Choosing the Right Resume Adjectives

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Apr 21, 2023 7 min read

Using the right adjectives on your resume is important. They enhance the impact of your resume and make your statements more effective.

But how do you choose the right ones?

It’s a delicate balancing act. You want to be confident, but not arrogant. You want to be consistent, but not repetitive. Choosing adjectives to describe yourself, in general, can be stressful.

We’ve taken the guesswork out of the process for you and compiled some of the best adjectives to use on your resume. To make it even easier, we’ve split them up by category and industry.

In this article, we’ll cover topics like:

  • Understanding the importance of adjectives in a resume
  • Using adjectives in different categories on your resume
  • Choosing the right adjectives based on experience level
  • The best resume adjectives for your industry
  • Common mistakes to avoid when choosing adjectives for your resume

Once you’ve read through our tips and decide what adjectives are the best for you, start creating your amazing resume with our resume builder.

Understanding adjectives on your resume

First things first. Before we dive into the best way to use adjectives, let’s clearly define what an adjective is.

To put it most simply, an adjective is a word that describes a noun.

On a resume, adjectives are an opportunity to show potential employers your best traits and habits. They describe the abilities you exercised in pursuit of your goals.

Adjectives enhance the impact of your resume by showing hiring managers what you will bring to their company. Each adjective shows what you are capable of and the kind of employee you’ll be.

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Pro tip

Don’t just randomly select adjectives because they make you sound good. You will need to provide proof of your claims, so be honest when describing yourself.

Study the job description for your target role. Take note of the adjectives they use and include them in your resume.

Be sure to include them in a way that is truthful and natural. Directly copy-and-pasting phrases from the company will be obvious to recruiters.

There is a variety of ways to use powerful resume adjectives in different categories and situations.

Categories of adjectives for resumes

Deciding what adjectives to pick for your resume can be overwhelming. There are so many to choose from!

One way to make your selection easier is by dividing them into three categories:

  • Adjectives for describing your skills
  • Adjectives for highlighting your personality traits
  • Adjectives for emphasizing your achievements

Companies may be looking to hire someone with specific skills. Emphasizing your level of expertise will be more effective than simply listing them in the skills section of your resume.

Here’s an example of how that might look in your resume experience section.

Software Engineer
  • Expert Java and Python developer with 98% accuracy rate
  • Applied innovative solutions to coding errors in 5 major programs
  • Focused on long-term goals, completed 14 projects in my first year

Highlighting your personality traits is a great opportunity to show soft skills.

This is especially helpful for people-facing roles like customer service and leadership positions. Use adjectives here to show potential employers how you will fit into their company culture.

For even greater impact, combine your adjectives with action verbs.

Here is one example of how you can use adjectives to highlight personality traits in a resume section for strengths.

Support a healthy work/life balance for employees and competent in dealing with sensitive issues
Committed to completing projects on time and maintained a 3-year streak of meeting every deadline
Maintain client relationships and can be persuasive when necessary to close deals

Notice how this candidate included examples along with their adjectives.

Recruiters don’t know you. They won’t just take your word for it.

A section like the one above highlights your most important strengths and backs up your claims with evidence.

Good resume adjectives should also be used when describing your achievements.

Awards and accomplishments say a lot on their own, but why not make the impact even greater with a few powerful resume adjectives?

Let’s take a look at an example.

Received office award for Most Organized Manager in 2021
Ambitious goal-setter, closed $8.2M deal in 2022
Dedicated leader, increased employee retention to 85% under new management

For more inspiration on how to use adjectives on your resume, browse our collection of resume examples.

Now that you know how to group your resume adjectives into categories, let’s get into which adjectives to use.

Examples of resume adjectives for different situations

There are several factors that go into determining which are the best resume adjectives for you. Among the most significant are seniority and experience.

Never lie on your resume and call yourself an “expert” at something when you’re really a beginner. Potential employers will call upon those skills and you’ll quickly be caught when you can’t deliver.

This puts entry-level candidates in a tough spot. How can you describe your achievements if you have little to no experience?

There are still plenty of strong resume adjectives that you can use to accurately describe your skills at their current level.

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Here are a few resume adjective examples for entry-level candidates:

  • Ambitious

  • Passionate

  • Enthusiastic

  • Inquisitive

  • Meticulous

  • Diligent

  • Aspiring

  • Determined

  • Disciplined

  • Studious

  • Flexible

  • Efficient

  • Resourceful

Experienced professionals have a wide range of resume adjectives to choose from.

The longer you’ve worked in an industry and the more you’ve diversified your skillset, the greater your pool of options.

Show hiring managers what a valuable candidate you are by enhancing the impact of your resume with strong adjectives.

If you’re applying for a leadership position, employers will want to know how you manage others in addition to your technical skills.

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Here are a few resume adjective examples for experienced professionals:

  • Reliable

  • Influential

  • Precise

  • Decisive

  • Accountable

  • Inspiring

  • Proactive

  • Critical

  • Groundbreaking

  • Unprecedented

  • Focused

  • Comprehensive

Candidates transitioning into a new career fall somewhere between the two examples above.

Maybe you have years of experience in one industry, but very little in your new one.

A good strategy for career-transitioning resumes is to rely on transferable skills. Choose the best resume adjectives to describe your past experience as it relates to your target role.

Focus on areas where your expertise and the job description overlap.

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Here are a few useful resume adjective examples for candidates transitioning careers:

  • Creative

  • Attentive

  • Dynamic

  • Proficient

  • Concise

  • Energetic

  • Purposeful

  • Perceptive

  • Personable

  • Thorough

  • Focused

  • Clear

  • Compelling

Examples of resume adjectives for different industries

The best adjectives for your resume will vary depending on your industry. Certain skills and personality traits are more valuable in some fields than they are in others.

The best way to ensure that you’re using relevant adjectives is to compare them to the job description.

Always tailor every section of your resume to fit your target job. This will show hiring managers why you’re the right fit for their specific position.

Adjectives for the IT industry

Positions in IT typically lean heavily on technical skills. Listing the programs and coding languages you know in your skills section is great, but choosing the right adjectives will have an even greater impact.

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IT resume adjectives:

  • Analytic

  • Precise

  • Systematic

  • Proactive

  • Meticulous

  • Complex

  • Cutting-edge

  • Innovative

  • Visionary

  • Critical

  • Logical

  • Expert

  • Methodical

Adjectives for the teaching and education industry

Teaching and education is a dynamic field. Instructors need to be patient and personable with students. Subject matter experts need to be highly skilled in their niche. The adjectives you choose will likely cover a broad range.

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Teacher resume adjectives:

  • Patient

  • Devoted

  • Genuine

  • Pleasant

  • Articulate

  • Proactive

  • Thoughtful

  • Clear

  • Thorough

  • Passionate

  • Communicative

  • Imaginative

  • Inventive

  • Empathic

Adjectives for the sales and marketing industry

Candidates for sales and marketing roles need to be comfortable meeting with clients and closing deals. Having strong people skills is something you want to emphasize. Understanding market trends and giving presentations are assets as well.

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Sales and marketing resume adjectives:

  • Diplomatic

  • Determined

  • Flexible

  • Positive

  • Collaborative

  • Persistent

  • Assertive

  • Personable

  • Analytical

  • Sensitive

  • Persuasive

  • Earnest

  • Diligent

Adjectives for the nursing and healthcare industry

Working in nursing and healthcare requires a lot of dedication and perseverance. It is a demanding industry and hiring managers will want to see what you can bring to the table.

Also, don’t discount soft skills on your resume. Compassion and good bedside manner are valuable in this field.

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Nurse resume adjectives:

  • Mindful

  • Supportive

  • Persuasive

  • Approachable

  • Compassionate

  • Resilient

  • Articulate

  • Clinical

  • Committed

  • Dependable

  • Collaborative

  • Cooperative

  • Expert

Adjectives for the business and management industry

For business and management roles, you’ll want to show your leadership qualities. Great managers can lead teams and make big decisions. Highlight past accomplishments by describing them with powerful adjectives.

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Business and management resume adjectives:

  • Economical

  • Innovative

  • Competent

  • Eloquent

  • Direct

  • Profitable

  • Ethical

  • Supportive

  • Cost-effective

  • Dedicated

  • Organized

  • Considerate

  • Resourceful

Common mistakes to avoid when using adjectives on your resume

For any given role, recruiters may read through hundreds of resumes from qualified candidates with similar skills and experience.

Imagine how repetitive that would be!

Something you definitely want to avoid when writing your resume is overused adjectives.

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Here are a few of the most common ones:

  • Hardworking

  • Team player

  • Accomplished

  • Rockstar

  • Amazing

  • Awesome

  • Smart

  • Honest

  • Go-getter

  • Results-driven

  • Talented

  • Playful

  • Funny

At first glance, some of these may not seem so bad. That’s exactly why they appear on so many resumes.

Using generic adjectives like “hardworking” and “accomplished” won’t help you. Mainly because they don’t mean anything without context.

The word “hardworking” can be interpreted in countless ways by different recruiters and hiring managers.

Not only that but it should be expected. If a company is looking to hire someone, of course, they want candidates who work hard. Avoid adjectives that suggest the bare minimum.

Other adjectives on the list above are to be avoided due to their informal nature.

Every section of your resume should be completely professional. Even if the company culture at your target job is casual.

Consider the impression it gives by using words like “amazing” and “funny” to describe yourself on your resume. Is that a candidate you would want to hire?

There are ways you can inject a bit of your personality into your resume without coming off as unprofessional or arrogant.

Lastly, a common mistake you want to avoid is overusing the same adjectives throughout your resume.

Once you identify a few powerful resume adjectives, it may be tempting to use them over and over again. This is repetitive and shows a lack of range.

Be selective and don’t use the same adjective more than once unless absolutely necessary.

Key takeaways for choosing the best resume adjectives

Using the right resume adjectives to describe yourself will greatly enhance the impact of your resume. Show hiring managers what you will bring to their company.

Consider what adjectives to use for your resume in the categories of skills, personality traits, and achievements. Support your claims with examples from previous roles.

Different positions and situations call for different resume adjectives. Choose the right ones for your seniority level and experience.

Tailor your resume adjectives to fit your target role. The most valuable traits vary across industries and it’s important to focus on the ones that are the most relevant.

Avoid common mistakes and don’t use adjectives that are generic or informal. Be mindful not to repeat the same ones multiple times.

Lastly, be creative and confident when using adjectives in your resume. They are meant to show recruiters your unique qualities, and there’s only one you!

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Volen Vulkov
Volen Vulkov is a resume expert and the co-founder of Enhancv. He has written more than 500 resume guides and deep-dive articles on how to create your resume and cover letter, that inspire job applicants to make a resume to be proud of. His work has been featured in Forbes, Zendesk, HubSpot, and Business Insider, and cited by top universities and educational institutions, like Thunderbird School of Management, Rochester University, University of Miami, and Udemy. Volen applies his deep knowledge and practical experience to write about career changes, development, and how to stand out in the job application process.
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