Resume Writing Style

You’ve spent thousands of hours and several years at the grind, working hard and putting forth your best effort at your job. When it comes time to capture this work on paper, don’t shortchange yourself – and limit your future – by writing the first thing that comes to mind with your professional experiences. These tips on resume writing style are essential to keep in mind when writing or revising your resume.

Top Action Words
  • Managed
  • Executed
  • Trained
  • Increased
  • Performed
  • Created
  • Designed
  • Improved
  • Examined
  • Supervised
  • Built
  • Organized

Use Key Words

If you’re tailoring your resume for a specific job, then read over that job description and look for key words that are used frequently, or unusual words that reveal what the employer is looking for in an employee. Even if you’re not tailoring your resume for one job, chances are that if you’re looking in a certain job field, desired skills will remain fairly consistent with the field. If you’re submitting your resume electronically, a computer scanner may search your resume for key words. Scanners then filter out resumes that a human employer will look at, while other resumes may be deleted without ever being read by a human.

Be concise and don’t use fluffy language

Keep descriptions of your responsibilities short and concise, with no more than 3-4 lines per bullet point. Employers don’t expect – nor do they want to read – that much detail in a resume. However, don’t just say how you have special expertise at something. Give examples and specifics – these convince people you’re for real more than your personal ego stroke. .

Use Active Voice

Avoid These Adjectives
  • Responsible
  • Hard-working
  • Professional
  • Team player
  • Ambitious
  • Competent
  • Detail-oriented
  • Goal-oriented
  • Creative
  • Experienced
  • Successful

The active voice makes almost any writing style sound better, including resume style. Transforming phrases from the passive to the active voice is usually not that difficult, but it can make a big difference because this technique makes it sound like you have actively pursued your work – which is true. See this Action Words Web page from Purdue University for a comprehensive list of powerful action words to include on your resume:  Action Words Webpage.

Don’t Be Wordy

Not only should you be concise, but you shouldn’t use pedantic words that your employer will have to look up. Avoid professional jargon, obscure abbreviations, recondite words and clever wordplays. Keep your wording clear and straightforward, and your accomplishments will stand out and the presentation will serve as the vehicle, as it’s meant to.


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