Keywords are really important on résumés, but what exactly are resume keywords?


Typically, they are phrases and nouns that have to do with technical and professional areas of job expertise, projects, industry-related jargon, tasks, achievements, job titles, and so on. An effective combination of nouns, phrases, and verbs is necessary in a résumé because while the human eye is attracted to verbs, applicant tracking systems—the software used by recruiters to screen applications before they do—are searching for keywords.

For more, read on …

Resume Keywords and Buzzwords

Resume Keywords and Buzzwords, courtesy of Open Colleges

In 2014, CareerBuilder conducted a survey among hiring managers on the best and worst words to use in a resume. According to Rosemary Haefner, Vice President of Human Resources at CareerBuilder: “Hiring managers prefer strong action words that define specific experience, skills and accomplishments. Subjective terms and clichés are seen as negative because they don’t convey real information. For instance, don’t say you are ‘results-driven’; show the employer your actual results.”

The Worst Resume Terms as selected by a group of hiring managers as respondents:
1. Best of breed: 38 percent
2. Go-getter: 27 percent
3. Think outside of the box: 26 percent
4. Synergy: 22 percent
5. Go-to person: 22 percent
6. Thought leadership: 16 percent
7. Value add: 16 percent
8. Results-driven: 16 percent
9. Team player: 15 percent
10. Bottom-line: 14 percent
11. Hard worker: 13 percent
12. Strategic thinker: 12 percent
13. Dynamic: 12 percent
14. Self-motivated: 12 percent
15. Detail-oriented: 11 percent
16. Proactively: 11 percent
17. Track record: 10 percent

The Best Resume Keywords / Terms employers would like to see on a resume:
1. Achieved: 52 percent
2. Improved: 48 percent
3. Trained/Mentored: 47 percent
4. Managed: 44 percent
5. Created: 43 percent
6. Resolved: 40 percent
7. Volunteered: 35 percent
8. Influenced: 29 percent
9. Increased/Decreased: 28 percent
10. Ideas: 27 percent
11. Negotiated: 25 percent
12. Launched: 24 percent
13. Revenue/Profits: 23 percent
14. Under budget: 16 percent
15. Won: 13 percent

On the other hand, every year, LinkedIn releases a list of the most overused Buzzwords in its network.

LinkedIn’s 2017 Top 10 Global Buzzwords are:

  • Specialize
  • Experienced
  • Skilled
  • Leadership
  • Passionate
  • Expert
  • Motivated
  • Creative
  • Strategic
  • Focused

The Ladders 2018 Resume Guide listed the 25 success verbs for 2018. According to Marc Cenedella, CEO and founder of The Ladders: “My least favourite active verb is ‘managed,’ but there are others equally as tepid such as ‘established,’ ‘defined,’ and ‘performed’.”

Cenedella also suggests the following strategy:

  • Use “success verbs.” As we will see below, these are action verbs that require you to quantify a result to complete your thought. (They’ll stand out if you don’t.)
  • Use quantifiable metrics . This is the second half of using “success verbs,” but it gets its own bullet point: complete the thought that the “success verb” begins.
  • Speaking of which: use bullet points. Your goal is to make your achievements stand out so that your future employer or hiring manager can easily find them.

Success Verbs for 2018

  • Accelerated
  • Achieved
  • Added
  • Awarded
  • Changed
  • Contributed
  • Decreased
  • Delivered
  • Eliminated
  • Exceeded
  • Expanded
  • Gained
  • Generated
  • Grew
  • Improved
  • Increased
  • Introduced
  • Maximized
  • Minimized
  • Optimized
  • Produced
  • Reduced
  • Saved
  • Sold
  • Streamlined

(updated 2021)

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