Best Ways to Describe Yourself on Resume: Examples, Best Practices & Tips

It's incredibly important to understand how to describe yourself in an interview, but how do you describe yourself on your resume? Find out here!

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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.

How to Describe Yourself on a Resume

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.

Adjectives to Describe Yourself on a Resume

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:

  • Consistent
  • Responsive
  • Open-minded
  • Flexible
  • Profitable
  • Decisive
  • Positive
  • Persuasive
  • Proactive
  • Cost-effective
  • Tactful
  • Diplomatic
  • Versatile

Words to Describe Yourself as a Leader

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.

  • Accountable - Describing yourself as accountable indicates that you believe leadership comes with responsibility, and you don’t believe in placing blame on others for your own missteps.
  • Coaching - Coaching is a specific form of leadership that takes an active approach to developing your team members’ individual strengths.
  • Strategic - Strategic leaders lead with a vision, a purpose, and a plan.
  • Forward-thinking - This phrase speaks to your ability to think not just about the challenges of the day, but also about the long-term goals for your organization. Forward-thinking leaders try new approaches and tools before they become commonplace.

Words to Describe Yourself as Dependable

“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?

  • Consistent - Dependability and consistency go hand in hand. Show employers that you deliver a consistent level of performance or results they can count on.
  • Delivered - Describe results you achieved, or promises you delivered on in the past.
  • Flexible/Adaptable - Flexible employees can be counted on to pinch hit when needed, or adapt quickly to changing circumstances.

Words to Describe Yourself as Ambitious

An ambitious employee strives for their own success and the success of their team. Ambitious workers set high goals.

  • Persistent - Describe your persistence in the face of obstacles or setbacks. Setbacks are inevitable, but the way you deal with them says a lot about how you function as a team member or leader.
  • Self-motivated - It’s one thing to do what is asked of you, but it’s even more impressive to pursue goals you identify for yourself.

Words to Describe Yourself as a Team Player

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.

  • Collaborative - In nearly every modern organization, collaboration is critical to success. List examples of when and how you collaborated with other individuals or teams to achieve results greater than that which you could have achieved alone.
  • Open-minded - In a team environment, it’s important to be open to a variety of different points of view. Open-mindedness not only supports crucial diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts, but also supports the critical thinking necessary for innovation.
  • Positive - Skills and processes can be taught, but a good attitude can’t. Negativity can drag down the morale of your whole team, while positivity can be contagious.

Avoid Using These Words to Describe Yourself on a Resume

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:

  • Very - When using adjectives, avoid modifiers like “very,” “really,” or “highly.” If you feel the need to add emphasis, simply use a stronger word.
  • Qualified - It’s unhelpful to describe yourself at qualified for the position; your experience and accomplishments should show, not tell, whether you’re appropriately qualified for the position you want.
  • Guru/ninja/wizard - Words like these are sometimes used to show that a company culture is fun or creative. You might see positions labeled “coding ninja” or “copywriting wizard,” but on a resume they can come across as unprofessional or hacky. What’s worse, they don’t truly convey anything about your skill level or what you bring to the table.

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