Expert Professional Resume Writing Tip #7
Strong action verbs—love them? Hate them? Couldn’t care less?
If you want a winning resume, you need to learn to love them. Trust me, when you write a resume with weak, boring language and the same old tired clichés, you won’t get the attention of hiring managers and recruiters. You have a unique experience and a unique career story and you should be using your own words to describe that on your professional resume. A compelling resume is an effective resume. You may have an impressive career and decades of relevant experience, but if you’re using boring words to explain your employment history, then no one is paying attention.
Using strong action verbs in your resume writing can help you tell a compelling story about your work experience and what you can bring to the table for a prospective employer. In doing so, you will get their attention and hopefully get that interview.
How Should You Use Action Verbs in Your Professional Resume?
Every resume, I repeat EVERY resume should have strong action verbs strategically placed throughout the resume. Most importantly, use the action verbs at the beginning of the majority of your bullet points.
Please do yourself—and every hiring manager out there—a favor: absolutely do not start your sentences with “Responsible for…,” “Worked with…,” or any other less than power-punching beginning. These phrases are functional and commonly used in resumes, but they really do nothing for your resume or experience. In my time as an HR professional looking over resumes, I’ve never been captivated by the words “responsible for” or “worked with.” As a resume writer, I don’t use them. They’re just so boring. I want something that jumps out at me and grabs my attention. Even a one-page resume seems way too long to read when it has that kind of dull language.
Plus, what do those kinds of words actually tell a potential employer? They don’t convey much. Think about it—just because you were “responsible for” something doesn’t mean you actually carried out the work, or did it particularly well.
A potential employer would much rather hear about the solid accomplishments you have in your work history than just read a copy/paste of duties from the description of your last job. Managers want to know what a job candidate actually did, and what you can actually do for them. Action verbs help you tell them what you are capable of. Remember, as a job applicant you are trying to persuade them to call you for an interview. That means you need to use persuasive writing—like action verbs—throughout your resume and your cover letter.
What Are Some Good Action Verbs to Use When I Write My Resume?
Here are a few examples of my favorite action words:
…and the list could go on and on. Be creative in your action verb choice and choose strong words to begin every single sentence you write. These words communicate action, results, accomplishments, real experience and abilities, and contributions, which are all key components in creating a great resume to highlight your qualifications.
For more ideas about what action verbs might be right for your resume, look to the job description or company website. There, you’ll get an idea of the kind of language the company uses, and this information can help you tailor your resume to what they are looking for.
Does the company seem more the type to want to see action verbs like “collaborate” or the type to want action verbs like “compete”? Does the position description use words and phrases like “increase revenue,” or “leverage” or “manage”? If so, try to work these into the descriptions you write of your qualifications. Make a list of the action verbs you see on the company’s website or in the job description. Don’t try to cram all of them into your resume, and don’t exclusively use these words, but use the list to pull from and to help you generate other ideas for words that can help you write a stronger resume and come across as a strong candidate.
Examples of Using Action Words in Your Resume
Chances are you already have some action words in your resume, but perhaps you aren’t using them effectively or strategically. For example, do you have an item in a bulleted list that says something along the lines of “Responsible for increasing company sales revenue”?
If you do, that’s an easy fix. Rewrite the sentence to show how increasing sales was one of your achievements—and like I mention above, move the action word to the front of the sentence. A more effective sentence for your resume would be “Increased sales revenue by XX% over XX years.”
The sentence starts with a compelling action verb that shows a potential employer you’re about to tell them something you actually did that is hopefully relevant to their needs.
Let’s look at another example. Perhaps you have a strengths section on your resume that just lists things like “effective communicator” or “detail-oriented.”
For a more effective resume, try rewriting these kinds of strengths and skills to include an action verb. Perhaps along the lines of “Facilitating internal communications” or “Ensuring top-quality work product.”
And then, of course, demonstrate how you have used this skill set throughout your career. Remember, anyone can claim to have done anything when they are applying for a job—use action verbs coupled with numbers, statistics, or reference quotes to help you provide the proof of what you have actually done and to make the description of your experience interesting. If a potential employer wants to actually take the time to read your resume, it will greatly increase your chances of landing an interview.
In your Career Summary section, don’t say what you are using a recitation of clichéd soft skills. Instead, use action verbs to highlight what you’ve done and what you will do.
If you happen to be still in school, perhaps as a graduate student or going back to school for a degree or certification in a new area, you can strengthen your resume a bit by changing the language in your education section. Instead of saying “Currently attending…,” write “Earning degree in…” Earning conveys hard work, dedication, and motivation. That’s the kind of verb you want associated with your education and your work experience—not a passive word like “attending.”
The most effective resumes are the ones that actually say something—that tell the story of your work history and share your personal brand with an employer.
After you rewrite your resume and cover letter to include action verbs, don’t stop there. Head to your LinkedIn profile to do the same. Rewrite your profile’s work experience sections and summary statement to include action verbs and emphasize achievements. Potential employers and recruiters will look on your social media, and you want to impress them and persuade them of your value no matter where they are reading information about you.
As you dig deeper into resume writing tips while you’re applying for jobs, be sure to check out the Great Resumes Fast blog. We have hundreds of articles covering everything from modern resume formats and infographic resumes to LinkedIn profile advice to tips for writing a resume so it gets through an applicant tracking system.
You can also find an additional list of action verbs that are great to use on your resume HERE.
For both language and format ideas, head to our resume samples page.
While I encourage looking at a resume sample or two for ideas and inspiration, I would caution you not to just copy a resume template and plug your work experience and skill set in. It doesn’t give you the freedom to use the strong language and resume layout that are the best fit for your specific situation.
If you’re feeling a little overwhelmed by all the information that’s out there about creating a resume, it may be time to talk to a professional resume writer about writing your resume. At Great Resumes Fast, our professional resume writers take the time to get to know you, your work history and achievements, and your career goals before writing a resume or other career document. Our executive resume writing services also extend to other career documents like cover letters, executive biographies, and LinkedIn profiles.
Learn more about our team and our process HERE.
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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