Better Résumé Words, or How to Improve Your Résumé by a Thousandfold

Dear, Anita,

A few months ago, our company was purchased and I was found “redundant.” I’ve been searching diligently for a sales job ever since, but I haven’t gotten many nibbles (responses), much less bites (interviews) with my applications and online résumé. I’ve got a wife and teenage boys to feed – and you know how much they eat! What advice do you have for me?

Dear, Displaced “Papa,”

During an interview, Ernest Hemingway revealed that he rewrote the last page to A Farewell to Arms 39 times before he was satisfied. When the journalist asked what had stumped the famous author, Hemingway replied, “Getting the words right.”

If your résumé isn’t getting the response you desire, it may be time to take a fresh look with the goal of “perfecting your language” (see what I did there with the help of

You want to optimize your résumé for both humans and the computer software that may scan them first. Tailor your wording to speak their language. While your title may have been Sales Manager, another company may call this Business Development. When applying for a posted job, be sure to use some of the exact words in the ad – particularly the nouns and position title. This will ensure the Applicant Tracking System (ATS) will pass you through the gateway so a real live hiring manager will actually have the opportunity to read your résumé. And that’s when those sexy verbs come into play. The Daily Muse offers 185 Powerful Verbs that you can swap out with your templated jargon to make your résumé more dynamic.

Forgo the boring listing of duties following the trite, “Responsible for…” The recruiter is far more interested in what you accomplished while performing your job functions. Here’s where you pair your lively verbs with winning nouns and throw in a quantifier for good measure to create power phrases. Can’t you just hear the implied exclamation point at the end of the verbiage in the right column?

Responsible for client management… Increased new clients by 172%
Duties included sales… Acquired a $2.3 million service contract
Provide administrative support Document 200-275 customer notifications weekly


And while we’re on the subject of literary style, let’s discuss that lackluster cover letter yawner, “Please accept my résumé in response to your ad for…” Before you even walk in the door for an interview, your cover letter is your first impression. This is your opportunity to stand out from the crowd with a carefully crafted opening sentence. I wonder how many rewrites it took the Jerry Maguire scriptwriter to polish Renee Zellweger’s classic line, “You had me at ‘hello.’ ”

Readers: Take a crack at one entry in your résumé and share your rewrite below. Or if you’re stumped, let the Clew Community help out.

Do you have a job-related question? Ask Anita.

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6 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. LA Tonya
    Feb 11, 2015 @ 13:40:21

    I was wondering if you have any resume temples that you just fill in.
    Thank you in advance
    La Tonya Cooper


  2. Lori
    Jan 13, 2015 @ 08:40:29

    I find it difficult to qualify my accomplishments in this way. How to I quantify designing marketing materials for a local festival? This is something that I struggle with. I understand the why, and I can see how it works in the example given within this article (responding to this gentlemen’s experience), but I don’t understand how to apply to items less tangible or services that are a bit more abstract. Pondering ….


    • anitaclew
      Jan 13, 2015 @ 10:01:14

      Great question! Creative types may have to switch to the left side of the brain to figure out ways to quantify their work. Could you say something like, “Designed marketing materials for a local festival, increasing attendance by XX% from previous year,” for example? Did your rebranding help boost sales? Are your infographics increasing reach on social media? You may have to inquire about measurable results from project stakeholders. I would also suggest that you include in your résumé a link to a personal website featuring your work (I recommended this tactic in my blog, As the saying goes, a picture is worth a thousand words.


    • Jeannie
      Jan 15, 2015 @ 07:43:20

      What you are capable of, based on what you wrote is evident to me. I know some people that are involved in similar circles and am in awe of their savvy. One statement about what you accomplished with an example IS tangible to those who desire that skill set. It might be Greek to me, but it won’t be to those who are similarly employed or looking to hire such. I think the idea is to get our language to represent, the best, most interesting, vibrant and creative side of ourselves and I am right there with you! I’ll be pulling for you from over here! Jeannie


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Anita Clew's blog posts are intended for general guidance and should never be taken as legal advice. In all instances where harassment, inequity, or unfair treatment is believed to be present, please consult your HR Department or legal representation.
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