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by Stephan Maldonado | January 16, 2019


Thesaurus Day and Resume Buzzwords

January 18th is National Thesaurus Day: a chance to celebrate the complexity of words and the variety of creative ways to express yourself. Thesaurus Day recognizes Peter Mark Roget (born on January 18, 1779), who published the Thesaurus of English Words and Phrases in 1852. Until the advent of the digital age, Roget’s Thesaurus was one of the most widely used lexicons of the English Language—a staple among writers, students, and virtually anyone who’s ever put pen to paper (or finger to keyboard).

Much has been written about the best and worst words to use on your resume; with such limited space, word choice is essential to portraying yourself in a way that sets you apart from everyone else, and certain buzzwords come across as tired or trite to recruiters and hiring managers. To celebrate National Thesaurus Day this week, we’ve compiled a list of creative alternatives for some of the most common and generic resume words or phrases.

When describing your accomplishments/responsibilities

Employers want to know what you’ve accomplished in your previous roles, and what you can bring to the table. Here are ten common words or phrases and some synonyms you can use as an alternative:

  • Lead (as in leading a project): execute, initiate, helm, orchestrate, oversee, spearhead
  • Manage (as in managing a team of people): coordinate, direct, guide, head, pilot, supervise
  • Create: design, devise, envision, establish, formulate, launch, pioneer
  • Improve: influence, optimize, overhaul, redesign, revitalize, transform
  • Increase (as in growing profits, production, etc.): advance, amplify, boost, expand, generate, maximize
  • Decrease (as in saving time and money or cutting down on losses): conserve, condense, ease, moderate, reduce
  • Research: analyze, examine, explore, inquire, investigate, study
  • Write: author, brief, compose, define, verbalize
  • Achieve (as in reaching a goal): attain, demonstrate, earn, reach, surpass, win
  • Communicate (with clients or colleagues): convey, correspond, interact, liaise, mediate, network

When describing your personality/attributes

Are you a go-getter? A self-starter? A team player? That’s great if you are, but there are far better ways to describe yourself. Try these instead:

  • Self-starter: enthusiastic, inspired, motivated, zealous
  • Go-getter: ambitious, aspiring, determined, industrious, passionate
  • Detail-oriented: analytic, attentive, comprehensive, meticulous, precise, systematic
  • Team player: collaborative, collegial, cooperative, helpful, supportive
  • Proficient: accomplished, adept, apt, competent, effective, experienced
  • Results-driven: committed, efficient, intent, purposeful
  • Go-to person: enlisted, entrusted, expert, relied upon
  • Dynamic: agile, diligent, energetic, engaging, lively, versatile
  • Innovative: avant-garde, creative, groundbreaking, imaginative, inventive, pioneering, resourceful, shrewd
  • Strategic thinker: critical, flexible, focused, logical, methodical, perceptive, studious

A few words of advice

Whether you need a synonym for the word "passion" or another way to tell employers you're a creative thinker, remember to vary your language on your resume! A simple "passion" synonym like "enthusiasm" or "zeal" can make your resume more dynamic. That said, when it comes to revitalizing your resume, there’s a thin line between creativity and hyperbole. While you want to stand out from the competition, you also want to keep things professional. Most recruiters can tell when you’re grandstanding or exaggerating your qualifications. Overly embellished language can read as flowery and convoluted, which is the last thing you want for someone who might spend less than 30 seconds reviewing your resume.

Every word on your resume counts. Be specific and concise, only using works that illuminate your point. Utilize keywords from the job description, but only where they’re relevant. Avoid repetition, and only use words that you understand. This last point might seem self-evident, but as you search for creative synonyms, it can be easy to reach for words you don’t firmly grasp—and that can come across during your interview. And never forget to proofread your resume multiple times; recruiters and hiring managers overwhelmingly cite typos or bad grammar as an immediate deal breaker.