There’s a lot of competition out there so it’s more important than ever to stand out from the crowd. Here’s how to use strong, compelling resume action verbs that will impress hirers and recruiters.
The duties and achievements sections of your resume need to provide the reader or Applicant Tracking System with a full picture of your skills and experience to help you get shortlisted for interview.
The best way to do this is to use bullet points to clearly list everything they are looking for. Unfortunately, this is where things can go drastically wrong if you are not careful.
I did this, I did that, then I did the other
First off, don’t use the first person. You will immediately be seen as unprofessional and your written communication skills will be brought into question.
That doesn’t mean you should resort to the third person either though such as “Steven has undertaken a vast range of projects…” That’s old fashioned and a little pompous.
This is where verbs save the day.
What is a verb?
"A word or group of words that expresses an action (such as eat), an event (such as happen) or a state (such as exist)." Oxford Learners Dictionary
Starting your bullet points with words such as 'handled', 'produced' or 'organised' is definitely the way to go.
So, job done hey? You are probably doing that already right? There’s just one problem though.
Typical resume action verbs are so boring!
Speaking as a recruiter, once you have read ‘handled’, ‘produced’ and ‘organised’ 50 times, such words almost become invisible.
However, if you use the right verbs, your resume will come to life and help you stand out from the crowd.
This is especially true for your achievements section where you want to impress recruiters and hirers and make them think “great, we need this person to do this in our role”
Before you rush off though and get more creative with your resume, you need to be mindful of the following.
What to do before you start editing your resume action verbs
I don't want to dampen your enthusiasm here because editing your verbs can make a real difference, but it definitely comes under the general heading of fine tuning your resume. Make sure you have done these 2 vital things before you even consider editing your verbs.
Get your resume format right
If your resume isn’t formatted properly it’s unlikely that a human will be reading it at all because Applicant Tracking Systems will have rejected it, so get this right first before you start editing your verbs.
Use a professional profile to start your resume
When a recruiter or hiring manager gets to see your resume, it absolutely must start with a professional profile that will make them want to read on. If you haven’t done this already, do this before editing your bullet points - because they might not even get to read them if your profile isn't good enough!
So, what are the right resume action verbs?
It’s not so much a case of having one set of power verbs that will make all the difference. It’s about making sure there is a difference between bullet points by mixing up your verbs.
I have literally seen many resumes have a whole block of bullet points starting with the same words repeated.
By simply switching out a few words you can see it will make a real difference and break up the monotony but, if you really want to harness the power of great resume action verbs, here’s a few tips that will really make an impact.
How to use resume action verbs to make you stand out
Be creative – not crazy
You are trying to make your resume stand out and make more impact but make sure it is for the right reasons. Still use the more boring, regular verbs but just mix them up with some different ones to break up the monotony. Every bullet point does not have to start with a unique verb.
Keep things real
Action verbs help you sell yourself and your skills to the reader, especially in your achievements section, but keep it professional. Never over exaggerate or lie and back claims up with facts.
Choose the right tense
Ensure you use present tense in the bullet points for your current duties and achievements and past tense for all your other positions.
Edit your resume action verbs prior to job applications
You should always make the effort to target your resumes and cover letters for each application you make. You may get lucky by sending out the same generic version, but you will definitely improve your chances by making the effort to do this.
In the most obvious sense this means including information and skills that are relevant to the position you are applying for but there are also more subtle edits that can help too.
For example, you should take into account the culture of the company you are applying to. Conduct some research by checking out their website and social media pages.
Take note of the language they use and edit your action verbs if you feel it is appropriate.
You should also try to mirror the language used in a job description or job advertisement.
For example, if a company uses the word ‘spearheading’ for a duty for a project management role then you should include that as an action verb for one of your duties.
If they say they require a ‘self starter’ then you need to use ‘initiating’ for one of your duties.
This will take a little time to do it properly but it won’t be difficult as long as you have a great base resume to work off.
Resume action verbs list
Now you are ready to start boosting the impact of your resume by injecting some new action verbs.
To help you get started, here are a few lists based on common categories. Some span across all but this should give you more than enough to choose from to really make a difference to you resume straight away.
Don't hold back, sell yourself
Use these for admin duties or where you have initiated, applied or worked within systems and processes.
- Carried out
- Set up
You can of course say 'managing' or 'leading' but mix it up a little with some of these.
Instead of saying 'working with' try a couple of these.
This could be a new project, a work practice or process, the introduction of new technology or a different approach.
Try these for sentences explaining what you did.
- Rolled out
Blow your own trumpet with these top action verbs.
Use these verbs to describe how you did it.
How did you get these things over the line?
Different ways to say 'overseeing'
Can be written or verbal
Different ways to convey how thorough you are