Great Resumes Fast » Resume Writing Tips » Is Your Resume Filled with Passive Words and Phrases?

It’s no secret that hiring managers favor candidates who appear to be aggressive, not just in their job search, but in the workplace as well.  This means, as you write your resume, the last thing you want to do is add words and phrases that come across as passive.

So how can you recognize a passive tone in your resume?  And how can you avoid filling your resume with these words and phrases?

How Might Your Resume’s Tone Be Passive?

Many job seekers submit resumes without any idea that their tone could come across as passive.  What might be considered as a passive tone?  One where you express what someone has told you to do versus showing that you have the initiative to start projects on your own.

For instance, you may be accustomed to describing your work history by noting that your “responsibilities included answering phones, organizing files, and keeping track of executive appointments”.

But it would better showcase your true accomplishments if you reworded your description to read that you: “routed internal and external phone calls and messages throughout the 2,000-member organization, developed and categorized a filing system to organize all documents for the legal department, and managed departmental and client meetings for top company executives.”

Other Words and Phrases to Strengthen Your Resume’s Tone

There are many words and phrases to keep in mind that could strengthen the tone of your resume.  Some include: managed, optimized, leveraged, utilized, delivered, accelerated, launched, modified, designed, and evaluated.

Also, it’s good to incorporate industry-specific keywords that show your wealth of knowledge.  For instance, if you are in working in the pharmaceutical industry, you might throw in the word “pharma” here and there.  If you are in marketing, consider including “trade shows” or even “tchotchkes” if suitable.

The purpose of writing a resume is to sell yourself as the right candidate for a position—or at the very least, as someone who should be invited in for an interview.  It’s not easy to do this if you come across as a passive candidate who doesn’t initiate projects.  So take time to change your tone to prove you are the go-getter companies want in their next employee.

For additional tips and advice on resumes and cover letters, follow us on Twitter @GreatResume or visit our blog.


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About the author

Jessica Hernandez, President, CEO & Founder of Great Resumes Fast

Hi, I’m Jessica. I started this company back in 2008 after more than a decade directing hiring practices at Fortune 500 companies.

What started as a side hustle (before that was even a word!) helping friends of friends with their resumes has now grown into a company that serves hundreds of happy clients a year. But the personal touch? I’ve kept that.

You might have seen me featured as a resume expert in publications like Forbes, Fast Company, and Fortune. And in 2020, I was honored to be named as a LinkedIn Top Voice of the year!

I’m so glad you’re here, and I can’t wait to help you find your next perfect-fit position!


  1. Antonio D. Robinson on November 12, 2018 at 12:46 pm

    I am a transitioning Soldier that needs help with my resume. Can you help me Jessica?

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