How To Add Strong Action Verbs To Your Resume (With Examples)

By Ryan Morris - Apr. 12, 2021

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Choosing words for resumes is tough. It’s not as simple as just looking up synonyms in a thesaurus — it requires an understanding of context.

Not all words are created equal, and — particularly when it comes to verbs — it can be very difficult to know which ones are going to have a better effect in getting your experience across to a hiring manager or recruiter.

Fortunately, that’s where we come in. We’re here to give you a few tips for navigating this particular situation.

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What Are Action Verbs?

Action verbs are words that indicate action. You can use action verbs on your resume to highlight key elements of your professional experience and accomplishments. They’re better than passive words because they clearly showcase your specific contributions. They also make you sound more confident.

Using action verbs isn’t some magic bullet that will make you more qualified. Instead, action verbs will make the qualifications you do have seem more impressive. They’ll also engage the reader more by telling a narrative, rather than providing a laundry list of your job’s responsibilities.

Why Resume Words Matter

Often when people are constructing their resumes, the biggest thing on their mind is simply whether or not they’re able to fit all of their skills and work experience onto the page.

It makes sense — after all, job seekers typically have only one or two pages worth of resume to show a hiring manager what kind of value they can bring to a company.

But it’s important to remember that word choice can have a huge effect on the way that people understand and interpret information.

Think about the words “great” and “excellent.” In a vacuum, those words could almost be synonyms.

After all, there’s not much of a difference between saying that the service you received at a restaurant was great and saying that it was excellent — in both cases, you’re just saying that the service was above average in a good way.

But placed side-by-side, one of these words is the clear winner. Think about it — you wouldn’t mind your own work being described as “great” unless you happened to hear that same person describe your coworker’s work as “excellent.” Excellent and great are both synonyms until the moment they’re placed in competition with one another.

How Should You Clean Up the Words You’re Using in Your Own Resume?

Resumes are a lot like this situation, except that the words you’re choosing are being put into competition with everyone else submitting a resume for the same position.

Let’s say someone else applying for the job has the exact same work experience, education, etc.

Let’s say one candidate describes a previous work experience of theirs in totally passive terms — e.g., “this project was done in January,” “this award was received by me in 2016,” or “classes in coding were undertaken in 2017.”

It’s a little wordy, but overall, not terrible.

But now, let’s say you describe the exact same experiences in a slightly more active voice, e.g., “I executed this project in January,” “I achieved this award in 2016,” or “I tackled classes in coding over the course of 2017.”

The version written in the active voice sounds a lot better, doesn’t it? It makes the other candidate look like a bumbling, insecure fool.

It’s all down to the verbs themselves — you want to pick confident, aggressive verbs and you then want to use those verbs in a way that implies action. You want to show hiring managers as much as possible that your experiences didn’t just happen to you, but that you went out of your way to make them happen.

In addition to switching up examples of passive voice for active and choosing verbs carefully, there are a few more things you can do to improve your resume in relation to other candidates:

  • Keep your tenses accurate. Use present tense for responsibilities at your current job or when describing skills, and use past tense for responsibilities that you undertook at any previous jobs.

  • Use popular skill terms for your particular career. It’ll take a little research, but there’s generally information somewhere online showing how different industries or career disciplines tend to describe what are often the same skillsets.

  • Research the company. Look on companies’ official websites to see how they describe the values of their own company, particularly how they describe their own employees. It’s a good idea to echo some of these descriptions when you’re thinking about how you’re representing your own experiences.

List of Strong Resume Verbs

Sometimes a long description of what you should be doing right just isn’t enough. It’s too long to read, or maybe you’re just in a hurry.

To that end, here are just a few lists of some solid verbs you can use in your own resume, all listed in the past tense for your convenience:

Verbs for leading or managing:

  • Mentored

  • Strengthened

  • Empowered

  • Orchestrated

  • Spearheaded

It’s unconvincing to simply say you have leadership skills. Using the above action verbs will more clearly show what impact you had.

Verbs for increasing efficiency:

  • Expedited

  • Amplified

  • Maximized

  • Enhanced

  • Accelerated

The best practice for showing off efficiency increases is to use a strong action verb and pair it with hard numbers. Telling the hiring manager the exact effect of your efforts will make it easier for them to understand your capabilities.

Verbs for organizing:

  • Catalogued

  • Designed

  • Logged

  • Regulated

  • Indexed

Organizational skills are a must for many jobs out there, but it can be difficult to showcase them on a resume. Using real examples of your organizational achievements is much better than simply writing that you’re highly organized.

Verbs for communicating:

  • Arbitrated

  • Corresponded

  • Promoted

  • Interpreted

  • Elicited

Depending on the job you’re applying for, the hiring manager will expect to see at least some teamwork experience and possibly some client-facing responsibilities. Talk about how you’re able to manage relationships by using strong action verbs that show the impact of your stellar communication.

Verbs for executing plans, or otherwise getting results:

  • Achieved

  • Consolidated

  • Administered

  • Produced

  • Fulfilled

When talking about accomplishments, it’s best to use numbers. With a strong action verb that shows ownership of the achievement and numbers to back up the specific result of your effort, you’ll have hiring managers very interested in having a conversation with you.

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Final Thoughts

With all that out of the way, just keep in mind that every time you submit a resume, you’re competing against everyone else who also wants that job.

If they want that job, odds are that they’re just like you. They could have comparable backgrounds, experiences, and, yes, even names.

But at the end of the day, the trick isn’t to be better than those other candidates — it’s just to present yourself as being better. There are plenty of highly qualified people who have just no idea how to sell themselves.

All you have to do is not be one of those people.

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Ryan Morris

Ryan Morris was a writer for the Zippia Advice blog who tried to make the job process a little more entertaining for all those involved. He obtained his BA and Masters from Appalachian State University.

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