Your resume is more than a piece of paper — it's the first impression you make with a potential employer.
Every second, and every word, counts. Hiring managers only spend about seven seconds reviewing a resume before deciding to accept or reject a job candidate, according to a study from job search site Ladders.
The U.S. economy has seen a surge in new jobs and rising wages in recent months, data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows, opening the door for workers to seek new opportunities or pivot into a different career. In a rapidly changing job market, having a clear, well-worded resume can help you capture a hiring manager's eye and score an interview.
A common trap job seekers fall into is using flowery words and jargon to sound smarter on their resumes, which only confuses hiring managers, says career coach Stacey Perkins. Instead, she recommends sticking to strong action verbs that will highlight your skills and better resonate with your potential employer.
Perkins has reviewed thousands of resumes throughout her career as a professional recruiter and now coaches clients through resume critiques and job interviews at Korn Ferry, one of the nation's top executive recruitment firms.
"Nobody wants to see long run-on paragraphs on a resume with a lot of vague words," Perkins tells CNBC Make It. "Recruiters need to quickly see what you do, what you've accomplished and the value you'd bring to this position by glancing at your resume."
That means swapping out common words like "used," "completed," and "assisted" with words that show results: "developed," "improved," or "spearheaded," she says.
Perkins adds that hiring managers are interested in candidates with "cross-functional experience" who are able to work with many different people and teams. "'Collaborated' is a really important action verb that can show how you worked in a group and what impact you made," she explains.
Replacing passive terms on your resume will help you more powerfully convey the value you can bring to an employer and how you'd perform in the role, says LinkedIn career expert Andrew McCaskill.
Job seekers should remove weak phrases like "duties included," and "was responsible for" from their resumes entirely, McCaskill says. "Talk about how you contributed [to the company] as opposed to what you did day to day," McCaskill continues. "Examples like 'increased profitability by X%' or 'implemented new system for X, which resulted in X% increase in efficiency' can help an employer envision how you could potentially contribute to their organization."
To show you're a proactive employee, Glassdoor career trends expert Alison Sullivan recommends detailing job responsibilities and accomplishments with verbs like "organized," "delegated" and "initiated."
It's important, however, not to be overzealous while adding descriptors to your resume, Sullivan says. "Action verbs should be intentional, you don't want to sprinkle on too many, because then they lose their power," she adds. "Really think about what skills you want to highlight and how using an action verb can bring that to light."
These small resume tweaks can help you secure your next job.
"Competition is fierce right now," Perkins says. "Anything you can do to make yourself stand out from the other 400 people applying for the same job — like describing the impact of your work with powerful action verbs — can make all the difference in the hiring process."