By Alice E.M. Underwood 

There’s no silver bullet to get you the job you want, but power words might be the closest thing.

What are power words, you ask? Power words are buzzwords and special phrases that signal to a company that you’re on their wavelength. Use them to tailor your application to a specific company and show that you know their mission, their approach and their values — and that you’ve done your homework. These are the words that they’re watching for to find out which applicants are best suited to join the team.

Why Power Words Are Your Friends

Power words are like hypnosis. Use the words your potential employers want to hear and they’ll come knocking at your door.

Okay, it’s a bit more complicated than that. But the right power words can help your resume stand out, and that can give you the edge you need to get the job.

Here’s why. Some companies use an Applicant Tracking System (ATS), which searches resumes for certain keywords and forwards only the resumes of candidates who jam-packed their applications with the power words companies are looking for.

And for companies that do have a human reading applications, that human is often trying to get through a lot of resumes in a short time. They may not be a computer, but they will have superbly trained eyes that speedily scan for buzzwords and phrases.

So, the better you train yourself to use those words and phrases, the more your resume will stand out.

How do you find the right power words to make your resume pop? Try these tips to find and use power words in any job application.

Get Power Word Gems from the Job Description

A big, juicy job description is like a math textbook with the answers in the back. It lists the requirements, skills and daily tasks of the job you’re applying for, so all you need to do is say that you meet those requirements, have those skills and are up to that set of daily tasks. Piece of cake, right?

Of course, you don’t want to copy the job description word for word. Instead, imagine which words and phrases would be highlighted. Those are your power words. As you write your resume and your cover letter, work the words from the job description into your description of who you are and what you do.

For example, if the job description says you’ll “influence strategic decisions by working with cross-functional partners,” you might include phrases like “guided strategy,” “engaged in cross-functional collaboration,” or “coordinated decision-making with multiple teams.” By using some of the same words and some synonyms, you demonstrate that you can do what they’re asking, and you have the smarts to phrase it in a different way.

Select Company-Specific Power Words

You’re not just applying to do a job; you’re applying to work at a company. While applying, make sure you familiarize yourself with the company and what makes it unique, and incorporate some of that information in your application materials.

How do you find that information? Most job descriptions include some information about the company, and sometimes explain why that job is important to that company’s development. Use that information to explain why you’re not just a good fit for the daily work; you’re a good fit for the company culture, too.

You can expand on that by looking at the “about” information on the company website and its mission statement, if it has one. For example, if the mission involves “introducing our product to a global market,” you can mention how your abilities will suit you to developing the product, and also how reaching an international audience is something you value.

Double benefit: you show that your skills suit the work you’ll be doing, and that your personality is in line with what the company is trying to accomplish overall.

Use Industry Jargon (Appropriately)

A/B testing. Malfeasance. Amortization. Socratic method. SEO, UX, UI.

Doesn’t matter if you’re a marketer, lawyer, teacher or techie: every industry has its jargon. Get a handle on the specific words people in your line of business use to describe the work they do, because guess what? Those are power words! In your resume and cover letter, include jargon that shows that you not only know how the industry works but also how it talks.

But strike a balance: show what you know, but don’t make your writing so chock-full of jargon that there’s no sign of a human in there.

Pick Verbs with Verve

Verbs will help you express yourself, convey your skills and win at life. See how great verbs are?

Most resumes are essentially souped-up lists of stuff you did. And it sounds a lot better to say you orchestrated, designed, spearheaded or led instead of just did. That’s right: most power words are power verbs.

Now you know why power words can help you land a job, where to look for the right power words in the job and company descriptions and how to show what you can do with the right set of vivacious verbs. But which verbs in particular, you might ask?

If you need more tips on seeking superb synonyms to power up your resume, we’ve got a handy list of 65 powerful words to take your resume to the next level. So now that you know how power words work, find your favorites and get them working for you.

Originally published at

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