The average job opening will attract 250 resumes.
You are one of them.
So is that just a 1/250 chance?
You have tools at your disposal to get your resume ahead of the pack.
After reading this article, you will be fully equipped with the information that you need to use the best action words to make your resume stand out above the others.
When writing resume verbs, word-choice matters.
You do not want to be boring, or just like other applicants.
Action verbs may also be referred to as power words, power verbs, or action words. They sell your skills a lot better than generic words, and they help you to stand out.
Put yourself in the shoes of the hiring manager.
Imagine that you have 250 documents that are supposed to be about individuals.
“Made X, did Y, led Z.”
“Team-player, perfectionist, outside the box.”
“Blah, blah, blah.”
They don’t seem like individuals. It just looks like one big lump of neutral verbs and generic buzzwords.
Using strong action verbs can easily make you stand out.
Instead of “made,” you can say “created.”
Instead of “did,” you can say “completed.”
Keep reading for exact advice on how to implement this on your own resume.
(Not sure how to even start your resume? Read The 5 Best Resume Formats in 2020.)
There are a lot of ways to say the same thing.
You can say “I washed the dishes.”
You can also say, “I oversaw a process within which kitchen utensils and crockery were exposed to liquid and heat for a time to achieve a final outcome after which they had regained the status that they had prior to use.”
Now you wouldn’t actually list this accomplishment on your resume.
But if you did, it would sound better like this:
“Promoted cleanliness in the kitchen.”
Use a power verb to say what you did, back it up with a number if relevant. Keep it simple, but keep it strong.
Instead of “was part of a team that did a good job,” you can say “contributed as part of a large team to drive sales by 15%.”
Use the lists below as a guide when writing your resume. You can also print off this 130 Resume Power Verbs cheat sheet to use while writing your resume or preparing for an interview.
First and foremost, you do not want a resume with countless rows of “duties” to begin with the term “responsible for” or "achieved" when describing your achievements.
Yes, it’s true, but it is repetitive.
Repetitive content is boring.
Mix things up and state your responsibilities in a more varied way.
Saying things in different ways also gives different angles on your responsibilities, making you look more versatile.
So there are other terms for “responsible for”.
But they’re not all good.
Use the examples above to find what works and what doesn’t.
Maybe you are very analytical. Well, you don’t want to just slap the word “analyzed” on your resume ad nauseam.
It is good to use different words with the same meaning if you find that you are repeating yourself.
You also want to ensure that the information that you include actually adds value to your resume.
Otherwise, it’d be like saying, “Analyzed the number of planes in the sea and concluded that it was a greater number than submarines in the sky.”
It adds no value. It wastes space.
A resume can easily be improved by a valid demonstration of your analytical abilities.
Below there are examples of great resume verbs to use to help you stand out:
So now you can demonstrate your analytical ability without having to say the same word again and again.
A hiring manager analyzing your resume will greatly appreciate the diversity.
If you are a good communicator, will you have to say that you are if you are showing it?
If you say that you are, chances are that the hiring manager will think that you aren’t.
It’s like those snacks you see at the grocery store: “90% less sugar, only natural colors and flavors, same taste.”
The taste isn’t the same.
So if you feel like you have to say it, think again.
Instead, show that you are a good communicator by showing what you have achieved due to communication.
While you’re at it, use a variety of resume synonyms like the ones listed below. Imagine a communicator with only one word to describe something.
See the importance of using correct words?
When trying to convey that you are a good communicator, it is essential that you do this well.
Imagine if a creative person had to tell you that they are creative?
If a 7-foot tall man walked up to you, he wouldn’t have to say, “Hi, I am tall.”
So if you have to say that you are creative, your resume may not be up to scratch yet.
Use action words like the following to show that you are creative and will continue to be:
Show what you are responsible for, rather than just to say that you are creative.
That will put you in a far better position than not supplying evidence in your resume.
Combine that with action verbs recommended above, and you will be in a very good place.
Do you have experience in finance and accounting but aren’t sure how to say this?
Fear not, we have the action verbs that you need.
Don’t include random obscure facts on your resume.
Be specific about your accomplishments and use power verbs like these:
See how the action verbs open the sentence up for specific details to be included?
These verbs are hugely important, but remember to back them up.
Imagine if someone told you that they made things better at a job.
You wouldn’t be impressed.
But imagine if they told you what and how.
Now we’re talking.
Use a strong action verb (like these listed below), back it up with evidence, and you show clearly that you added value with your contribution.
Wouldn’t it be awfully ironic if you stated that you improved things, but your verbs of choice needed improvement?
Avoid this by following the guide above.
There is a fine line between saying that you lead a team and dictated a team.
Suggesting that you get a little drunk on power is not good.
Saying that you are a leader but having no proof is also not good.
It is important that you describe yourself as an effective but fair leader, willing to listen and adapt.
With that in mind, use good power verbs like the ones below, and you will show yourself to be a responsible and successful leader.
As is clear, the words that are effective action verbs demonstrate authority without demonstrating that you are a bad leader.
Organizing, arranging, logistics, they are all extremely important.
Showing that you check the boxes for this is a fantastic idea.
However, there are ways that you can make this boring, and ways to make it engaging.
Use action verbs and be specific about what you organized.
Did you organize a charity fundraiser that raised over $3000?
Say that, but in a better way than: “Prepped an event for charity that raised money.”
Instead, say, “Arranged a fundraiser in support of [charity] and raised $3000.”
See power verbs below that help demonstrate your organizational abilities:
See the difference between saying that you “pulled something together” and that you “prepared” something?
They both have the same emphasis, but they are very different.
You want to highlight exactly what makes you the perfect candidate.
So what are you applying for?
You definitely do not want to be vague or unimaginative when highlighting the reasons that you are a perfect candidate.
If you completed a practical project, don’t say that you “did” it.
Instead, see examples below for good action words that you can use on your resume:
You can best outline your academic or research aptitude by honestly and accurately representing yourself.
Regarding verbs, that is best accomplished by using power verbs, helping you stand out.
Even more than with other examples, you definitely want to back up whatever claims you make here with numbers.
Otherwise, you may as well be saying, “I sold stuff and may or may not have reached my targets.”
Instead, be clear and specific and tout your achievements, this is not the place for humility.
Instead of the above example say, “Generated a 20% increase in sales for [product].”
Here is a full table of strong power words that work for sales:
As before, these effective verbs are great, but they need to be backed up.
When you say “converted,” you want to complete the statement. Give details, give numbers.
If you went to a comedy club and said that you were funny, they wouldn’t immediately throw you on stage and give fifty bucks to you at the end of the night.
They’d want to actually know that you are funny.
Same idea here. Say that you are a problem solver all you want, if you don’t actually show how you are a problem solver, the hiring manager will have no reason to believe you.
It may just look like you threw a buzzword into a sentence to make it more appealing. Evidence is key.
Check out our problem-solving action words:
Using an effective term above, you can contextualize your problem-solving skills well.
Being able to lend a hand where needed is something that employers value a lot.
If you are asked to assist with something, you don’t want to respond with, “Nah, I completed my duties assigned on Monday so I’m going to stick with that”.
Work behind the scenes is a large contributing factor to the overall success of a project.
Use your resume to show that you can happily and effectively help out where needed with the following power verbs:
The advised verbs emphasize your skills at helping.
There is a huge difference between using the action verbs recommended and ineffective verbs.
You do not need to be told here that a key behind effective action verbs is in demonstrating the effect that you have had on others.
Results are extremely important. Highlight them and back them up.
However, remember to emphasize the positive effect that you have on your students.
That mixed with positive results will only reflect well on you.
Here are 21 of the best action words for teaching:
Students are not numbers. Be sure to highlight how you brought the best out of them.
Additionally, if you are going to discuss good results, emphasize that this is something that you “improved.” It is not simply an accomplishment of yours. Results matter for students!
Saying that you “worked on” something is overused.
A bodybuilder may say that he’s “working on” getting a tan.
Steve next door may say that he’s “working on” having more fruit in his diet.
Your friend Kayla from the university may say that she’s “working on” doing more work from home.
You can see that the term is extremely broad. It is also extremely overused.
Do you think the hiring manager wants to read that your responsibilities were entirely “working on” different projects?
She just finished hearing about Steve’s diet.
Mix it up and make it an enticing read with the following action verbs:
See how there are so many ways to say that you’re working on something, without actually explicitly saying it?
Now you don’t need to say “working on” again.
One of the key elements behind success at work is teamwork.
Show that you can and have worked successfully with others numerous times.
This will demonstrate that you continue to be a good team player. That is because you chalk accomplishments up to collaboration.
Use these powerful action words to show teamwork:
Emphasis needs to be kept away from you being the best player on the team.
Instead, concentrate on what was done, as demonstrated above.
Top Tip: In every category above, backing up your claims with evidence will make the claim stronger.
Some words are even worse than using bland or overused words.
Imagine if saying that you are a “perfectionist people person” results in your resume getting placed to the side.
Now imagine saying that you are an “epic pro analyzer.”
Your resume might actually end up being shredded and used as bedding for hamsters.
Here is a list of phrases that you absolutely must avoid on your resume at all costs:
- Cutting edge
- Expert (unless you actually are one)
- In charge of
- Hard worker
- Outside the box
- Really good
- Responsible for
These unsubstantiated and overused phrases don't go over well.
You talk yourself up, but you do not actually sell what you can do for the employer.
In fact, you do the opposite. By using words like this, it strongly suggests that you are not taking your resume very seriously.
(Now that you have this advice, combine it with information from our article on the best Hard + Soft Skills for Your Resume.)
You are conveying your skills and accomplishments on your resume.
On your resume, you have made sure that it gives an accurate account of your aptitude and accomplishments.
You have carefully tailored your resume to show that you have the exact skills this employer is looking for.
You have spent hours writing this document to ensure that you check all the boxes.
But then it gets discarded almost immediately by the hiring manager.
What went wrong?
How Neutral Words Can Be a Turnoff
One of the last things that you want is for the hiring manager to place your resume to the side after reading it for just a matter of seconds because you blended in.
Using neutral resume words does exactly this.
Your chances of being seen as a serious candidate are low.
They want someone to stand out and be different.
There’s a reason the hiring manager doesn’t just go out onto the street and point at the first person that they see.
They list the job so that the right people apply.
Being one of the 250 applicants, you claim to have the skills that they are looking for.
But using overused or bland words is a certain way to make your application seem as generic as they come.
First and foremost, you must consider that these resume verbs are used to describe what you have accomplished, rather than to describe you as an individual.
The hiring manager is going to be significantly more interested in your contributions and your ability to continue to contribute.
Wondering how to include power verbs on your resume?
It is really quite basic.
Whether in your professional summary, your responsibilities or achievements at work, or even skills - anywhere where you can put a verb, you can put an action verb.
“Talked” becomes “Presented.”
“Thought of” becomes “Spearheaded.”
“Made” becomes “Developed.”
See how simple including these action words is? Your resume naturally requires you to include verbs, so always consider what verbs can actually get the job done.
A word of caution: It is not simply a matter of clicking on the “synonym” function on a Word Doc. Definitions may be similar, but the words around it sometimes need to change too.
Instead of “Drew up the specifications”, you would not say “Illustrated up the specifications...”
It would just be “Illustrated the specifications…”
Always check that sentences make sense with a better word inserted. And if they don’t, adjust the rest of the sentence as needed.
One last thing: If you insert as many power verbs as possible into your resume, it will just look like you are trying too hard.
Be reasonable. A general rule can be a maximum of 2 verbs per sentence.
(For more examples of how to include powerful verbs on your resume, see Action Verbs for Your Resume.)
With that, you are fully informed about how to approach including action verbs on your resume.
It is fairly basic to ensure that verbs on a resume aren’t bland and you don't blend into the pile of resumes, but it makes a huge difference.
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