Every schoolchild knows that a verb is a "doing" word. Hopefully your career has been all about "doing" things, so your resume action verbs need to be particularly carefully chosen. They will frame your accomplishments.
What was the situation and what was the nature of the action that you took?
Now, be careful…. choose your resume words wisely as you risk sounding the same as other candidates. Worse still, you might use the same word over and over again. Trust me, hiring managers will notice if you substitute powerful resume action verbs with bland cliched language.
So, to offer some assistance, we have come up with a list of the most impactful resume action verbs, collated into fifteen categories, with bullet-pointed examples that might fit into a resume or cover letter.
We cover the following:
- 3 benefits of resume action verbs in a job search
- 300+ resume action verbs in 15 categories with examples
- Expert tips about where and how to use action verbs for impact
I bet you thought verbs and resume words could never be so exciting? Well, you should be excited, because choosing the right words is the first step to your new job.
These very resume action verbs could make the difference between you securing an interview over another candidate who is less discerning. When every word on your resume is obviously chosen with care, it says a lot about you as a person. Let’s explore why they are so important in highlighting accomplishments:
3 benefits of action verbs in a job search
There are many advantages of using action-oriented vibrant language in your applications, but the three main benefits of resume action verbs for a job search are:
- Resume action verbs elevate your existing accomplishments, showing how you can contribute in similar way to a new employer
- Action verbs help you avoid cliched or passive language in a resume
- They demonstrate you’ve actually paid attention to the job description, which makes a favorable impression on recruiters.
Thinking through the most suitable action verbs for your job search is not only useful for your resume.
Whether your vibrant verbs and lively language are choices for resume words or cover letter words, it's about making both documents as efficient as possible. Every bit of communication, whether written or oral will be optimized if you choose your resume words carefully. Your cover letter will obviously benefit alongside your resume. You might be asked to give a potted history of your career over the phone with a recruiter, and you don’t want to be searching for the right word amidst the pressure of an interview. Use the action verbs in your resume when you meet the hiring manager in person - they will be doubly resonant.
These three benefits of action verbs outline how to boost your job search and why you should bookmark this blog for repeated viewing:
Elevate your existing accomplishments with action verbs
Many of us think that our career achievements seem a little too “normal” for us to get that dream job. While that may or may not be the case, there is a way of elevating the accomplishments so that they stand out from the crowd: with carefully selected action verbs to highlight your accomplishments.
If you are starting your bullet pointed achievements with impactful action verbs that embellish your actions (whilst not changing the accomplishment itself), you are taking your candidature to another level. The action verb itself will already allow the hiring manager to imagine you doing something impactful.
Most people will write: “Managed a team of five analysts.” You will write: “Coached and mobilized a team of five insightful analysts.” Oooh, mobilized. I wonder why they had to be mobilized. Surely there is a story behind that word? Action verbs make a hiring manager curious. Curiosity leads to an interview invite.
Obviously, there is much more to writing an impactful accomplishment than the first word, but, for the purposes of this article, that crucial first verb (or two) is all that matters.
Avoid overused descriptions by using action words instead
Are you a detail-oriented team player, who thinks outside the box to achieve results? I can tell you that this sentence will impress a grand total of zero hiring managers. It would also confuse a five-year-old, which is a great test of simple but effective writing.
I can tell you that you can convey the same ideas by using the right action words at the start of your accomplishments (while, at the same time, actually telling the hiring manager about something worthwhile rather than irrelevant fluff). Sidestep bland and boring language by utilizing action verbs in your resume.
Here’s how you can substitute overused cliches with powerful resume action verbs:
- “Detail-oriented” – use an action verb from the “researched” category.
- “Team player” – use an action word from the “teamwork” section.
- “Thinks outside the box” (uurgh) – use an action verb from the “creativity” category.
- “Achieve results” – use a power verb from the “achievement” section.
Every word counts in your resume and cover letter. Don’t waste words if you don’t need to.
Equally, don't use an impressive verb if your accomplishment doesn't back it up.
Show you’ve read the job description by using action verbs
Your third priority should be this: utilize action verbs to show you are attentive and detail-sensitive. Show that you actually put in some effort when analyzing your future job. Every hiring manager wants to get a sense that you are a fit for the role. While there should hopefully be a good amount of synergy between the job description and your resume, the job description is more about responsibilities and the resume is more about achievement.
You can breach that gap by choosing the right action verbs to match.
In addition, the ATS (applicant tracking system) software is getting increasingly sophisticated at selecting the most suitable applicants, so using the most relevant action verbs will help your application to move to the top of the virtual pile. It might even give more advanced language a slight bump up the ratings.
Active vs. passive voice
In any job search, you need to be clear about what you personally accomplished and where you participated in the accomplishments of a wider team. If you are not careful, your language can create the wrong impression:
Active voice: “Completed the project in two months” (clear that you did it yourself)
Passive voice: “Project was completed in two months” (not at all clear who actually did it)
This is basic English grammar, but you would be surprised how many people get it wrong.
Hopefully you now agree that action verbs are pretty important. Let’s get amongst them:
Quantify your value when using action verbs
You can take your careful resume word choice a step further by adding some numbers into the mix. In fact, it works just as well for cover letters and interviews, too. This is a top shortcut to quantify your professional contributions with the use of numbers. Pick action verbs that you can match with statistics and numbers that illuminate your results.
Perhaps you want to include an example about cutting costs from your department. Pick a strong action verb that's appropriate to use in this context and works with the statistic you can match it with. For instance, "Reduced department costs" could quickly turn into "Streamlined production workflow which led to surpassing team output goals by 25%".
The results of many people's jobs are not easily measured. For instance, if you work in compliance then your job is to avoid undesirable consequences. No results in an audit in your case means a job well done. Not only does that mean that your action verbs could focus on "diminishing" or "reducing", but the numbers you use to quantify your success should relate to situations you have successfully avoided.
300+ resume action verbs in 15 work situations
While the English language can be wonderfully rich, the same 20-25 action verbs dominate 95% of job search applications. I won’t list them here. You know the usual suspects. They won't impress anybody.
So, here we offer fifteen common categories of resume actions and achievements that job seekers write about, with 20 words and an example per category. We hope they are useful.
For ease of navigation, here are the 15 category links:
- “Leadership” action verbs
- “Achievement” words for resume
- “Teamwork” action words
- “Communication” action verbs
- “Project management” verbs for resume
- “People management” action verbs
- “Customer service” action words
- “Problem solving” power words
- “Improved” synonyms
- “Researched” action verbs
- “Organization” resume words
- “Creativity” action verbs
- “Worked on” power words
- “Increased” synonyms
- “Reduced” action verbs
Consider yourself a leader? Have you changed the lives of your people and put some rocket fuel under the bottom line? Would those around you see you as someone to follow until the bitter end?
Okay, well, let your accomplishments do the talking then. Have you done anything that could be prefaced with any of these leadership-oriented resume action verbs?
“Chaired a project team through a change process, trimming 5% of our cost base.”
Put yourself in the hiring manager’s position. What sort of achievement action words will make them sit up and take notice of your resume? Make sure that the verb matches the nature of the accomplishment.
Think about what would work for your industry sector and your job function.
“Outperformed sales team in quarterly new business attraction by 67%.”
Use unique action words in the work experience section
The work experience section of your resume is the first place that a hiring manager would expect to read about accomplishments. Whether there are bullet points or full sentences, using thoughtful action words will add a different dimension to how your achievements come across. They don’t all have to be world-beaters, as that might seem a little false, but make sure that you sprinkle in enough to stand out from the crowd.
We all reckon we are good at working with others, but the true measure of a team is the results they achieve together. Which team accomplishments are you most proud of? Don't overexaggerate your role, though.
Demonstrate your qualities with the teamwork-oriented resume action verbs below:
“Moderated a merger between two areas, with bottom line synergies of $500k.”
There are so many ways of communicating with others. Some appropriate, some maybe less so. Again, pick the action verbs that work best for your industry and occupation to empower your resume communication skill list.
Conveying your message to achieve the desired outcome is a rare skill indeed.
“Briefed my team on the details of the $1.2m business continuity plan.”
Include impactful action verbs in your summary.
The first 5-6 lines at the top of a resume have the power to make or break a candidate. Our guide on how to craft an impactful summary gives me detail, but it goes without saying that you should save your most impactful and relevant couple of action verbs for this area. The hiring manager might only glance at your resume for a few seconds. What verbs really and truly sum up what you are all about? Give it some serious thought. It really matters.
When you outline a project in your resume or cover letter, it is important to button down the exact nature of your role.
A descriptive action verb will highlight your project management abilities, check out the list here:
“Executed the software rollout to twelve departments within two months.”
The resume words that you choose when describing how you achieved things with others are hugely revealing. What is your impact on those around you? What was the eact nature of the action to make your difference?
Illustrate your “people skills” with one of the evocative action verbs from this list:
“Mentored four colleagues, two of whom were promoted within three years.”
Deploy emotive action words in your cover letter.
A cover letter is different from a resume. It gives a candidate far more opportunity to showcase their personality and demonstrate their culture fit, so ensure that your cover letter action words are more oriented towards provoking an emotional response in the hiring manager. If they are too formal, you risk coming across as boring (etc). Words are all you have, so make sure that they make the reader of your cover letter feel something positive about you.
I serve customers. Really? Is that all you have got? How you describe your customer service sheds a light on how you make your customers feel and whether they walk away happy.
Here’s 20 action verbs you can use in your resume to showcase your customer service experience:
“Resolved a company-record 150 customer complaints a week.”
Why use six words to give more detail about a problem when one action verb will suffice. The details of the problem can come later at interview - just give a hint at the complexity involved.
Matching problem-solving action verbs with the job description is particularly important.
“Rectified a list of outstanding issues that had been dormant for more than a year.”
Don’t overuse the action verbs, much as you might want to.
Having shared a blog with 300+ action verbs, it pains me to say that you should not over use them. Balance is important in job search communication, so don’t let your action verbs dominate while you are maybe not including enough numbers or industry keywords. One is enough at the start of an accomplishment, with two in a sentence at most (on rare occasions).
There are a hundred shades of improvement and each one says something slightly different about how you made the situation better. What did you change and why was your input important?
How did you really make your difference felt? Help the hiring manager understand your qualities by using accurate and vibrant action verbs from this list:
“Ignited a fire under the management team to deliver an extra $950k sales.”
For the detail-oriented among us, we all have to research information at some point. The research-based resume action verb that you chose to describe this will show just how detail-obsessed you are.
“Scrutinized the market and doubled market share by launching a new product.”
Use impressive words, but don’t stray too far from your normal speech.
Authenticity is important in any job search, so while you should write your resume and cover letter to stand out to a hiring manager, you should be careful not to use too many words that you might not use in normal life. If you use certain resume words, but it becomes clear during an interview that your resume language is somehow inauthentic, it can cast a shadow over your application. Be yourself and try to find that happy medium.
If you are anything like me, organized is definitely not my middle name, but a couple of suitably chosen action words could make you seem like a zen master of efficiency.
It is one thing to use the "organized" action word, but make sure that the example backs it up
“Implemented a new software solution that shrunk build time by 34%”
Your accomplishments are the only thing that can shine a light on your creativity. “I am a creative person” is possibly the most vomit-inducing line in any job application. Ever.
Put a bit of effort into an alternative description - use a creativity-related action verb from this table:
“Drafted a contract that ensured a 45% gain in compliance.”
How can I optimize my use of action verbs in my job search?
- Be thoughtful in which verbs you use
- Pick action verbs that reflect your role
- Replace overused phrases such as “team player”
- Transfer your written language to an interview
- Overuse action verbs
- Be tempted to exaggerate
- Ever describe yourself as a “creative person”
- Struggle to find the right words at interview
We all understand that we go to work to get paid, but what was the nature of your work? What exactly did you do? Is it a fit for what you will be expected to do in your next role?
“Initiated a recruitment drive that hired fifteen people within three months.”
For me, this category of action verbs is the most impactful in most job applications. Your future employer wants you to make a difference to their business. But in what way?
“Revamped our social marketing strategy, delivering +25% uplift in sales.”
Equally valid is the point that some roles may require you to decrease certain things. Which words best fit your brand of elimination? Streamline your resume with great action verbs.
“Minimized surgery wait times by 15 mins, increasing patient satisfaction by 25%”
Just one word can change the entire outlook on an achievement.
- Pick the right action verbs in conjunction with your accomplishments
- Mix complicated action verbs with normal ones (don't be too flashy)
- Use at the start of a bullet point for the maxmium effect
- Make sure that you use them in your interview
We are sure that you can think up hundreds of different examples for your career. The big question is which ones to use? Good luck making those tough decisions. Have a look at our resume accomplishments blog for more inspiration or read here how you create a job-winning resume.