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We’ve all read about the words and phrases to avoid using in our executive resumes. For those of us searching for new leadership roles, diction and word choice are important ways to present yourself.

As you draft and update your executive resume, using the right keywords and phrasing, not only ensures that your resume is received positively by software, but also that it impresses recruiters and hiring managers with your skills, abilities and bonafide credentials.

For instance, top recruiters, like Kornferry, that they don’t want to see vague descriptions which would immediately discredit your chances. Some people might think that a candidate’s experience outweighs the actual text of the resume, but that’s often not the case. If hiring managers don’t see key indicators that a candidate is qualified by the appropriate word choice or diction in the first read-through, then it’s likely the resume  will be eliminated before its even considered.

There are some must-have words and examples that can help C-level executives get their resumes at the top of the stack. For executives, here are a few areas of leadership that will help you stand out with the right keywords: 


Words that Demonstrate You’re a Trailblazer or Innovator

The C-level candidate who will stand out from the rest of the pack are the ones who look like true innovators. A few words that exemplify this characteristic include:

  • Spearheaded
  • Pioneered
  • Revitalized
  • Ignited
  • Transformed
  • Optimized
  • Modernized


Words that Indicate You’re a Good Manager of People:

If you want to land a leadership role, then you need to show that you’ve developed and cultivated teams and people. You’ll want to show your ability to inspire them and how that lends to results or innovations. Words to use include:

  • Mentored
  • Coached
  • Supported
  • Shaped
  • Motivated
  • Advocated
  • Uplifted
  • United
  • Galvanized

Don’t forget to use the word “we” when you talk about your team and past leadership experiences. There’s no “I” in teamwork and this will indicate you’re a people person whose accomplishments are a united effort.


Words that Show You Manage the Money

Not every leadership position requires you to deal with money, but most of them will. In many organizations, managers, VPs and C-level leaders have budget and quota accountability or they may be working to improve performance metrics that are associated with revenue. So, most executive level candidates need to convey that they’re strategic and smart with financial matters. Use words like:

  • Budgeted
  • Reduced
  • Cut costs
  • Drove growth
  • Negotiated
  • Invested
  • P&L Accountability


Words that Show You’re Influential

The best leaders aren’t just capable with money and people. They also act as the most influential people within their organization. They understand how to get team members, stakeholders or other business departments to remain effective. During the interview process, you’ll want to make it clear (in a humble way) that people stop and pay attention to you and go along with your ideas and strategies.

  • Negotiated
  • Convinced
  • Won 
  • Mobilized
  • Spurred
  • Propelled
  • Gained
  • Achieved buy-in


Give Examples & Numbers

Your resume should also demonstrate some examples and results-oriented measurements aka numbers. 

In general, it’s hard to convince a resume reader that you have various soft skills, re: team player. So other than just using the right keywords, you’ll want to give examples and show how you’re a team player. You might use phrases like “working on cross-functional teams”, “onboarding new hires” or “developing cross-training programs.” 

Additionally, you’ll want to use those numbers to prove results. Don’t just say you have excellent digital marketing skills, show the percentage by which you grew online sales. Listing credible skills with the right keywords will help set you apart.

It’s important to remember that words (and numbers) really do matter. Using the right ones in the perfect context can help you convey that you have the experience, the talent and the charisma to reach new heights in any organization.