It doesn't have to feel like nails on a chalkboard when trying to describe yourself on a resume!
How you describe yourself on your resume directly impacts whether you land that interview you so eagerly want. It's essential to describe your qualifications and experience in such a way as to grab the employer's attention without hesitation.
How do you do that, exactly? By incorporating self-descriptive words on your resume that stand out to hiring teams and showcase that you're the best fit for the job.
In this post, we start off with tips for developing self-descriptive words for your resume, followed by examples of descriptive words to use and avoid.
Tips for developing self-descriptive words for your resume
It's not uncommon for individuals to struggle with talking about their accomplishments and strengths. We tend to share about another's skills and abilities easily, but when it comes to describing ourselves, we fall short. Fortunately, below are some steps you can take to boost your creative juices and find the words for your resume to help you stand out from the competition.
Ask friends and peers for help
One way to come up with ways to describe yourself is to ask your peers, friends, and managers for input. For a comprehensive perspective, ask for feedback from those in your personal and professional lives. Here are some questions you can ask to receive the information you need:
What are three adjectives you would use to describe me?
How would you describe me to a coworker or friend?
If you could sum up my personality in one word, what would it be, and why?
Consider past performance reviews
Another way to develop self-descriptive words for a resume is to reflect on past performance reviews. What did supervisors have to say about you? What about coworkers who provided input? What were some of the strengths and achievements emphasized?
Make a list of your past accomplishments and strengths
Brainstorm to come up with a list of all your strengths, so you can more easily refer to them when describing yourself on a resume. Do this by first listing some of your key achievements and considering what strengths allowed you to achieve them.
For example, suppose you implemented a new customer service rating system two weeks ahead of schedule, which led to a 10% increase in customer feedback. In that case, you might describe yourself as efficient and productive.
Refer to the job description
If you're struggling to come up with the best self-descriptive words for your resume, refer to the job description. Highlight any skills, knowledge, and requirements you possess that align with the job. By incorporating these keywords into your resume, you're not only emphasizing that you meet the job qualifications but are also improving your resume's chances of getting past an employer's applicant tracking system, or ATS.
It's good to be humble and clear on your strengths and weaknesses. However, when it comes to self-descriptive words for a resume, you want to focus on the positives only - your strengths.
Save sharing your weaknesses for the interview, when you'll likely be asked about them. During an interview, you can - and should - give your weaknesses a positive spin with context, which is challenging to do on a resume.
As you develop your list of strengths and how you'd describe yourself, work to develop some unique adjectives to use that are specific to your qualifications. Refer to the list of strengths you've developed, and look up synonyms for those words that could help you to stand out from other applicants.
For example, instead of incorporating the commonly used term “creative,” you might use words like inventive or prolific. A word of caution is to avoid words that come across as boastful or exaggerating your qualifications.
Review example resumes
An excellent resource to refer to when you're attempting to craft your own resume is to look at resume examples online. The resume examples you review don't need to be specific to your field, since self-descriptive adjectives and descriptive verbs aren't industry-specific, as shown in the examples below. This approach not only helps to generate ideas for self-descriptive words for your resume but also provides guidance on how to write your resume as a whole.
Self-descriptive words for a resume - examples
When it comes to self-descriptive words for a resume, technically, we're referring to adjectives, since adjectives describe a noun. However, two additional categories of words are essential to fully describe your abilities and work history: descriptive verbs and skills.
Powerful adjectives for a resume
Here are only a few of the many adjectives you could use on your resume, with examples of how you might include them in a sentence.
Adaptable: Adaptable professional with ability to move from project to project within different departments.
Compassionate: Compassionate caretaker with 10 years of experience, working with hospices and providing end-of-life services.
Knowledgeable: Knowledgeable mechanic with 3 excellence awards for superb service and quality, earned in less than 6 months.
Perceptive: Perceptive speaker with ability to navigate an audience to know where to direct attention to garner the best outcome.
Tech-savvy: Tech-savvy Visual Artist with ability to bring together ideas and people to produce valuable and thought-provoking content, including images, videos, and graphics.
Top tip: For an extensive list of 100 power adjectives, refer to “100 Powerful Resume Adjectives that Can Make Your Resume More Compelling.”
Descriptive verbs for a resume
Action verbs are vital in really making your work section stand out. Each bullet point you include for the jobs you list should begin with a power verb that emphasizes your role in the activity or achievement. Power verbs are also used in the resume summary to highlight accomplishments.
Skills for a resume
Skills on your resume should include a combination of soft and hard skills. In many instances, hard skills are spelled out and soft skills are inferred based on our past achievements.
Unusual words to describe yourself on a resume
As mentioned, be creative and specific when selecting self-descriptive words for your resume, to help set you apart. A great way to do this is to use a thesaurus to gather synonyms for the list of self-descriptive adjectives you come up with. Some interesting choices that aren't used as often yet can still sound good on a resume include:
Self-descriptive words for a resume: what NOT to use
Yes, there are some words to leave off your list of self-descriptive words for your resume. These words tend to be overused, generic, highly subjective, or boastful. Here are a few examples:
You might think you're likable, but likability is in the eye of the beholder. Instead of using likable, consider adjectives that refer to being likable, yet add value, such as team player, compassionate, and energetic.
Don't flat-out state you're intelligent, at risk of coming across as overly confident. Also, it should be inferred that you're intelligent by the other adjectives and proof you provide to back them up on your resume. Words like big-picture thinker, agile, and quick learner are better word choices.
Saying you're successful is very broad. Instead, you want to narrow your successes to specific skills and strengths with qualifiers and quantifiable data.
Here are a few more self-promotional adjectives to leave off your resume.
Outside the box thinker
Instead of using these types of adjectives, come up with alternatives where you can show results linked to them. A good place to begin is by asking yourself, "What have I achieved that shows I'm a go-getter, the best, and so on?"
Where to incorporate self-descriptive words on a resume
Now that you've seen some examples of self-descriptive words, where do they belong on your resume? There are three main areas to place them:
Resume summary. Your resume summary falls just below your contact information and is the main area where you'll incorporate self-descriptive adjectives, with a few skills and power verbs.
Competencies and skills list. Your core competencies or skills list should include the soft and hard skills required for the job, based on the job description.
Work experience section. The work experience section is where you'll include the power verbs that describe what you did on the job, as well as some of the skills that supported you in doing so. You might also include some adjectives in this section, though generally, the adjectives are inferred. For example:
“Motivated team of 10 to implement an enhanced customer booking log project on time, resulting in an 8% increase in positive customer experience ratings”
From this achievement, one can infer that the person is motivational, a leader, and efficient.
Apply a variety of self-descriptive words on your resume
Now you have some tips to help you discover the best self-descriptive words for your resume, with examples. You also know where to include them. As a final tip, when you incorporate your descriptive words, be sure to use a variety of adjectives and power verbs so your resume doesn't sound redundant. Good luck!
If you're wondering if you're using the right self-descriptive words throughout your resume, why not submit it for a free resume review? Our TopResume team of experts will help to ensure your resume describes you in a way that lands you interview after interview!