From one creative resume to the next, employers often come across the same statement from job candidates: “I am an effective team player.” The hiring manager yawns and thinks, “Big deal. Who isn’t?” But you swear, you really are an effective team player! Well, of course you are. The problem is that using the same tired terms on your resume as every other applicant does you no good. Read how choosing the right words can help you set yourself apart.

A survey by The Creative Group highlights the importance of displaying your writing skills when searching for a job. Nearly eight in 10 (78 percent) advertising and marketing executives said they’d rather receive a traditional resume in Word or PDF format from candidates applying for creative roles. Far fewer executives favored online profiles (14 percent) and video or infographic resumes (3 percent each) as their format of choice.

The bottom line: Words matter, even in a visual-centric world. And because employers may review dozens of creative resumes every day, there’s a good chance they’re reading the same blurbs and buzzwords over and over again.

The good news is that changing up a few key terms in your resume and cover letter can help you stand out from the crowd. Specifically, instead of placing emphasis on what you are (i.e., the noun) and the modifier (i.e., the adjective), focus on the verb.

If you think back to your second grade English class lessons, you’ll recall verbs are words that imply action. And actions are what employers want to see. They want to know what you’ve done and how you did it so they can determine for themselves whether “effective team player” is an accurate description.

While you obviously can’t ignore the nouns and adjectives, the point here is to zero in on the verb. Like nouns and adjectives, some verbs carry less weight than others. For instance, weaker words such as assisted, contributed, helped or handled suggest you played a marginal role in a project. In fact, those terms don’t explain what you actually did. Instead, ask yourself how you assisted. What did you do to move the project forward and achieve success?

Following are some before-and-after examples to get you in the right mindset:



ASSISTED in developing the social media strategy for a major consumer electronics product launch.

IDENTIFIED appropriate channels to execute the social media strategy for a major consumer electronics product launch.

CONTRIBUTED to profile articles that would appear on the corporate blog.

INTERVIEWED clients to quote in profile articles that would appear on the corporate blog.

SUPPORTED product launch through various marketing efforts, including press outreach, social media updates and speaking engagements.

EXECUTED marketing campaign, involving press outreach, social media updates and speaking engagements, to support product launch. 

HELPED with trade show logistics.

MANAGED the creation, delivery and storage of trade show displays.

COORDINATED speaking engagements for executives.

SECURED speaking engagements for executives and DEVELOPED supporting visuals (PowerPoint slides, handouts).

SERVED as a web design consultant for B2B and B2C companies.

COUNSELED B2B and B2C companies on web design strategy, tactics and measurement.

HANDLED imagery for a company brochure.

DESIGNED graphical elements, illustrations and infographics for a company brochure.

DEMONSTRATED ability as an effective team player.

SPEARHEADED and ORGANIZED cross-functional team meetings to improve communication and collaboration among employees.

Notice a difference between the “before” and “after” statements? Weaving in verbs with powerful connotations can also drive you to be more specific with the rest of your word choices.

Once you’ve refreshed your creative resume to spotlight your top skills, abilities and accomplishments, read it back to yourself aloud. This will help you identify any glaring grammatical issues, typos or vague, wishy-washy language. And while you should always use spell-check, ask a detail-oriented friend to review the document as well. Experienced staffing professionals in the creative industry can also provide pointers on improving your resume.

If you avoid tired terms and clichés on your creative resume and play up power verbs, hiring managers will take notice. They might even hire you!

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