day, you need to be clear, specific, and concise - only use words that add to your point.

The job description is one of your best resources.

Find the power words they use and highlight what they’re expecting - then match this to what you know you can justify on your resume.

Good luck with the job hunt!

Julia Tsarenok
Article by:
Julia Tsarenok