5 ways you can use power words to make your job application pop

Home 5 ways you can use power words to make your job application pop
3 Dec 2021
For job-seekers

There’s no silver bullet to land the job you want, but power words might be the closest thing. They are specific words and phrases that signal to an employer that you’re on their wavelength. Using them to tailor your application to a specific company will show that you know their mission, their approach and their values – and that you’ve done your homework. Whether your CV is first met by an applicant tracking system or a human, both will be scanning your documents for keywords and power phrases that jump off the page, quickly showing them that you have the skills and qualifications to get the job done. It’s also no great secret that most CV language is repetitive and dull. If yours is the same as everyone else’s, it will be harder for you to stand out. Try these top tips from our consultants to make your job application pop.


1. Use action verbs


When you write a CV or a cover letter, action verbs show a hiring manager that you're proactive and assertive when it comes to job responsibilities. This kind of verb shows your ability to succeed and demonstrates the skills you have used in previous jobs to achieve this success. Research shows that action verbs such as ‘co-ordinated’, ‘developed’, ‘supervised’, ‘drafted’, ‘accomplished’, formulated’, ‘approved’, ‘organised’ and ‘implemented’ give your CV power and direction. Avoid general action verbs in place of those that have a precise meaning. We’ve got more to say on being specific a little later.


2. Analyse the keywords


Keywords are words from the job listing that relate to particular skills or other requirements for the job. By embedding them in your CV or cover letter, you will demonstrate, at a glance, that you fit the requirements of the position. Prioritising these words increases your chances of getting a favourable review. As important as it is to have plenty of keywords in your application, double check you’re not being too repetitive. You want your application to flow and build a story of your professional history. So, only add keywords to a sentence where they naturally fit and don’t use the same keyword more than once. However, you need to do more than regurgitate the job description to make your application stand out, as we explain in our next tip.


3. Choose language that goes beyond the job description


A job description represents the bare minimum of what a role requires. Employers are much more interested in your accomplishments, achievements, results and initiatives and how you have gone above and beyond the bounds of your job description. Among the list of ineffective words and phrases, you can safely place any form or variation of the words ‘duty’ and ‘responsibility’. Why? Because these words comprise job description language, not the accomplishments-oriented CV language that sells. After all, if you were an employer and wanted to run a successful organisation, would you look for candidates who can perform only their basic job functions, or would you want employees who can make real contributions? You won’t find employers or their applicant tracking systems searching your application documents for words like ‘responsibilities’, ‘duties’ or ‘accountable for’. You have limited space on your CV so scrap the generic, ineffective language and employ more substantial, results-driven and action-focused wording. Some common power words that add narrative to your CV are ‘experienced’, ‘expert’, ‘skilled’, ‘facilitated’, ‘launched’ and ‘demonstrated’. For example, ‘assisted in event planning’ says very little, whereas ‘negotiated payment schedules for seminar speakers and monitored event budget’ says a lot about what you did. ‘Part of the software development team’ is less impactful than ‘Developed and tested flagship products as part of the software team’.


4. Include company-specific power words

You’re not just applying to do a job; you’re applying to work at a company. During the application process, make sure you familiarise yourself with the company and what makes it unique, and incorporate some of that tailored information in your application materials. You’ll find this language on the company’s website or in any of its collateral. Do your values, beliefs and aspirations match the company’s? Use these company-selected power words to describe how you fit in with their culture and mindset. For example, if the company self-identifies as an ‘innovator’, you could leverage this in your CV or cover letter with examples of how you’ve been ‘innovative’ in a previous role. See? It’s that simple, but it shows you speak their language, literally and beyond.

5. Be very specific


Some words and phrases are so overused in CVs and cover letters that they are starting to lack any meaning or substantiation. They masquerade as power words when they tend to have the opposite effect. Here are some examples (and we’re sure you can think of countless others): ‘dynamic’, ‘go-to person’, ‘team player’, ‘hard working’, ‘track record’, ‘passionate’, ‘dedicated’, and ‘perfect fit for the team’. You get the picture. When considering any of these, ask yourself if they are necessary or whether a different word/phrase would be better. Often employers object to the fluffy descriptive phrases applicants use about themselves because they are unsubstantiated value judgments. Some words/phrases that seem empty and clichéd like the examples above might be acceptable if they are substantiated with specific accomplishments and results. If you’re just using them as standalone descriptors – don’t.


The bottom line…


Give careful thought to every word and phrase you choose in your CV and cover letter. Particularly avoid job description language that makes you seem willing to do only the bare minimum the job requires – pick out the language they have used that you can spin to highlight your specific achievements and results. Focus on action verbs – these nifty parts of speech will help you to present your skills with confidence and style. And, don’t forget, we’re your friendly local team of job-seeking experts and we’re more than happy to help you power up your CV!


How can we help?


If you’re looking for your next office role in Surrey or the surrounding areas, Amber is here to help. You can give us a call on 01932 355000 or email hello@amber-employment.co.uk to plan your next career move.

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