Another Word for Utilize — Or Is It Utilise?

The words you utilize on your resume matter. Don’t you wish there was another word for utilize? It sounds so multi-syllabic. 

Regardless, the words you use on your resume matter.

Oh, that’s better! Use, not utilize!

Write As You Speak

I like the first sentence more than the second sentence.

Why? Because use is simpler and easier to say than utilize.

When we speak, we say used. We don’t say utilized.

So why do people frequently use, I mean utilize, no, I mean use, the word utilize on their resume when they can utilize, I mean use, the word use? I have no idea.

Strengthen Your Resume by Exchanging Utilize with Use

A quick way to power up your resume up is to find the words utilize and utilized and replace them with use and used.

You can use Word’s Edit/Find/Replace commands like this:

View all my “how to” videos on my Donna Svei YouTube Channel.

Handy, huh?

But wait, there’s another, often better option!

Don’t Even Ask, “Utilize vs. Use?” 

Rewrite the sentence.

“Use” is a sorry, weak, little verb.

You don’t have to be stuck on the horns of the use vs. utilize and utilize vs. use dilemmas.

You can sidestep confusion by avoiding both words.

Is it Utilize or Utilise?

Yeah, see. Now we don’t even have to go there.

Let’s Rewrite Some Real Resume Language

Example 1 (as received)

Utilize my skills in a senior administrative role to provide leadership and direction for all fiscal areas as well as office administration, human resources, and technology.

Example 1 (as re-written)

CFO with record of significant contributions to business operations, earnings, and growth.

Example 2 (as received)

Over 15 years of supervisory experience utilizing strong team development skills.

Example 2 (as re-written)

Recruited, trained, and motivated high-performing staff members who function collaboratively as an effective team.

Placing Keywords, A Good Use of the Word Use

Example 3 (as received)

Utilized PRISM to create modifications to contracts.

Example 3, (as re-written)

Used PRISM to create contract modifications.

This example is a good place to choose the word “used.”

Why?

Because PRISM, a software application, was a keyword that the ATS was searching for to identify qualified candidates.

“Used” is often helpful in placing a keyword or phrase in a resume.

Summary

Have you searched your resume for the words utilize and utilized? How many times did you find them? None? Fantastic!

One or more?

First, ask yourself if you can eliminate “utilized” and “used” altogether by re-writing the sentence to describe results.

If not, swap in “used” for “utilized” to make your resume read more naturally.

***

I write executive resumes and LinkedIn profiles. Save time. Look good. Get hired.
Click to learn more about my executive resume writing service or email me. 

***

Image: Fotolia/gustavofravao
Updated August 2018

© 2010 – 2018, Donna Svei. All rights reserved.

Let's Connect:

Comments 23

  1. Good points, Donna! I have had my eye on Utilized for years. It’s right up there with “responsible for” Love your Example 1, as re-written: “CFO with record of significant contributions to business operations, earnings, and growth” so much better.

    I will never hear the word’s “over x years” without thinking about Dawn Bugni… Her rant about that caught hold and now I use more than if I was thinking about saying “over.”

  2. Ditto. I constantly correct people about this. William K. Zinsser’s Book, “On Writing Well” gives great examples of how American Business English is basically inflated with fat words containing very little meaning in order to make the person seem smarter. Word choice says a lot about who you are.

  3. Hi All,

    It’s nice to see that I’m not the only person who doesn’t utilize. Thank you for your pointed points!

    Cheers,

    Donna

  4. Awesome post as usual, Donna. 🙂

    Utilize and Use give me as much of a headache as the variations of “fast-paced” I have seen on the printed page…makes me want to go into a coronary. lol (How I love my thesaurus!)

    Job seekers, take heed…there are better words out there for you to incorporate in your resume and nail that job search once and for all!

    Karen, The Resume Chick (on Twitter or Google if you have questions, comments or violent reactions)

  5. Donna –

    THANK YOU for taking on the word utilize. I cringe every time I hear it (that, and like Julie, “responsible for”. UGH!)

    Years ago I bought the Oxford American Writer’s Thesaurus. On the back cover is a blurb that stopped me from using utilize ever again:
    “Utilize: This is a puff-word. Since it does nothing that good old “use” doesn’t do, it’s extra letters and syllables don’t make a writer seem smarter. Rather using utilize makes you seem like either a pompous twit or someone so insecure that he’ll use pointlessly big words in an attempt to look smart … “Formal writing” dos not mean gratuitously fancy writing; it means clean, clear maximally considerate writing” ~ David Foster Wallace

    As resume writers “maximally considerate” is imperative when communicating with an audience reading hundreds and hundreds of career documents. I can only imagine the joy a hiring authority feels when they find someone able to convey their value in an interesting manner using plain English.

    EXCELLENT post Donna. EXCELLENT!! Thank you.

  6. Thanks you guys. “Utilize” will never survive David Foster Wallace and @DawnBugni!

    By the way (or BTW, but I did rant on acronyms earlier this week), every commenter here is a great blogger and/or Twitterer. Click their names and find some great sources of career and job search information!

  7. Hi Donna,

    I think i know why people use “utilize” instead of “use” – it is because it sounds more sophisticated and candidates think they can impress recruiters by using fancy words and phrases. This is how some people try to be “extraordinary” and this is how they promote themselves as “outstanding” candidates.

    And the most interesting part is that it works, the same way advertisers and marketers use the same buzz words over and over again. Even the title of this post utilizes some “strong” words: why “strengthen” and not “improve” or “axing” and not “removing”? Because “You Can Improve Your Resume by Removing this Word” does not sound very catchy.

    @Julie what’s wrong with “responsible for” – i guess you could simply say that you “did” what you were “responsible for”, but what if you were responsible for it and you did not do it?

  8. Gabriel,

    I think you’re right about why people use utilize and…I don’t think it works. However, if there was ever a subjective world, it’s the world of how readers respond to resumes. This would be great poll material.

    Thank you for adding to the conversation.

    Donna

  9. Hi Donna. I was fascinated by this, because I have read through hundreds of applications, personal statements and CVs and I have rarely seen the word utilize. One of those interesting differences from two English speaking countries across each side of the Atlantic!

    Beverley

  10. Beverley,

    That’s funny. My friend Laura, who spends time on both sides of the pond, likes to say: The U.S. and England, separated by the Atlantic Ocean and a common language.

    Cheers,

    Donna

  11. Thanks, Donna. Seems so simple, really, but it’s amazing how it’s the little things that get missed when attempting to write a resume for the first time in a long, long time! 🙂

  12. Thank you Donna, this is a very interesting point and so helpful! I appreciate your pieces.
    Brooke

  13. There is nothing wrong with having a good vocabulary and using large words if you use them correctly. Why should I candidate dumb down their resume?

    I do agree on the point that use/utilize is generally a weak word choice.

  14. Interesting point Laura.

    I run all of my blog posts, and resumes I write, through MS Word’s spelling and grammar checker in order to review their reading grade level.

    I shoot for a 7th grade reading level for AvidCareerist so people can easily read and enjoy my blog posts during a pause in their day.

    Most of the resumes I write come out at a 12th or 13th grade reading level, even after I’ve simplified them. Describing complex skills and results can’t be done with 7th grade language. However, where we can simplify, it makes the readers’ task easier — and that’s a good outcome!

    Donna

  15. Hi, Donna. You brought out a very good topic in here and the points that were presented by your readers are fantastic. However, I do agree in one point with Gabriel about using word/s with an intent to show language sophistication by some people. In my view the connotative meaning of the word “utilize” doesn’t sound less than the word “use”. In the Middle East most people use the word “use” more than “utilize” because it’s simple and common.

    Rafael

    Hi Rafael, I write from the perspective of U.S. culture. Readers seeking employment in different cultures have to use their judgment about what works in their market. Thank you for commenting. Donna

  16. This is a very well put article, Donna! Even though this is an old post, I came across it searching for ways to more effectively reword my resume, and I definitely found this advice to be really helpful. People always try to use more sophisticated wording on their resume because they feel it shines through to their intelligence. But as you put it, using more simple words is the better route to take because your experience will speak for itself.

    Thank you David. Donna

  17. Sorry, but I think the rewritten Example 2 is quite flawed. First, the verbs at the start of the sentence are past tense, while “function” is present tense. Also, “collaboratively” in my opinion is wordy and pretentious, and made worse when combined with “function.” (To me, in that context, “function” is as bad as “utilize.”) Just say the “staff members that worked together as an effective team,” which is much cleaner and more direct.

    That’s tricky Gary. That was a client accomplishment statement for a current job. The recruiting, training, etc. had already happened. The functioning was present tense. Collaboration is such an important soft skill that I like to mention it in resumes, especially when the claim can be validated via reference checks. I like your version too, it is cleaner and it reads well, but I treat “collaborate” and its variants as keywords. Donna

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