Can You Match Your Resume to a Job Description?

Use the right keywords to tap the ”hidden accomplishments” in every job description.


Resume experts tell us that it is important to capture the attention of hiring managers through certain keywords that express “dynamic” concepts. This is often referred to as putting “action verbs” in your resume. These may be words such as “transform”, “forge”, “diagnose” and “complete”. In semantics, such ideas are related to events that have end points and as such are viewed as accomplishments. It is very likely that the concepts behind this class of words convey that you have accomplished things and are a “doer”.

What this does not tell you, however, is whether similar sorts of concepts live inside job descriptions. Job descriptions do not usually ask for accomplishments per se, but there are usually words within them that give clues as to what the hiring manager wants for a particular position. If you ask recruiters, they will have a very hard time articulating what the “action verbs” are in their jobs descriptions — but you can bet that they are there and that those groups of keywords are very important to matching job seekers with the right jobs.

Ladders did research and compiled a comprehensive list of 1,125,000 words from job description texts to test this. We used position profiles from different functions such as sales, marketing, finance and technology and analyzed the sorts of verbs contained in them. Extracting only transitive verbs (verbs that have objects to receive an action and complete the meaning) we derived a list of those that were most common — occurring at least 100 times each. Below is a small sample:

marketing, prospecting, training, identifying, meeting, making, hiring, calling, driving, helping, achieving, delivering, creating, executing, implementing, solving, winning, selling, including, developing, using, managing, leading, growing, closing, providing, building, consulting, coaching, negotiating

Remember, these are words from jobs across all functions, not just specific to a single area. One of the most interesting things about this list is that it looks quite similar to the list of verbs that professional resume writers recommend for use on a resume. In other words, it looks like job descriptions are indeed seeking “accomplishments” in the job seekers they target. Why is that interesting? “Action” verbs don’t just grab the attention of hiring managers on paper — they may actually help aid in pairing your resume to a job. Because companies like Ladders and others have products that match resumes to jobs automatically, the first step in getting noticed by hiring managers may be getting paired with the right job by an applicant tracking system (ATS). Many recruiters and hiring managers call candidates that are selected and shown to them by automated matching tools. These tools in turn are breaking your resume down into words and the relationships between them. This means that the right keywords are twice as important — they can get your resume found as well as getting it noticed.