Stupendous achievements! Extraordinary success! Phenomenal idea-generator! OK, you know those are over-the-top descriptions for your resume, but where’s the line between too much and just right? Adjectives spice up your job application and help you stand out from the crowd if you use the right ones correctly.
You spend hours crafting a resume that will get you that coveted interview and present you in the best light. The words you use tell recruiters not just what you can do, but who you are. Finding the right balance between boastful and timid when it comes to choosing resume adjectives can make all the difference. You want to project confidence, not arrogance; collaboration, not deference.
A thesaurus will list adjectives for your resume (once you get past excellent), but it won’t tell you which ones will make recruiters take note of your professional traits or how to insert those power adjectives to your best advantage. Within this blog, you will discover:
- The best resume adjectives for hard skills
- The best resume adjectives for soft skills by category
- Writing tips for effectively using adjectives in a resume
- Where to include resume adjectives and example text
- Adjectives to avoid
The best resume adjectives for hard skills
Every career and position within that career has a set of necessary skills . It’s possible that your prospective employer will be willing to train you in a secondary skill, but their main concern is what you can do for them right now. Your dilemma comes from the understanding that almost everyone applying for the job will have those skills.
How do you distinguish yourself? Of course, your unique experience, but how you describe that experience – in other words the resume adjectives you use.
Below you will find a list of outstanding adjectives for your resume that will help you show off your abilities without showing off.
The best resume adjectives for hard skills
You may notice that the categories above can mostly be defined as soft skills. What about hard skills? Hard skills are ones that you have acquired through schooling, training, or work experience. Examples include technical , scientific, computer, language, project management, or any other knowledge or ability you can learn.
Because these skills are quantifiable, you can go ahead and list your expertise level. Here are adjectives often prescribed to skill level:
- Advanced beginner
Do we recommend that you call yourself a novice on your resume? No. If a skill is listed under “nice to have,” you may say you are an intermediate, but intermediate means competent and you want to avoid mentioning any skill in which you are less than competent. (notice how negative that sounds).
Here are 10 adjectives for your resume that you can substitute for proficient or expert:
Describing your language level
Language skills are highly valued in many professions and you should definitely list them on your resume. Here are the accepted language skill adjectives and their descriptions:
0 – No proficiency. This is self-explanatory: You’ve never studied the language and you definitely don’t want this on your resume.
1 – Elementary. Let’s call this tourist language; also not much of a plus for your resume. You can hold your own in very basic exchanges, such as greetings, asking for directions, etc.
2 – Limited Working. You can have a simple, friendly conversation, but you probably don’t have the vocabulary to discuss professional or complex topics.
3 – Working Professional. If you have this level of proficiency, you may consider adding it to your resume depending on the position you seek. That’s because you can chat with clients on the phone or make presentations in that language, although you may need a bit of assistance.
4 – Full Professional. You can conduct business fully in another language without assistance.
5 – Native. You have a faint to no accent and can translate for others who are less proficient. This level is typically achieved by those who grew up speaking more than one language and continued to use those languages throughout life.
You may have also seen levels A1-C2. These are The Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR). If you know your level, you may use that instead, but only if you are sure that others will understand it.
The best resume adjectives for soft skills by category
Soft skills are harder to quantify because they are personality traits, interpersonal skills, and work habits, but they do lend themselves to a host of great resume adjectives. We offer a blog full of soft skills , now we’ll list the top resume adjectives to go with them.
Highlight your personality
Often when you are searching for an adjective for your resume, you are looking to highlight one of your traits. Think of your traits as career assets. Which skills category does your trait enhance? For instance, your ability to surprise co-workers with unique ideas shows you are an inventive thinker.
If you’re a tough critic of yourself, scan the adjective lists and find a synonym for your negative traits that has a positive connotation. You are not rigid, you are a methodical worker who always applies processes to projects.
The English language includes hundreds of adjectives. We aren’t going to list them all here. The goal is to organize a thoughtful group of resume adjectives you can use as a jumping-off point for thinking about and describing your skills. Go ahead and use as many of these as you need to create a stellar resume, but also generate more ideas by asking yourself what you value in team members, bosses, and coworkers. Describing them may help you describe yourself. On the flip side, if you’re stumped, feel free to ask trusted co-workers to describe you.
10 Resume adjectives for collaboration or teamwork
- Active listener
20 Resume adjectives for leadership
5 Resume adjectives for adaptability
10 Resume adjectives for creativity
10 Resume adjectives for communication
10 Resume adjectives for critical thinking
5 Resume adjectives for organizational skills
10 Resume adjectives for work ethic
Writing tips for effectively using adjectives in a resume
We’ve just named 80 adjectives for your resume, but compiling a great resume takes much more than a few inspired words. Just as important is how you use those words, where you use them, and how many you sprinkle throughout your application document.
Your h offers more room for descriptive language, but you don’t want your resume to sound too dry either. A strong resume tells HR personnel what your value-add is, but that means more than just your competence at the actual work expected of you. Demonstrating that you will be a good fit for the culture of the organization – whether that means you work well over Slack and Zoom or love a good in-person brainstorming session – is just as important.
That’s what makes the effective use of resume adjectives a differentiator in a job search.
When you compiled your resume, you may have developed a thorough list of your skills and achievements. If so, great! You know what we’re about to say: take the time now to enumerate the personality traits that make you a standout employee. Feel free to use the list above, and don’t limit yourself – yet.
The soft skill emphasis
Why is describing your soft skills with strong resume adjectives so important? Because employers have gotten the message that a workforce with advanced soft skills pays off in improved decision-making, ability to drive positive change, a healthy work environment, efficient problem-solving, better customer service, and increased sales. It also reduces employee turnover, according to the Future of Sourcing.
Now that you have a grand list of all your excellent qualities, take a moment to organize them. Try using the same categories we did since those are the ones you’ll want to bring out in your resume.
The next step can be done later in the process because it requires that you have targeted a job or that you are clear about the type of position you want and the experience necessary. That’s because the accomplishments you compile for your resume should be evidence that builds your case for employment. However, if you want to draft a general resume that you can customize when you’re ready to start applying, that’s great too.
Your summary is an exemplary place to add one or two pointed adjectives because it is here that you are giving a broad view of your career. If you didn’t include a positive descriptor here, the hiring manager would wonder why they should think highly of you if you can’t muster even faint praise for yourself.
A few more things to think about:
- Make a list of all the adjectives that describe your professional personality
- Categorize the adjectives
- Decide which accomplishments best illustrate the skills within the job listing
- Match your resume adjectives to the accomplishments that show them off
- Use your best adjectives in your summary, bullet items for your employment history section and your skills section
Examples of resume adjectives in use in various places
Here are a few examples of opening summary sentences that include great resume adjectives:
- Passionate city manager adept in applying visionary leadership skills and innovation to guide town planning and agendas.
- Diplomatic human resources manager who can deliver the hard news with empathy as well as spot a must-hire in a 15-minute interview.
- Systematic and versatile administrative assistant with six years experience smoothing office workflow and increasing productivity.
Suppose you choose to highlight your leadership skills with a bullet item in your employment history. You could write:
- Through energizing guidance, spearheaded team effort to organize international IT conference in four months
- Engendered positive media coverage despite potentially damaging breach in customer data through decisive marshaling of public relations staff
- Boosted sales of small appliances 15 percent over projection using transformative reorganization of department
Notice that we not only used “energizing,” but also a strong verb and the quantifiable detail in four months. The HR manager hiring for a conference organizer will know that a typical timeframe for planning a large conference is 8-12 months.
Here are some resume phrases for your employment history that focus on worth ethic:
- Discovered mathematical error in research findings after tenacious review of proposed article
- Through consistent weekly mentoring, helped underachieving student complete term paper on time and with a B+
- Applied disciplined approach to review and update of food purchasing process resulting in 10 percent less waste
Adjectives to avoid
Some words are classics, some are of-the-moment, and some have had their day. Hackneyed phrases and cliches have no place in your resume. After all your hard work, the last reaction you want from a recruiter is a wince, you’re a “hard worker”. (Yes, that’s one of the adjectives to avoid.)
Along with overused adjectives, you should also avoid word bloat; filler words that when you get right down to it, don’t convey any meaning. Then there are the words that can be seen in two ways. Ambitious is the perfect example. Just the right amount of ambition is a motivator, but too much and you’re definitely not a team player.
Here are those tired resume adjectives that need a rest and the filler words to delete. Keep that old creative writing teacher axiom: “Show, don’t tell” in mind as you create your resume.
- Detail-oriented. This one is overused and says very little
- Hard-working. Who is going to say they are not? Better to describe exactly what you did to demonstrate that you are a hard worker
- Seasoned. Some HR people get salty over this one. Use “experience” or simply let your work history speak for itself
- Results-oriented. See “hard-working”
- Problem-solver. What problem? How did you solve it?
- Proactive. Instead, use an action verb that demonstrates your action and a resume adjective to pair with it
- Team player. Check out better adjectives in the collaboration section above.
Adjectives can enhance your resume by creating a well-rounded picture of your professional style and personality. The right ones can elevate your resume to the “definitely interview” pile if you choose them carefully and with your audience in mind.
- Adjectives for your resume must strike a balance between meek and boastful
- Stick to describing skills and attributes that are necessary for the job
- Use adjectives from different categories to broaden the image of yourself that you present
- Create an all-inclusive list of adjectives and choose from them – ask trusted friends and colleagues to help you out of you’re stuck
- Take the time to weed out overused adjectives and ones that don’t convey enough meaning; your space is limited, so make the most of it
- Use adjectives one at a time
- The summary, employment history, and skills section of your resume are all appropriate places for adjectives
- Finally, make sure your word choice reflects who you are and the image you want to project.