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Resume Language Tips to Land Your First Post-College Job

Written by CB Community

For a lot of college students, the lead-up to graduation is filled with nagging concerns and worries over when and where they will land that first post-college job.

Both undergraduates and graduate students alike experience this – and for good reason.

Finding gainful employment in your field can take some serious time, perseverance and confrontation with rejection. 

Luckily, if you know how to write a good resume and cover letter, you are way ahead of the game.

If you don’t already have an “in” in an industry or company, to stand a competitive chance of having your resume read, it needs to contain certain things.

One of these is the right language to accurately and convincingly convey your skill sets, expertise and qualities. 

Start Working on Your Vocabulary Now

Anyone whose job it is to go through resumes will tell you, not only is there a lot of recurring language used (and often inappropriately), but a surprising number of recent college graduates are not writing at what you would assume are college-graduate levels.

Part of this comes down to the fact that many people simply don’t take the time to build their vocabulary during their postsecondary education. 

You should be constantly working on improving your ability to express yourself. One way to do this is to make use of some of the great free word games and vocabulary tools on the web.

These applications, through repetition and discovery, help you add to your stock of language, making your ability to convey ideas more fluid and varied. 

Make Use of Action Words 

Another thing anyone who reads a lot of resumes will tell you is that many people completely miss the point of a resume.

A resume is an opportunity for you to tell a prospective employer how your previous work, personal and volunteer experience will add value to whatever role you are applying for. 

When relaying previous experience, don’t simply describe the job, describe what you did and, importantly, how you did it.

There are myriad action words that you can use to effectively communicate what you did (especially any accolades or accomplishments), but you should make sure to select those which fit best in whatever industry you are applying to. 

Avoid Passage Language

Part of effectively employing language on a resume involves knowing what kinds of language to avoid. That which you should avoid, perhaps above all others, is the passive voice.

This is not to say that you can never describe things in the passive, but when you are trying to highlight your qualities, you want yourself to be the subject of any descriptions.

Instead of “was given an award for…” write “received an award for…” Here you are actively “receiving” something and it makes you the focal point. 

The downside of passive language on a resume is that it can, in the mind of the person evaluating you, diminish the things you have accomplished or been a part of when, if described in the active, are really quite impressive or attractive. 

Avoid Business Speak 

“Business Speak” is shorthand for any of the litany of cliches and overused descriptors that are employed when talking or writing about anything to do with the workplace.

It includes terms such as “team player,” “self-motivated,” “quick learner,” and a wide range of others.

The fact of the matter is, there are different, more novel and more interesting ways to essentially say the same thing.

Make that a general rule for yourself while writing your resume (or anything): Where possible, always try and find a more original way to say something. 

Avoiding these cliches and idioms is especially important for your cover letter since a good cover letter is usually what will convince a person to take the next step and read your resume.

Treat your cover letter like an abstract of your resume, and try to use synonyms and alternate syntax where possible. Always work off a good cover letter guide to make sure your application looks professional. 

Do Use Industry-Specific Terminology

As a general rule, you should avoid jargon in your writing wherever possible. If there is a simpler way to say something, using common phrases and vocabulary, you should.

This rule can certainly be broken, however, when talking to experts or professionals, just make sure not to overdo it.

When unsure of whether or not you are using a term correctly, it is best to either do more research or avoid using it. 


Writing a good resume is only half the battle, but it is arguably the most difficult one.

Once you have impressed or intrigued someone enough with what you look like or seem like on paper, you next have to do it in person–sometimes multiple times, depending on how extensive a company’s interview process is.

But if you keep the above resume language tips in mind, your CV will almost always make its way into an interviewer’s shortlist of potential candidates, bringing you one step closer to gainful post-college employment.

About the author

CB Community

Passionate members of the College Basics community that include students, essay writers, consultants and beyond. Please note, while community content has passed our editorial guidelines, we do not endorse any product or service contained in these articles which may also include links for which College Basics is compensated.