Writing a resume is more than just listing out your work experience, dates of employment, and job responsibilities. In fact, an effective resume is much, much more than that. Resume writing is an exercise in persuasive writing in order to market yourself to recruiters and potential employers.
So how can you make your resume stand out from the pack? An important step to help you improve your resume is to stop using passive voice and passive terms on your resume; passive terms dilute the quality and value of what you offer the employer. One of the biggest mistakes people make when writing a resume is using boring words that don’t actually tell an employer or hiring manager anything about what you have achieved, or what you are capable of accomplishing for them should you be hired.
Review your resume, and if you’re using any of the following terminology on your resume, you need to make a change today:
Demonstrated mastery of…Responsibility for…Duties included…Worked with…Familiar with…Knowledge of (or) Knowledgeable in…Qualifications include…Accomplishments include…
These are examples of passive terms that are not action-oriented, and they make for a rather lackluster resume. Instead, show the employer exactly what you’re capable of achieving and bringing to the table!
Now you’re probably wondering if those are bad terms, what are good, relevant, action words for a resume?
Below you’ll find a list of 50+ strong action verbs that you can put on your resume NOW to spice things up and stand out to employers!
Why These Are Some of the Best Resume Words
Included in the action verb list above are words that not only sound a little more polished than the old standbys of “qualified,” “proficient,” “experienced,” etc., but are words that push you to improve the entire phrase or sentence that you are using it in. For example, if you currently just have your skills listed under a section that says “Skills” and then list things like:
…you’re not actually telling an employer why any of those things matter, or showing that you actually do have those skills and have accomplished something using those skills. Chances are an employer is also seeing these words listed under nearly every other applicant’s skill set section.
But, when you take action verbs from the list above and incorporate them into your Skills section, you automatically need to reshape the writing in a way that better provides insight into your unique achievements and your career history. For example, your Skills section may now read something like this:
*Fostering an environment for the optimal use of staff talents
*Devising efficient, practical solutions to problems large and small
*Conveying ideas to internal staff and external partners
See how those sound much more professional—and more worthwhile—than those buzzwords anyone can just copy off a list of resume skills you find on the internet?
When you take the time to incorporate action verbs as you write a resume, you will find that your writing on the whole transforms and forces you to dive a little deeper into what you are trying to tell hiring managers about yourself.
Why Does Word Choice Matter?
We kind of delved into this a bit at the beginning of the article, but let’s go a little deeper—it matters because you don’t want to be just another resume and cover letter at the bottom of a recruiter’s pile. You want them to read your resume, pay attention to it, and go “Wow! This person has the experience and the skills we are looking for—and they sound motivated to work here!”
If you write a resume that just has the same old buzzwords as everyone else, it’s not actually saying anything. It’s not saying anything about your experience, and it’s not saying anything about what you can bring to an employer.
Your resume needs to SHOW what you are capable of. Word choice matters in doing this. Employers don’t want to just see soft skills listed because that’s what you think they want to hear—they want a demonstration of how you put those skills to use.
Action verbs do this. Passive buzzwords don’t.
STRONG action verbs do this well. Lazy action verbs don’t.
When you’re writing a resume, remember that a strong resume has strong words. Strong words often means verbs. Use the action verbs list above as a resource to find such words, and help you avoid weaker ones.
Here are some more examples of how word choice can make a difference in the marketing document that is your resume:
Current phrase: Manager of 10 employees
Improved phrase: Unified team of 10 employees behind company goals, resulting in improved sales
Current phrase: Switched company to using new technology
Improved phrase: Championed implementation of new technology at company, resulting in improved efficiency
Current phrase: Used data to discover underlying problem
Improved Phrase: Deciphered pattern in data to solve underlying problem
Doesn’t each of those changes convey a stronger role and a more impressive achievement? And, it does so without falling into the trap of writing your resume entirely using clichés.
How to Incorporate These Action Verbs into Your Resume
If you’re starting a new resume from scratch, just start using these action verbs as you write! However, if you’re going through an old resume and trying to strengthen it by replacing words and phrases, STOP.
You cannot just take this action verbs list and swap out words on your resume. Instead, you need to use these to help reshape the entire way your resume is written. Your resume is a marketing document—do not forget that.
I recommend taking your old resume, pulling out the most important information on it, and making a list of hard skills, technical skills, accomplishments, responsibilities, etc. that you want to include on a new resume. Then, think about each item you have listed and how you want to convey it to a potential employer. Jot down one or two words from this list of action verbs beside each one that you think would be best suited for it.
From here, you now have a good base to reshape your writing. It might take a little longer than just getting out the thesaurus to replace words with a simple new word, but the results will be worth the time investment.
A professional resume needs to demonstrate your investment in the position and company you are applying to. Hiring managers can tell when someone has taken the time to really focus on their resume and to convey their value through the right words. They can also tell when someone has just taken a template and filled it out, or just googled “resume keywords” and plugged those words in.
The suggested resume action verbs in this article are developed from my years working in human resources and working as a professional resume writer, and includes some of the most effective words and phrases I have seen used and that I regularly use on resumes. Use them well, and you will likely start seeing a better response to your revitalized resume—perhaps even landing an interview for your dream job.
For even more examples of how to use strong language, peruse a sample resume or two on the Great Resumes Fast samples page.
Are you tired of your resume being rejected by applicant tracking systems? I know how frustrating it is to submit your resume and receive no response. I hate seeing qualified people never break through the screening process. It shouldn’t be that way. That’s why I created this guide and I encourage you to download the FREE PDF so you can start seeing better resume response rates!
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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!
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