Our 10 Favorite Resume Words

Not long ago, we posted a list of problematic words that are often misused on resumes. We thought it would be a good idea to follow it up with a list of those words that we love to see used on resumes.  

To make our list more focused, we decided to only consider action verbs. Using an effective action verb helps you tell the story that you have transferable skills that an employer would find desirable, even if you don’t have experience in their industry. Without further ado, here’s our Top 10 list.

  1. Led.  We put this on the top of the list because companies look military officers to provide them with leaders. As such, that verb should take center stage on your resume.
  2. Collaborated. WeI like this word because it helps break down the stereotype that military leaders get things done by ordering others around. Showing that you involved others in making decisions, developing plans, completing projects, etc. helps defeat that preconceived notion and also helps to show that you have emotional intelligence.
  3. Negotiated.  We favor this word for a similar reason that we like collaborated. But negotiated does more than break down military stereotypes.  It also conveys that the person has some business aptitude.
  4. Created. This can be a great word because it conveys the ability to bring something to life, whether it’s a program, an SOP, or a new tracking system. It also implies that you don’t need to be taken by the hand via an instruction manual. There are a several alternative words that may tell the same story such as developeddesignedlauncheddevised, and built.
  5. Solved.  Everyone wants a person who, when faced with a problem, issue, or roadblock, can develop solutions on their own. After all, lots of people are really good at spotting problems, but not everyone has what it takes to find a workable solution. Some suitable alternative words are resolvedrectified, and overhauled.
  6. Initiated.  As a military leader, we are sure you appreciated it when one of your charges took the initiative to do something instead of waiting to be told to do so. That’s not unique to the military. It shows that when you see that something needs to be done, you don’t wait around to be told to do it or for someone else to deal with it.
  7. Streamlined.  In the for-profit sector, companies value any actions that can reduce costs. The word Streamlining tells that story because it implies that you eliminated inefficiencies that can be wasteful and thereby costly.
  8. Coached. While this word might seem similar to led, we like it because it brings in a little bit more of the personal side of leading. It also implies an ability to motivate and invest time in people to help build effective teams.
  9. Analyzed. Companies want people who display critical thinking and good decision-making skills.  It’s also a good word to help reinforce your problem-solving abilities.
  10. Increased / Decreased. We love these two verbs, but they are best used in conjunction with verbs 1 through 9  as a way to show the result of your actions on an achievement bullet. For example:
    • Created X that increased Y by Z%, or
    • Solved A that decreased B by C%. 
    But a caution here: these words are not meaningful if you don’t provide a quantifiable increase or decrease.  Some suitable alternative words are strengthenedimproved, and reduced.

Naturally, it was difficult to narrow an important list down to 10 items. Therefore, we also want to provide a list of honorable mentions:overcame; motivated, customized, simplified, trained, eliminated (when referring to waste or redundancies, not people), transformed, persuaded, revitalized, and transformed.