One of the first things an interviewer will ask you during a job interview is, “Tell us about yourself.” It is a deceptively simple yet revealing question. It is crucial that you be able to describe yourself well to a potential employer. But before you get to the interview, you’ll need to describe yourself on paper. Recruiters see dozens of applications each week - more than that, if the company is large or highly competitive. Your resume is often your first chance to make an impression. The words you choose to describe yourself and your experience matter.
One of the key challenges of composing an effective resume is how to best make use of limited space. Unless you are an upper-level executive with a career spanning multiple decades, or an academic with a list of publications to your name, your resume or CV shouldn’t be more than two or three pages long. For most people, one to two pages should suffice. That leaves precious little room for you to concisely list your relevant skills and experience in an eye-catching way. Given the limited space you have to work with, the words you choose to describe yourself on a resume should be purposeful and deliberate. No filler words or fluff. Use language that is specific, descriptive, and relevant to your career goals. Avoid buzzwords and generic language or cliches. The words you use to describe yourself on your resume should not only set you apart from the crowd but also clearly indicate what you would bring to the organization to which you are applying.
Best practices tend to hold that adjectives are best used sparingly on a professional resume. That is to say you should show, not tell, your potential employer who you are by describing what you have done using verbs rather than descriptors. However, adjectives do have their place on a resume if they are chosen deliberately and with purpose. Most importantly, any adjectives you choose to include should be backed by evidence. Don’t describe yourself as “creative” without evidence of creative work. It’s not enough to say you are “collaborative” without showing how you have collaborated effectively with others to achieve a specific goal. Some strong adjectives you can use to describe yourself on a resume include:
Leaders come in all shapes and sizes; not all leaders share the same philosophy or approach. When describing yourself on a resume, choose words that reflect your strengths as a leader and your approach to supporting your team.
“Dependable” is often overused on resumes. Dependability means different things depending on your role and your strengths. What can your coworkers depend on you for? What qualities do you possess that make you so dependable?
An ambitious employee strives for their own success and the success of their team. Ambitious workers set high goals.
Rather than simply describing yourself as a “team player,” which can be a bit of a cliche, describe what strengths of yours make you an effective team member.
Avoid cliches and buzzwords that have been overused to the point where they have lost their meaning. Stay away from vague language that takes up space on the page without saying anything of substance. And of course, stick to words that accurately reflect who you are and what you bring to the table. Reflect on your strengths and your successes, not just what you think the hiring manager wants to hear. Avoid words like: