Great Resumes Fast » Resume Writing Tips » How Do I Use Action Verbs in My Resume?

This quick guide covers why action verbs beat passive verbs (and how to tell the difference) when writing about your skills and achievements in your resume.

Did you know you should use action verbs instead of passive terms in your resume? 

Action verbs switch the language of your resume from passive voice to active voice. And active voice, as you can imagine, captivates readers and compels hiring managers, recruiters, and potential employers to pay attention to what you have to say.

Rather than boring readers and landing in the “maybe” pile, active resumes leapfrog to the head of the pack and make the best first impression. This one simple tweak could help you position yourself as the perfect candidate and land more interviews.

But what’s the difference between active verbs and passive terms? And how do you even incorporate them?

You’ll learn all that and more in today’s quick guide. 

As you can see from the table of contents below, I’ll show you why passive language stinks, share the benefits of using action verbs, explain how to use them wisely, and even give you a list of the 100+ best action verbs to consider. 

So let’s roll up our sleeves and get to work!

Table of Contents

  1. What’s Wrong with Using Passive Language in Your Resume? 
  2. Why Active Voice and Action Verbs Matter 
  3. Your LinkedIn Profile Needs Action Verbs Too
  4. How to Incorporate Action Verbs in Your Resume 
  5. Before and After Examples of Action Verbs
  6. The Top 110 Action Verbs for a Stronger Resume 

What’s Wrong with Using Passive Language in Your Resume?

If it’s been a while since you’ve had a grammar lesson, you’re probably wondering what passive language is and why it doesn’t belong in your resume. Without this becoming a full-blown English lesson, let’s go over passive voice and passive phrases.

Passive Voice vs. Active Voice (Avoid the Former, Use the Latter)

You should always write in an active voice as opposed to using the passive. In a nutshell:

Passive voice is when the subject of a sentence is acted upon. Here’s an example of a passive sentence: The resume was submitted by me.

Active voice is when the subject takes action. So that passive sentence example written in active voice becomes: I submitted the resume

See how the second example conveys more decisive action than the first? It’s confident, shorter, and more impactful — all traits you want for your resume’s sentences and descriptions.

Unfortunately, most people unknowingly write in the passive voice. You’ll see this in common resume phrases like “was responsible for.” 

But passive language also includes overused words and phrases, which are just as awful for your resume.

Passive, Overused Resume Phrases (Ditch These Forever)

Phrases like “duties included,” “worked with,” and “managed” are ubiquitous on almost every first resume draft. But that doesn’t mean you should keep them.

I often see intelligent job seekers get stuck on these types of overused passive phrases for two reasons:

  1. They think that’s what should be on a resume.
  2. They believe employers and hiring managers are looking for these phrases.

However, these misconceptions couldn’t be further from the truth. These vague phrases don’t tell readers anything special about your selling points, which is the total opposite of what a resume should do.

Passive Voice and Passive Language Bores, Blends In, and Weakens Your Writing

Passive, overused resume phrases:

Make your resume less exciting. Most resumes only get a 10-second introductory glance-over before someone decides to continue reading or move on to the next one. 

Because passive phrases are so overused, most employers, recruiters, and hiring managers glance right over them. They may never realize you’re the perfect candidate because they were too bored by the way you presented that information to find out.

Blend in rather than stand out. Broad, vague, generic terms like “successful,” “managed,” and “results-driven” don’t describe your actual achievements.

These all-too-common terms don’t show resume readers much about what you have to offer, what you’ve achieved, or what you’re capable of accomplishing, which is a gigantic mistake.

Remember, what you consider a success may be different to someone else. A better approach is to get more specific about your contributions by explicitly stating the results you’ve achieved. This paints a clear, descriptive picture of your accomplishments to anyone reading your resume.

Weaken your writing. Passive voice dilutes the quality of your writing, which tells hiring managers and recruiters that your communication skills may not be up to par. On the other hand, active voice engages, convinces, and encourages readers to find out more.

Why Active Voice and Action Verbs Matter

Switching to active voice and utilizing strong action verbs in your resume will:

Capture All the Right Attention 

Unlike passive terms, action verbs help you stand out from your competitors. They show off your strength and confidence to wow instead of bore.

Readers naturally pay more attention when action verbs guide them and keep them interested. Each sentence compels them to read and learn more about what you’ve done and what you can do.

Action-oriented words can also change the perception of someone reading your resume. If another candidate with a similar job title applies for the same position, your action-driven accomplishments will gain the upper hand over their passive phrases.

Share Your Unique Story

Action-packed words help you convey your unique experience and career history in a much more effective way. And when you back these up with concrete facts, you’ll add an extra layer to prove you have what it takes to get the job done.

Your resume will automatically stand out as impressive and intriguing since you won’t be using the same bland phrases as every other applicant. Readers will also have real-world examples of your specific successes.

These give you a much better chance of making it through to the interview round.

Strengthen Your Resume and Your Writing

When you add action verbs to your resume, you’ll demonstrate that you know how to be persuasive, which, at the executive level, is something all employers look for.

Active voice reshapes and improves your writing, so you come across as a standout candidate with very strong communication skills. 

As you dig deeper to tell potential employers about your abilities and accomplishments, they’ll feel as if they already know you — and can’t wait to meet you. Rather than telling them why you’re the right hire, you’ll empower them to see it for themselves.

TL;DR: Active voice and action verbs help you create powerful resume statements highlighting your communication skills, measurable achievements, and unique selling points.

And after you give your resume an active language makeover, take the time to upgrade your LinkedIn profile, too.

Your LinkedIn Profile Needs Action Verbs Too

Hiring teams and recruiters often check LinkedIn for candidates. So your LinkedIn profile becomes a version of your resume that lives online to network for new connections and potential jobs 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

When a decision-maker lands on your page, you want them to be so impressed that they reach out and begin a dialogue about new opportunities. Then you may get to learn about unadvertised positions you may not have found otherwise.

All it takes is a rewrite of your work experience sections and professional summary. Identify all the passive phrases and replace them with action verbs to emphasize your achievements. 

You’ll go from simply listing your job duties to showing and proving what you’re capable of. That’s the beauty and power of persuasive writing in your professional branding.

But you can’t just dump a bunch of action verbs in your resume and hope for the best. It takes a bit of planning and insider know-how to get this right.

How to Incorporate Action Verbs in Your Resume

You want to strategically place action verbs throughout your resume, including your bullet points, list of accomplishments, and professional summary. You should also rewrite your cover letter and LinkedIn profile to reflect this active tone.

Since it’s how you replace these words/phrases that matters most, follow these three steps to ensure a smooth revision process:

1. Show, Don’t Tell

Your several years of experience may not matter in the eyes of a hiring manager if you don’t have anything tangible to show for it. 

After all, many executives at this level are in the same boat. They share similar experience managing teams and improving P&L, for example, and hope to climb the ladder in their next role.

So your resume must shift the focus from your shared tasks and job duties to a discussion of your unique, relevant accomplishments and strengths that may benefit a prospective employer.

This requires you to prove what you’re capable of and back this up with concrete figures. You’ll give readers clear, persuasive information about how you plan to bring value to their company.

So rather than telling readers you’re a revenue-generating machine, you can show off your skills by saying your team generated 40% higher profit margins over the last six months.

This type of “hard” evidence (40% higher profits) and definitive time frame (last six months) helps prove your case beyond a reasonable doubt.

Take action: Come up with a list of your most impressive accomplishments as they relate to the position you’re applying for. Quantify each with evidence an employer or hiring manager would find compelling and noteworthy. 

2. Identify the Overused Passive Language You Want to Change

When rewriting your resume and LinkedIn profile with a more active voice, you can’t just replace all the clichĂ© words with action verbs. You’ll actually need to rewrite or restructure entire sentences. 

Remember our example from earlier? After our tweaks, the passive sentence “The resume was submitted by me” became “I submitted the resume.” 

So you’ll have to go through your resume line by line to identify passive language and cliché phrases, then brainstorm ways you’re going to improve them.

Yes, this will be time-consuming, but it will also be worth it.

Think of this task as finding opportunities to strengthen your delivery and get rid of words and phrases that may be holding you back from landing the roles you want.

Take action: Print out your current resume and highlight all the passive verbs/phrases in your bullet points, list of accomplishments, professional summary, and cover letter.

3. Determine the Best Action Verbs to Use

You can’t just choose the action verbs you think sound best to replace the passive language on your first draft. You must use words that are appropriate to the field you’re in and the position you’re chasing.

To do this, read the job description to see which keywords and action verbs stand out. This gives you an idea of the exact language and terms a company is looking for candidates to use.

It’s also essential to pay attention to the words they’re using for positioning purposes. For example, if they mention needing a team member who’s focused on “collaborating” versus “competing,” you have a completely different angle to approach your resume writing.

Once you identify these, you’ll be able to use these terms/phrases to tailor your resume accordingly. Then you’ll know which action verbs to sprinkle in naturally throughout your resume.

Take action: Make a list of the keywords and phrases used in the job ad. Prioritize these as they relate to your experience and use the ones that fit best to replace the passive, overused phrases on your current resume, cover letter, and LinkedIn profile.

If you need a bit of help with your passive-to-active transformations, check out the next examples for inspiration.

Before and After Examples of Action Verbs

These examples give you an idea of what you can do to upgrade your passive language with bolder, memorable statements:

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 problems.

Improved Phrase: Deciphered pattern in data to solve underlying problems.

Current phrase: Responsible for increasing company sales revenue.

Improved Phrase: Increased sales revenue by XX% over XX years.

Current phrase: Effective communicator or detail-oriented.

Improved Phrase: Facilitating internal communications or Ensuring top-quality work product.

Now that you know “how” to do this, I want to share some of the best terms to use.

The Top 110 Action Verbs for a Stronger Resume

When you go through your resume identifying all the passive, overused phrases we discussed, use this list of 100+ action verbs to start the replacement process.

Again, it’s not about cramming in as many of these action verbs as possible or choosing ones you think sound better than others.

Pick the action verbs that strengthen your experience and accomplishments specifically. And always make sure they relate to the roles you’re applying for.

To Replace Managed

Use these terms to convey that you’ve led a project, department, or division:

  1. Chaired
  2. Coordinated
  3. Guided
  4. Headed
  5. Inspired
  6. Mentored
  7. Motivated
  8. Operated
  9. Oversaw
  10. Synchronized

To Replace Created

Use the following terms if you brought an idea to fruition:

  1. Crafted
  2. Charted
  3. Choreographed
  4. Devised
  5. Enhanced
  6. Forged
  7. Fulfilled
  8. Implemented
  9. Pioneered
  10. Spearheaded

To Replace Developed

These terms are ideal if you grew a department, project, or vision:

  1. Advanced
  2. Amplified
  3. Cultivated
  4. Expanded
  5. Fostered
  6. Initiated
  7. Matured
  8. Progressed
  9. Renovated
  10. Widened

To Replace Saved

Use these words if you saved a company money, time, or resources:

  1. Conserved
  2. Consolidated
  3. Lessened
  4. Reduced
  5. Revived
  6. Salvaged
  7. Secured
  8. Spared
  9. Strengthened
  10. Yielded

To Replace Increased

Stick to these words if you improved sales, efficiency, operations, or customer satisfaction:

  1. Accelerated
  2. Amplified
  3. Augmented
  4. Broadened
  5. Capitalized
  6. Expanded
  7. Furthered
  8. Generated
  9. Maximized
  10. Stimulated

To Replace Changed

If your expertise made something better, shout it out with words like:

  1. Clarified
  2. Customized
  3. Effected
  4. Integrated
  5. Merged
  6. Modified
  7. Overhauled
  8. Refocused
  9. Streamlined
  10. Transformed

To Replace Acquired

These words emphasize your ability to bring something new to the table:

  1. Collaborated
  2. Conferred
  3. Converted
  4. Forged
  5. Innovated
  6. Navigated
  7. Negotiated
  8. Parlayed
  9. Partnered
  10. Secured

To Replace Assisted

Try out these words to explain when you were helpful with clients, customers, and teams:

  1. Advised
  2. Advocated
  3. Arbitrated
  4. Consulted
  5. Counseled
  6. Educated
  7. Encouraged
  8. Informed
  9. Resolved
  10. Supported

To Replace Examined

These words spotlight your analytical and research skills:

  1. Analyzed
  2. Assessed
  3. Calculated
  4. Discovered
  5. Forecasted
  6. Identified
  7. Investigated
  8. Measured
  9. Qualified
  10. Tracked

To Replace Communicated

Use these verbs anytime you’re describing a time you spoke, lobbied, or used your words for change:

  1. Authored
  2. Campaigned
  3. Convinced
  4. Critiqued
  5. Documented
  6. Illustrated
  7. Marketed
  8. Persuaded
  9. Publicized
  10. Reviewed

To Replace Achieved

Choose these words when you hit a goal or achieved a major milestone:

  1. Attained
  2. Bettered
  3. Completed
  4. Demonstrated
  5. Exceeded
  6. Outperformed
  7. Realized
  8. Showcased
  9. Surpassed
  10. Transcended

Psst! Save this article or print out this list of action verbs to use during your resume revamping to make the process easier and quicker.

The Final Word on Using Action Verbs in Your Resume

If you didn’t know the difference between using active versus passive language in your resume, or why action verbs beat vague, passive phrases, you definitely should by now. And you also scored over 100 different action verbs to try out for yourself.

I know this sounds like a ton of extra work, but I promise the results will be so worth it in the end. Your resume will sound stronger, radiate confidence, and leapfrog you ahead of your competitors. Now go put all that active energy to good use!

Does the process of a resume rewrite sound too daunting? Is a resume overhaul too much work for you to tackle with your schedule? Don’t sweat it! Our team of professional resume writers can do the heavy lifting for you. With our help, your resume will get the attention it deserves and land you a spot on the interview list.

About Great Resumes Fast Product Templates MRP-3882

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!

Leave a Comment

Improve Your Resume: Download Your Free Executive Resume Template Today

Are you struggling to create an executive resume that will impress employers? Download this free executive resume template and receive a series of 10 emails with expert guidance on how to write resume content that resonates with employers so you get more interviews.

It's everything you need to stand out, make an impression, and accelerate your job search.