Picking Resume Words that Make or Break Your Cleared Job Search

Posted by Ashley Jones
resume words

Tips to help you select the best resume words — and avoid the wrong ones — for cleared job search success.

The words you choose for your resume can make or break your chances of making it to the next stage of the hiring process. But what words do cleared employers (or their ATS) really want to see on your resume? And perhaps more importantly, what words should you avoid? We decided to find out.

We asked cleared recruiters and hiring managers about their least favorite resume words or phrases. Among the top offenders were “Dynamic” with 33% of the votes, closely followed by “Responsible for” and “Self-motivated,” each at 23%, and “Team player” with 20%. Some notable shoutouts in the comments section also showed a distaste for “Results-driven” and “Servant Leader.”

Watch out for subjective words and stock phrases, and instead include resume words that show, not tell, what you’re capable of. Consider the following tips to help you add/remove various words from your cleared resume.

Subjective Resume Words and Phrases to Avoid

Recruiters dislike cliché, subjective adjectives. You may truly be “detail-oriented,” but they’ve read terms like that about a thousand times too many to make it really mean anything. Don’t try to tell them how great you are with stock phrases anybody can simply copy and paste into a resume template. Your resume needs to be descriptive – not filled with misleading, passive, or subjective language.

Recruiters do not want to see these subjective adjectives and filler phrases on your resume. Delete terms like these to improve your cleared resume:

  • Dynamic: This word is overused and lacks specificity. Instead, choose words that clearly demonstrate your skills and abilities.
  • Responsible for: This popular phrase often leads to vague descriptions of duties rather than showcasing accomplishments. Instead, focus on what you achieved in each role.
  • Self-Motivated: Instead of simply stating you’re self-motivated, provide examples of times when you took initiative or went above and beyond in your role.
  • Team Player: While teamwork is important, saying you’re a team player doesn’t provide much insight. Instead, provide examples of times when you successfully collaborated with others to achieve a goal.
  • Results-Driven: Again, this phrase is vague and doesn’t provide specific examples of your achievements. Instead, highlight quantifiable results that demonstrate your impact.

Get the picture? Some other phrases to avoid are:

  • Best of breed
  • Detail-oriented
  • Go-getter
  • Go-to person
  • Hard worker
  • Innovative
  • Reliable
  • Strategic thinker
  • Thinks outside of the box

Action Verbs and Power Words to Include in Your Resume

Now that you know what to avoid, what should you include in your resume instead? Try using the S.T.A.R. formula to write rich accomplishment statements.

The S.T.A.R. formula includes: the Situation, Task, Action, and Result.

It’s helpful to begin with an action verb to show how well you achieved your responsibilities, supported by metrics whenever possible. For example:

Assumed management of a failing contract. Within 90 days built effective customer relationships, improved critical metrics, closed all overdue items, and led the team to a successful contract re-award.

Statements like these show employers what you’re capable of, versus what you were merely responsible for.

Build your cleared resume by using action verbs like these to help describe your achievements:

  • Achieved a 30% increase in sales within the first quarter.
  • Implemented a new customer feedback system, resulting in improved satisfaction ratings.
  • Innovated a new marketing strategy that resulted in a 40% increase in website traffic.
  • Resolved complex technical issues, reducing downtime by 20%.
  • Managed a team of sales representatives, exceeding quarterly targets by 15%.
  • Streamlined inventory management procedures, resulting in a 25% reduction in costs.
  • Negotiated favorable terms with suppliers, saving the company $50,000 annually.

Additional action words to use in your cleared resume:

  • Analyzed
  • Assessed
  • Budgeted
  • Conceptualized
  • Coordinated
  • Created
  • Designed
  • Developed
  • Devised
  • Diagnosed
  • Enabled
  • Engineered
  • Evaluated
  • Executed
  • Facilitated
  • Generated
  • Guided
  • Ideas
  • Improved
  • Increased/Decreased
  • Influenced
  • Integrated
  • Launched
  • Led
  • Measured
  • Operated
  • Produced
  • Programmed
  • Refined
  • Repaired
  • Restructured
  • Revenue/Profits
  • Solved
  • Trained/Mentored
  • Under budget
  • Updated
  • Volunteered
  • Won

In addition to action verbs, some other words you should include in your resume are the keywords from the job description that demonstrate you meet the qualifications. For example, if a job description mentions “project management,” “budgeting,” and “client relations,” be sure to include these keywords in your resume if they reflect your experiences and skills.

Tailoring your resume in this way not only helps your resume get past Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) but also quickly shows recruiters that you’re a perfect fit for the role. By choosing the right words and tailoring your resume to each job you apply for, you can create a resume that effectively showcases your skills, accomplishments, and potential.


  • Ashley Jones

    Ashley Jones is ClearedJobs.Net's blog Editor and a cleared job search expert, dedicated to helping security-cleared job seekers and employers navigate job search and recruitment challenges. With in-depth experience assisting cleared job seekers and transitioning military personnel at in-person and virtual Cleared Job Fairs and military base hiring events, Ashley has a deep understanding of the unique needs of the cleared community. She is also the Editor of ClearedJobs.Net's job search podcast, Security Cleared Jobs: Who's Hiring & How.

    Ashley Jones [email protected]
This entry was posted on Tuesday, April 23, 2024 4:56 pm

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