Resume’ Buzz Words: Words that Win!

Importance of Buzz Words for Your Resume’

Comprehensive list of resume buzzwords to use, and how to use them.

This is one of two articles dealing with buzz words. You may want to also read, Buzz Words on a Resume: Why They’re Important

Apparently we are all still searching for the magic buzzwords to use on our résumés, thus today’s blog post is all about the magic buzz words most people are using, buzz words not to use, and why the choice of buzzwords is so critical.

Notice that I said “buzz words” or “buzzwords” 4 times in one sentence?  While I typically wouldn’t write with such redundancy, it seems that search engines like us to break a basic rule of writing — thus, I do so.  And, I’ve allowed for the both spellings: buzz words, or buzzwords, both of which are correct.  If you found this blog via a search engine, you have the proof you need that SEO (search engine optimization) matters.  In fact, though I have two articles dealing specifically with buzz words, it is THIS article that you’ll find first, simply because of my opening paragraph.

Which leads to our first point:

In many instances, computers search your résumé.  It’s known as “ATS” and you can learn more, here.  Résumés need to be loaded with the right buzz words.

I’ve written about the specifics of ATS, and won’t repeat it now.  But if you’re not familiar with how computers read your résumé, I suggest that you might also want to read an earlier article on the topic.


Remember back in grammar school when you first learned about nouns, adjectives, verbs, and adverbs?  Here is a reminder: Nouns, we learned, are used to describe a “person, place, or thing.”  Adjectives describe a noun.  Verbs are “action words.”  Adverbs describe verbs.

The nouns, verbs, adjectives, and adverbs you use in your résumé make up those all- important buzz words that are intended to describe your skill set and achievements, and capture the attention of a computer or human.

NOUNS — Person, Place, Thing

Here is a list of common nouns found in a résumé.  Notice that many of them will differ, depending on your industry:

Common Resume Buzz Words – Nouns

ADJECTIVES — descriptive words that tell us more about the noun

It is the adjectives that “fluff up” a résumé.  Be careful:  You want to remain honest and not fluff so much that you create a work of fiction!

Resume’ Buzz Words – Adjectives

As I said, use adjectives carefully, honestly, and sparingly. If your résumé is overly peppered with these descriptive buzz words, you lose credibility.  If you are not genuinely “meticulous,” for example, choose another word.

VERBS — the ‘action’ words

An action word is one that does something.  For example, sang is the verb in “The girl sang.”  It tells what the noun (the girl) did or is doing. In my opinion, the verbs in a résumé are the most important descriptors.

It is the use of the verb that hopefully provides an accurate description of your achievements.  More than anything, employers are looking for your achievements.  They want to know what you have done, what actions you have taken.  That falls squarely into the world of verbs.

What follows is an exhaustive list of these important verbs, words considered by many as “résumé buzz words.”  Notice that nearly every word has the “ed” suffix.  I’ve listed the verb in its proper tense for use in most résumés:

Verbs — Resume Buzz Words (A-O)

ADVERBS: The verb, described:

Like adjectives, use adverbs sparingly.  Be honest, accurate, and selective.  I personally have only two adverbs in my résumé.  Here is a list of the most frequently used adverbs:

Adverbs — Resume Buzz Words


Which words you choose and how you combine those words is uniquely up to you. And if I’ve not yet gotten it through to you, let me repeat: Be honest.  Don’t over fluff your stuff!

Let’s first combine a few adjectives and nouns:

  • experienced executive
  • skillful litigator
  • proficient orator
  • successful author
  • proven leader
  • talented negotiator
  • effective communicator
  • detailed researcher

Now, let’s combine a few verbs and adverbs:

  • succinctly demonstrated
  • quickly revealed
  • creatively reconfigured
  • dramatically improved
  • significantly increased
  • reliably calculated
  • progressively strengthened


Google reports that many of you search for the phrase, “Buzz words not to use on resume’.”  In my opinion, the use of “buzz words” applies only to words that we should use, not words that are best left in a bar or in a piece of fiction writing.

In general, it is how a word is used that matters most, as opposed to a succinct list of words not to use.  For example, while there is nothing wrong with any of the following words, per se, the way they are used could be problematic:

experience, environment, team, leadership, professional, proven

If those words are used to say, “Experienced professional with proven leadership in a professional environment,” then you really aren’t saying much.  Instead, provide a concrete example:

Provided 10+ years successful team leadership with 20 subordinates, a zero attrition rate, and 80% customer satisfaction at a Fortune 100 company.

Yet you still seek a concrete list of words you should not use.  I know… I know.  So here is the best I can do for you:

A résumé is about accomplishments, not duties.  Thus, only use the following when you don’t yet have work achievements (as in the case of students who are just starting out in their careers):

  • responsibilities included
  • duties included
  • responsible for

Here are a few more no-no’s:

  • use of first person – “I” — as in, “I was the employee of the month.”
  • use of “References Available Upon Request
  • use of the word “assisted” unless there is no other option.  Focus on your achievement(s) as they relate to your assistance to someone else, and specify it on your résumé.
  • use of the word “seasoned“, as in “seasoned professional.”  This ages you.  Use “experienced” instead.
  • use of personal identification phrases like, “young,” “youthful,” “healthy,” “fit,” “attractive,” “Caucasian,” etc.
  • use of any word that is not accurate and honest


Aside from my over-stating the issue of integrity, the following are important considerations when choosing the best buzz words to use in your résumé:

Don’t use a complex word when something simple will do.  Example: If you “directed” a project, say so.  Don’t say “orchestrated the management of…” or something too fancy.

Use common headings:

“Professional Experience” instead of “Employment Affiliations”; “Achievements” instead of “Notable Accomplishments”

Write in third-person, not first, using phrases, not full sentences:  “Founded successful program for disadvantaged youth,” rather than “I am the founder of a program for disadvantaged youth that was highly successful.”

DO use the buzz words you find in the job description.

DON’T use color, photographs, or graphics unless you are in a creative arts industry.

DO balance the white space in your document, and use 12pt font if possible.  (I use an 11pt for substantive text, and a 12pt for headings, with a “left justified” margin, not “full justification” which reads oddly in many cases.)

Order your résumé in the most commonly accepted format, or a close variation:

  1. Heading
    1. name
    2. address or city and state
    3. phone numbers
    4. email address
  2. Career Objective
    1. You do not need to place a heading above your career objective. Just state the objective
    2. Use either paragraph or bullet format.
  3. Education
    1. Reverse chronological order
    2. Degree obtained
    3. Name of institution
    4. Relevant or notable activities
    5. Dates of attendance (or years only, for “mature’ applicant)
  4. Skills / Achievements
    1. bullet list format
    2. include your most notable achievements, including percentages & dollar amounts when possible
    3. include only your most relevant skills (after achievements)
    4. dates and information like company name are not needed here; it’s just a summary of your most notable achievements
  5. Professional / Relevant Experience
    1. Your work history, in reverse chronological order (most recent employer listed first)
    2. Your job title
    3. Name and location of employer
    4. Dates of employment (last 10 years, generally)
    5. bullet list of significant / relevant achievements
    6. DO include volunteer and pro bono work, if relevant
  6. Additional Relevant Memberships / Skills / Activities / Awards
    1. bullet list format
    2. brief description of relevant awards
    3. brief description of relevant memberships
    4. brief description of relevant activities
  7. Key Competencies / Skills
    1. Some jobs benefit from this added section. Only include what is relevant to the position you seek, like …
      1. the type of software you can use, and your proficiency level
      2. the types of equipment you can operate, and your proficiency level
      3. languages you speak, and your proficiency level
      4. personal attributes that are directly relevant (i.e., “confident public speaker”)

Notice that there is not a heading for “References” or for “Hobbies”. Do not include them in your résumé, nor should you include a statement that “References will be provided upon request.”  That’s old school and will date you, showing that you’ve not taken the time to research current standards for résumés.


Having said all of this, I will remind my regular readers — and point out to my new or visiting readers — that there are exceptions to every rule.  For a good example of how someone “got the job” breaking nearly every rule, you might want to read this article.

If you would like an evaluation of your résumé, I will provide you with a free critique!  But, make sure you’ve first followed the rules of résumé writing and prepared the best document you can prepare. And, PLEASE CLICK HERE TO READ SUBMISSION GUIDELINES FIRST.

~Lynda C. Watts

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30 Responses to Resume’ Buzz Words: Words that Win!

  1. Pingback: Buzz Words to Use on a Resume’ | Grown-up Living: Careers & More

  2. N Smith says:

    This helped me with resume writing tips for career advancement

    N. Smith

  3. Michelle says:

    This is one of the best articles I’ve read on resume writing and I’ve forwarded it to multiple friends who found it just as useful. I have it bookmarked so for whenever I revamp my resume, I can look over your tips and list of words. Thank you!

  4. I just wanted to notify you that I found your blog on technorati.
    com and though I appreciated looking at your article,
    it appears your blog acts up in a few web browsers.
    Anytime I look at your page in Chrome, it looks fine
    however, when opening in Firefox, it has a bunch of overlapping difficulties.
    I just wanted to provide you with a little alert, that’s all.

    • lyndacwatts says:

      Thanks for the info. I’m sorry for the technical issue(s).
      This is a free blog, one from which I do not earn an income, and thus I do not put any time into advertising it or checking for how it displays on the various browsers. Perhaps I should, though!

      Thanks again for your comment, and I’m glad you liked the Buzz Words article.

      Lynda C Watts

  5. Olivia says:

    Thanks for this!! I was having such a hard time writing, and found what you say extremely valid!!
    Thanks again!!

  6. You actually make it seem so easy with your presentation but I
    find this matter to be actually something that I think I would
    never understand. It seems too complicated and very broad for me.
    I’m looking forward for your next post, I will try to get the hang of it!

    • lyndacwatts says:

      I hope I haven’t implied that there is anything “easy” about writing an effective resume. In fact, if it were easy, my blog wouldn’t be necessary!

      I’m always willing to help anyone who needs it. All you have to do is send me an email.

      Glad you like the blog, and thank you for your comment!

      Lynda C Watts

      PS: I see that you are a lawn mower repair person? Gosh, I need YOUR help with a dead lawnmower. Send me an email!

  7. Scooble says:

    really, I mean really.
    Why is it that every applicant these days has to dance to the every changing merry tune of what the ‘experts’ perceive to be the most important words in an application whilst they know sweet FA about the position being applied for or even what is required.
    The employers are in a position of authority and can make decisions on who gets employed and who doesn’t, and because of this, they dictate the tune to which that the applicants have to dance to, meaning that those who really want to get on in life have to dance to this ridiculous irrelevant tune. Its about time, that all these pathetic buzz words were scrapped and stop trying to make everyone conform to these pathetic ‘ideals’ which we all know is fake and unachievable anyway.
    All these buzz words do is allow people to use more and more colourful ways to lie on their application and obscure who they really are, where in reality, we should be encouraging people to express their individuality rather than trying to convert them to a faceless corporate drones.
    People, wake up, take control of your lives and sea people for what and who they really are instead of what they are ‘expected’ to be

    • lyndacwatts says:

      Interesting perspective.

      Writing a resume or a cover-letter can be overwhelming for some people. They know their histories and achievements and skills, but minds go blank when they try to articulate their credentials in writing. This list of “buzz words” is meant to help people describe themselves more accurately. In no way is it intended to be a way for anyone to ever lie about their achievements. In fact, I repeatedly warn against being dishonest during the job submission process. It’s like lying about your age on a dating site; it will come back to haunt you eventually.

      Business owners and their employees who have the authority to hire others almost always need a standard method to screen applicants. Not only is it the fairest and most efficient way to review candidates, there are employment laws to which employers must adhere. The larger the business, the less room there is for flexibility in the job submission process. Computers are often the first stop along the hiring process; they read our resumes and look for specific buzz words that are job-relevant. If a resume lacks those words, it will be tossed.

      This isn’t about conformity. It’s about getting a job. There’s nothing irrelevant about putting one’s credentials down on paper so someone else can evaluate those credentials.

      For those people who desire to express their individuality, and/or who are anti-corporation — as many, many people are today — there are a multitude of ways to find employment that don’t involve writing a resume. (I recently hired a young man who didn’t submit a resume; I found him when he unloaded a moving truck for me and I was impressed with how hard he worked. So, I offered him a job and he accepted.) But for most people who are competing in a tough job market, doing one’s best and following the submission rules is just part of the game.

      Lynda C Watts

  8. ankit rana says:

    Reblogged this on Mechanical Engineering Department Academic Mentorship Program and commented:
    For final year students. Share this with your friends

  9. Dulcie says:

    I really like what you guys are up too. This type of clever work and exposure!
    Keep up the great works guys I’ve added you guys to blogroll.

  10. Pingback: Free Resume Evaluations? What’s the catch? | Grown-up Living: Careers & More

  11. andrew says:

    this is really useful; it helped me out much. I hope to give
    something back and help others like you’ve aided me.

  12. says:

    Greetings! Very helpful advice in this article!

    Many thanks for sharing!

  13. Http://Www.123Shorturl.Com says:

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  14. Loretta says:

    Hello Lynda!

    I am a recent non-traditional graduate with a BA degree. I have worked at several jobs, but have not had a major role in any of my places of employment. I read your articles about how to write resumes and use buzz words; but honestly, I am just a good ‘ole hard worker. The only things I’ve created is a facility-wide directory, & a call-back roster for potential clients and follow-up calls – both of which I have mentioned on my resume. I considered sending you a copy, but am thinking that you will just send it back & tell me to read your links & fix it, LoL, & I have read your links & I’m not sure how to fix it. Like I said, I am just kind of generic, but a hard worker. I’m not really sure where to go from here.

    • lyndacwatts says:

      Thank you for your comment and your question, Loretta. Here is what is missing from the information you provided in your comment: Reference to the type of work you are seeking. Without knowing what kind of job you are trying to find, it’s difficult to provide you with specific advice. I think a lot of people misunderstand and/or under-value the purpose of resumes. Resumes are not just a written summary of your work history. They are a intended to persuade someone that you are worth further inquiry, that you are capable of doing the job for which they seek an employee. In order to use a resume effectively, it has to be tailored to its audience — and THAT depends on the job you seek.

      Some people will say, “I don’t care what kind of job I get. I just need a job!” Though it’s easy to feel that way, it is detrimental to your job search. Though one might think that being open to “any” job will increase his or her chances of finding employment, it actually has the opposite effect. Unless you are an entry-level worker who needs only to walk into a fast food restaurant (or other similar minimum wage job) and fill out an application, then you need a resume that is tailored to the type of employment you seek and/or tailored to a specific job notice.

      Please send me your resume. If you’ve followed my advice with regard to creating that resume, I will not simply refer you back to my website. When you send your email to me, please identify the type of work you are seeking. I’ll be able to give you specific, detailed advice at that point.

      Lynda C. Watts

  15. Pingback: Technology Resume Buzzwords | Technology Documents

  16. stacy says:

    I am really impressed with your writing skills and also with the layout on your blog.

    Is this a paid theme or did you modify it yourself?
    Anyway keep up the nice quality writing, it is rare to see a
    great blog like this one nowadays.

  17. Pingback: 3 Strategies for Using Keywords While Job Searching

  18. Pingback: leadership skills buzz words - Leadership Skills

  19. Asmatshah says:

    thank you it is very useful

  20. Pingback: Best Action Verbs Resume – Austin Online

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