Need to make an impact with your resume but not quite sure how? Or maybe you know your resume is missing something but you just aren’t sure what? Wondering what a good resume includes, or asking yourself what should you say in a resume? You’re not alone—resume writing is difficult for many people. When you write a resume, you’re tackling one of the most difficult tasks out there—writing about yourself. And, you’re doing so knowing that what you are writing will have an impact on your career.
So it’s no wonder that resume writing can be tough, whether you’re writing an entry-level resume or an executive resume, a functional resume or a chronological resume. But the good news is that you can learn how to make your resume stand out and impress an employer. Across the Great Resumes Fast blog, you’ll find many resume writing tips on everything from resume layout and resume design to how far back your employment history should go to how to include education and professional associations on your resume. All of this is useful information, but in this article we’re going to focus on a tip that you can use throughout your entire resume: the wording you use to describe your skill set, work history, accomplishments, etc.
Any writer will tell you that avoiding passive language and using strong, meaningful words will improve your writing, no matter what you’re working on. On a resume (and a cover letter!), this is particularly important. So what are the best words to use in a resume to impress a potential employer?
Strong, action-oriented words! Using strong, action-oriented words on your resume can change the perception people will have of your resume—and of you as a candidate. If you’re stumped by word choice or stuck using passive phrases such as “Duties included…” and “Responsible for…”, then I’m talking to you! Your work history, skills, and abilities deserve to be described strongly—don’t undersell yourself by falling into the trap of passive language.
Why Should I Use Strong, Action-Oriented Words?
When you’re writing a resume, you want to clearly demonstrate your qualifications and your value to an employer. If you’re using the same old buzzwords and jargon that everyone else is using just to fill space, a prospective employer isn’t going to be able to easily spot why your skills are different, and why you’re the candidate that needs to get an interview, much less be hired.
However, if you shift your resume’s focus from responsibilities/duties to accomplishments and actions that utilize your skills, you increase your chances that a hiring manager or recruiters will actually be interested in reading it and learning more about you and your work experience.
Having a bulleted list as part of your resume design is no excuse for using weak language. Strong action verbs can be used just as effectively in a bulleted list as they can in a paragraph with full sentences.
Writing a resume is about using persuasive writing that gets the attention of employers and recruiters and gets a message across. If you’re using weak, overused, or even meaningless language, then you’re not being persuasive and you are probably also not giving your work experience and accomplishments the credit and attention they deserve. After all, your objective in writing a resume is to stand out and be noticed.
Here is a list of 20 action-oriented words you can start using on your resume today!
4. Create or Creator
5. Market or Marketer
6. Generate or Generator
How Do I Incorporate These Words in My Resume?
Using the words in the list above to emphasize your accomplishments throughout your work history and strengthen the descriptions of your work experience might mean you need to shift how you approach your resume overall. But that’s not a bad thing!
You should be shifting your resume’s focus away from simply listing tasks and towards a discussion of relevant accomplishments and strengths that will benefit your prospective employer and provide proof of what you are capable of as a professional. No matter what field you are in or how long your employment history is, you need to provide clear, persuasive information about why you bring value to a company and their clients. Years of experience don’t matter if you have nothing tangible to show for them.
As you incorporate strong action words into your resume, you might find that you can’t just replace clichés or passive language, but need to rewrite or restructure entire sentences or sections of your resume. Yes, it can be time-consuming, but it is worth it.
For example, perhaps your resume right now says that you are a “strong leader” or that your responsibilities included “leadership roles.” A prospective employer will read that and wonder “Okay, but how and what?” If you’re lucky, you’ll get an interview and be asked this in person, but to take luck out of the equation and increase your chances of getting that interview, try using one of the strong action words listed above. Perhaps something along the lines of, “Supervised creation of new team responsible for successful implementation of product line in new market.”
See how just changing the first word from an adjective to a verb helps guide you in crafting a sentence that describes an accomplishment rather than just soft skills or a task? Now an employer can easily see how you could be a good fit for their needs, as you have relevant experience and the evidence to back up how you describe your achievements. And, since you’ve clearly shown it, they don’t have to guess or read between the lines to see it. The hiring process is arduous, and you don’t want to be the person whose valuable experience goes unnoticed by a hiring manager because of poor word choice.
Go through your resume line by line and look for opportunities to replace an adjective or cliché resume buzzwords with an action verb. Even if you’ve had some success with your resume so far, you might be surprised to see how much opportunity there is for improving it in this way.
Is incorporating stronger language pushing you beyond a one-page resume? That’s okay! As long as you aren’t writing two pages of fluff just to write two pages, it’s perfectly fine for a resume to go beyond one page. (For more on resume length, check out this article.)
As you revise your resume to incorporate more action words, be sure that you are using words that are appropriate for your field and the position for which you are applying. Look to the job description or a company’s website for guidance on their culture and what they are looking for in a new employee. It will take time to do this research and customize your resume in this way, but it is absolutely worth it. Remember, when you invest time in your resume, you’re not just investing time in some random Word document—you’re investing time in furthering your career and your goals.
This advice extends beyond the action verbs on your resume to all aspects of your resume, too. Tailor your resume to fit the job and company you are applying to. An effective resume is a customized resume. From word choice to the work experience you choose to include, you need to be targeting the needs of the specific hiring manager you are trying to stand out to. You may have one master resume that includes all information about your career, but that should never be the one that you send in to a prospective employer.
Customizing your resume for each position that you are applying to is crucial for your career success. For tips on how to effectively brand your resume, check out my recent article: 5 Key Areas to Target When Branding Your Resume.
Thanks for the Resume Writing Tips, but I Think I’d Like to Hire a Professional
Many, many professional and executive-level job candidates turn to a professional resume writing service for assistance creating an effective resume. At Great Resumes Fast, we provide personalized service to create a resume that is customized to help you achieve your career goals. Our process for our executive resume writing services includes a one-on-one conversation with a certified, professional resume writer. You won’t be filling out a survey that asks you to list skills and job duties and years of experience, which results in bland resume content just plugged into some new templates or put into a new format. Instead, you’ll get a resume written specifically for you, based on your personal brand, your specific experience, and your future goals.
Your resume is more than just a document—when done right, it’s a ticket to career success.
To see sample resumes prepared by the team at Great Resumes Fast, visit our sample resumes page and see examples of resumes prepared for a variety of industries. You might find a resume sample that inspires you to get started writing the resume that has the potential to make all the difference in your career.
Need to make an impact with your resume but not quite sure how? Or maybe you know your resume is missing something but you just aren’t sure what? Using strong, action-oriented words on your resume can change the perception people will have of your resume—and of you as a candidate. If you’re stumped by word choice, using passive terminology such as: duties included … and responsible for … then I’m talking to you!
Below you’ll find a list of 20 action-oriented words you can start using on your resume today!
1. Build or Builder
2. Maintain or Maintainer
3. Expand or Expander
4. Create or Creator
5. Market or Marketer
6. Generate or Generator
Remember that word choice is important, but customizing your resume for each position is even more important. For tips on how to brand your resume, check out my recent article: 5 Key Areas to Target When Branding Your Resume.
For additional job search and resume-related advice, follow us on Twitter @GreatResume.
Share this post:
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!
Will your resume impress employers? Take this 2-minute quiz to find out.
Get your personalized plan for a resume that stands out and lands you your dream job!
Need a little help getting hiring managers to take notice? Find out what's standing between you and those magic words "You're exactly who we've been looking for!"