Using adjectives on a resume can be tricky. It might sound nice to describe yourself or your skills as "outstanding," but in reality, vague terms like this are unhelpful to hiring managers because they fail to demonstrate any kind of actual achievement. On the other hand, certain descriptors can be very useful when used appropriately. But how do you know whether an adjective is advantageous or overkill? Let's break it down.
The biggest thing to remember when including descriptors in your resume is that they must be relevant and concrete. If you write something like "read scripts and provided excellent notes," your resume will be met with an eye roll. Who decided that these notes were excellent? It's a totally generic statement that you have no way of proving to be true. There's nothing wrong with simply writing "provided notes." By losing the word "excellent," your bullet point becomes shorter and easier to read. You can always elaborate further during an interview or show how excellent your skills really are by sending sample coverage when it's requested.
However, leaving out meaningless adjectives doesn’t mean your resume should be bland and generic. So how do you achieve that balance between underselling your achievements and peppering your resume with unprovable and subjective statements?
Identify what was unique or interesting about how you've applied the skills required by the job posting in your previous roles, and spice up your bullet points with adjectives that describe those responsibilities in a distinctive way. In keeping with our script notes example, maybe you gave feedback on a variety of types of material -- you can adapt the bullet to say "read TV and feature scripts and provided detailed notes to executives." Now the hiring manager knows what formats you have experience in and a clearer idea of what these notes looked like and were used for.
This strategy applies across the board. Maybe you've been an assistant that "supported three executives" -- you'd definitely want to specify this number in your bullet point, since it shows you have more experience with multi-tasking and time management than an assistant who only supported one executive. If you're a field producer, maybe you produced a show that was shot in "multiple remote locations" -- a step up from someone who's only worked locally. The common thread with these examples is that the descriptors actually mean something. They follow the age-old adage of "show, don't tell," and in just a word or two, they give the hiring manager useful information that could set your application apart from the others.
As is the case with intangible skills, generic adjectives aren't going to help your resume stand out. But targeted adjectives that explain the scope of your work can give your resume the boost it needs to get you an interview. Just remember to keep those bullet points short, simple, and readable.
--Angela Silak & Cindy Kaplan
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