How To Boost Resume Engagement Using Keywords and Action Verbs

By Martin Buckland - Executive Career Management Professional

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Your choice of words plays a pivotal role in boosting the ability of your resume to pass the automated scanning process and attract attention from the human reader.

As I discuss in greater detail in my blog post Is Your Resume Scannable? ( KEYWORDS are the industry and functional-specific buzzwords programmed into the ATS software. Resumes which have been updated to match the keywords or key phrases the employer is seeking are the ones that make it to the short list of viable candidates for further vetting by a hiring decision maker. Resumes which exclude the right buzzwords are usually filed in the recycle bin.

Here’s some examples of keywords or key phrases by function:

Accounting: Accounts Payable, Collections, Capital Budget, Cost Accounting, Financial Statements, General Accounting, IFRS, Sarbanes Oxley, Taxation and Treasury.

Human Resources: Assessment & Selection, Behavioural Interviewing, Collective Bargaining, Compensation, Employee Retention, HRIS Technology Solutions, Labour Relations, and Workforce Planning.

Sales: Account Management, Category Management, Consultative Sales, Contract Negotiations, Product Positioning, Prospecting, Sales Planning & Forecasting, and Territory Management.

Want more keywords? Just download my FREE e-Book Do You Know Your Keywords? where you’ll find a list of keywords and key phrases for over 20 functional job categories (

Once your resume has passed the scan, it now needs to entice a reader and the last thing a hiring decision maker wants to read is a boring resume filled with “Responsible for…” statements. Use ACTION VERBS to take the blandness out of your resume and engage the reader in your career achievements. Examples of action verbs are: Abolished, Alleviated, Appointed, Bolstered, Conceived, Controlled, Demonstrated, Doubled, Expanded, Generated, Implemented, Managed, Pioneered, Recommended, Reorganized, Simplified, Strengthened, and Won. In fact, I’ve even used the word “Annihilated” in a resume. Bet that got your attention!

Your next challenge is to describe your work experience by writing accomplishment-based bullets beginning with an action verb and incorporating keywords.

Before: Responsible for reducing IT costs.

After: Forced a consolidation of IT infrastructure from 200 databases into a single application and reduced 26 data centres to 4, amassing $80 million in cost savings in the first 5 years.

Keywords, action verbs and accomplishment statements are all great tools to boost interest and engagement in you as a viable job candidate. What words will you use?



Martin Buckland, President of Elite Resumes, is a leading resume writer, career coach and job search strategist with a global clientele. Martin currently holds the following certifications: Certified Professional Branding Strategist, Certified Professional Resume Writer, Certified Employment Interview Professional, Job and Career Transition Coach, Certified Job Search Trainer and Co-Pilot Executive Coach. Visit my website at

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