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Words That Land Interviews and Job Offers

A person writing a resume on a desk with a laptop.

Bestselling author Martin Yate, a career coach and former HR professional, takes your questions each week about how to further your career in HR. Contact him at the e-mail address at the end of this column.

The words you use in a resume or social media profile—your most critical career management marketing documents—can increase your chances of landing an interview and subsequently turning that interview into a job offer.

If we reduce these marketing documents to their barest essentials, their purpose is to describe who you are as a professional (your skills and experience) in the same language recruiters and hiring managers use in job postings. Why? Because recruiters will use that language to search resume banks and social media platforms for candidates.

Your marketing documents should reflect as much of the language of the job posting as possible. This will give you a resume and social media profile that are customized to employers' needs for this job. When you submit a resume to a specific employer, make sure to customize it before sending.

After you've described your experience, you'll also need to describe yourself. But be careful here; this is a time you don't want to follow the job description too closely.  "Strong communication skills," "Organized," "Team player" and "Determined" all sound good on a job posting. However, if you use them in your resume without linking each usage to the context of your job, they are nonspecific and don't help a recruiter or employer understand how you do your work.

Choosing just the right word is paramount. Your resume plays such an important role in determining the quality of your future employment that you need to use words to their maximum effect.

Overused Words

These words are overused in job postings and resumes:

OutstandingExceptionalHighly SkilledExcellent
Team playerHardworkingExperiencedLoyal   
Dependable     Go-getterSynergyGo-to person  
Value addDynamicTrack recordThought leadership
ProactiveHard workerBottom-line     Expert
Strategic thinkerResults-driven Detail-orientedCommunication skills
Self-motivated Think outside the box


Using these terms generates a resume full of warm and fuzzy words that make you feel good about yourself but say nothing specific about your performance. Rather than just writing "good communication skills," it's better to attach such words to a concrete achievement:

"Superior listening, verbal and written communication skills helped identify customer dissatisfaction, recapturing a lost $3 million account." 

Words Hiring Managers Want to See

When applied correctly, verbs like these are better to describe how you work and give recruiters and hiring managers a better opportunity to envisage you doing the job successfully:


ManagedImprovedWon Mentored


For example, "Influenced reduction in travel and entertainment budgets by 5%, saving $1.3 million with zero loss in customer retention."

Now read the sentence aloud. If you don't clearly understand what it is saying and how it is related to success on the job, you'll need to rework it. For example, "Leveraged dynamic, results-driven transformational leadership to proactively increase productivity" sounds like someone inebriated by their own verbosity. It doesn't speak clearly to the job and your skills, and it will not advance your candidacy. It would be better to say, "Conceived, implemented and improved departmental production performance, maintaining 20%+ over quota for last seven months, without turnover."

Review each word in the lists above, one at a time. Use only the ones that apply to how you've performed your job. Use the others for inspiration to describe your accomplishments, but be specific.

Have a question for Martin about advancing or managing your career? From big issues to small, please feel free to e-mail your queries to We'll only publish your first name and city, unless you prefer to remain anonymous—just let us know.


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