Executive Resumes & Career Transition Strategies Blog

Reflections of an Executive Resume Writer
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Which Are More Important: Verbs or Nouns in Your Executive Resume?

With the increasing prevalence of ATS systems, some are now saying that nouns (as to be found in job announcements/job descriptions) are more important than verbs for your online resume. 

Of course you want to make sure your resume contains plenty of the nouns associated with your profession, those that would occur regularly in a job posting or that you find in the announcements that interest you. The nouns are basic qualifiers… words that show you know something about your field and have qualities to be desired in a leader.

From what I have seen of actual screening protocols in some of the ATS systems, however, the nouns they select on often make little to no sense. Nevertheless, if your resume does not contain them, it could be passed over by the system.

While nouns are important, don’t emphasize nouns to the exclusion of verbs – words that paint a picture of you… your drive, ability to deliver results, proactive approach to things. A resume that is not rich in relevant verbs as well as nouns may get past an ATS system, but it will bore a recruiter reading it to tears. Your resume will have become just a career obituary containing job descriptions written in HR-ese.

The last time I checked my grammar manual, every sentence is comprised of several major elements including a noun or nouns, one or more verbs, and adjectives. Use them all effectively in your executive resume and you’ll fare well with both the machine and the human.

And may I say again that if you are an executive and your primary source of leads is online job listings, you are greatly decreasing your chances of finding a great position. Your best approach is networking – online and in person – an approach in which a human will be the first to read your resume and WHAT your resumes claims you can do pales in importance to HOW WELL it shows you can do it. Inclusion of the resume in an ATS system, if done at all, will be an afterthought and formality.

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