Resume keywords are crucial, but what are the best words to use in a resume? We've got the list.

To be most effective, your resume should be optimized with applicable keywords and action verbs. Resume keywords are typically nouns that reflect skills and experience sought by a potential employer. If your resume has been selected and ranked by a computer, it will then be reviewed by a human screener; hence, it is important to balance keyword elements with traditional action verbs and other key phrases that elicit a positive response from the hiring manager.

Resume keywords

How do you know which resume keywords to include? Start by reviewing the job descriptions you're applying to and take note of the terms that routinely pop up on these job listings.

Now ask yourself these questions:

  • How do they define the position and its responsibilities?

  • What specific language do they use to state the core requirements for the role?

  • Do I have these same skills and experience with the responsibilities?

If you've done that work before or possess those qualifications, describe it on your resume using the exact same wording. Work the terms throughout your resume in the Core Competencies and Work Experience sections. From there, try copying and pasting the job description into a free word and phrase frequency tool like's Text Analyzer to identify the most commonly used resume keywords and see how your resume measures up.

Resume action verbs

Some of the best words to use in a resume aren't just keywords related to skills and responsibilities, but actions you have mastered from your previous experience. These are known as action verbs. According to Forbes, here are some of the best words you can include in your resume, most of which are action verbs:

  1. Achieved

  2. Improved

  3. Trained/mentored

  4. Managed

  5. Created

  6. Resolved

  7. Volunteered

  8. Influenced

  9. Increased/decreased

  10. Ideas

  11. Negotiated

  12. Launched

  13. Revenue/profits

  14. Under budget

  15. Won

Additionally, here are the worst words to use in your resume and job application due to their overuse and lack of showing versus telling:

  1. Best of breed

  2. Go-getter

  3. Synergy

  4. Go-to person

  5. Thought leadership

  6. Value-add

  7. Results-driven

  8. Team player

  9. Bottom-line

  10. Hard worker

  11. Strategic thinker

  12. Dynamic

  13. Self-motivated

  14. Detail-oriented

  15. Proactively

  16. Track record

It's important to keep in mind the most overused buzzwords on LinkedIn you should avoid using, as well. We discuss these in more detail in a separate article, here.

Using appropriate resume keywords and action verbs can not only help you get through the resume black hole, but it can also help you to showcase yourself in the best possible light. Hiring managers will appreciate seeing actionable insights from your career experience, rather than simply telling them about it. Use the resume keyword and action verb tips above to transform your resume into a career-building tool.

Ready to write the next chapter of your career? Hire a TopResume writer today!

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