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Good Descriptive Words for Resumes

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Make a strong first impression on a prospective employer with a resume that highlights the qualities that will make you an excellent employee. Good resumes can lead to in-person job interviews and, ultimately, to job offers. Choosing the best adjectives and three-to-five-word descriptive phrases to describe yourself and your abilities is imperative in your job hunt. The right words can grab the attention of a potential employer and put you on your way to a job interview.

Describe Your Behavior

Employers want to know that you have the necessary skill sets and appropriate educational and work backgrounds. They also want to know that a job candidate can learn quickly and fit in with the company culture. Use words that communicate your ability to be a team player and contribute to the success of the organization.

Phrases such as “demonstrated ability to work well with others,” “maintained perfect attendance record” and “greeted customers courteously” can communicate these attributes. You may also want to describe yourself as “a leader” and as someone who “works well independently.” Depending on the job, you might call yourself “customer-focused” or “cost-effective.”

Describe Your Personality

For some employers, your attitude and personality traits can be even more important than your experience. Employers want to know that your values match those of the company. Personality descriptors help explain who you are as a person and give a strong indication of how you'll approach your work. These words and three-to-five-word descriptive phrases are transferable from job to job:

  • adaptable
  • dependable
  • energetic
  • flexible
  • focused on results
  • mature
  • meticulous with details
  • organized
  • punctual
  • quick learner
  • use abilities to the fullest

Focus on the Specific Job

Hiring managers do not want to see a generic resume. Use words specific to the job title and the type of work you'll be doing. For a creative position, consider using adjectives such as “expressive,” “imaginative” and “resourceful.” For a job that requires technical skills, use words and phrases such as “methodical,” “analytical,” “proficient with computer software” and “can easily lift 50 pounds.”

Highlight Achievements

Potential employers often want to know what you accomplished in your previous positions. Use descriptive phrases to briefly summarize your achievements. Look online for examples of descriptive phrases for resumes that have job objectives similar to yours. Use a three-to-five word descriptive phrase to tell how you benefited a previous employer:

  • Achieved 98 percent accuracy rate
  • Cut costs by 5 percent
  • Increased customer satisfaction
  • Improved filing system
  • Created and maintained website

You may have achievements that have little to do with the position you hope to get. If you're applying for a job as an office administrator, for example, it doesn't make sense to use space on your resume to list your winning record as a pitcher for a local softball team. Likewise, most employers are not interested in your grade point average (G.P.A.) unless you're applying for your first job right out of school and have little in the way of work experience. Even then, any G.P.A. less than 3.5 is not particularly remarkable and thus should not be listed.

Be Thorough but Concise

Less is more when it comes to using adjectives in your resume. Say what you need to say, but don't include long lists of adjectives and phrases in hopes of impressing a hiring manager. Remember that the goal of a resume is to get you a job interview. If you're called for an interview, you'll have an opportunity to discuss your positive traits and achievements in greater detail.

Rather than padding your resume with lots of descriptors, choose the ones that best represent who you are and what you have to offer as an employee.


Denise Dayton is a a freelance writer who specializes in business, education and technology. She has written for, Library Journal, The Searcher, Bureau of Education and Research, and corporate clients.

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