The Importance of Resume Action Verbs

resume action verbs

If you want to make your resume stand out, action verbs are key. Strong, effective action words will paint a vivid picture of your experience and achievements in a potential employer’s mind.

In this article, we’ll look at the benefits of action verbs, why they’re necessary, and how you can use them to ensure that your resume rises to the top of the pile.

We also have a full guide on “How to Write a Resume” that discusses each section of your resume from top to bottom. Plus, you can upload and create your resume on Chegg CareerMatch.

Maximize the Impact of Your Resume with Action Verbs

One of the main benefits of action words is the impact they provide. Your resume is a very brief document to present yourself to an employer. You simply can’t fit everything you’d like to tell them–that will happen in the interview.

Since you’re working with such limited space, short descriptions are vital. Action words make these descriptions resonate with the reader. They help your resume tell the story of why you’re the best fit for the job.

Get Past the Scanning Software

Using action verbs effectively can also help you bypass scanning software that filters out unqualified employees.

Employers are bombarded with resumes. They simply don’t have the time or resources to personally review every resume they receive. This is why employers are increasingly turning to scanning software to act as a gatekeeper. Resume scanning software searches for keywords that relate to the job description and the skills required. It also looks for action words that stand out and signal a potential match.

Of course, getting past the scanning software doesn’t guarantee you an interview. Once your resume is in front of a recruiter or hiring manager, impactful resume power words will get their attention. When you describe your work experience in bullet points, use action words to amplify your skills and accomplishments, helping you reach the next step: an interview.

If you need help identifying these skills, we’ll provide a list of your employable skills when you upload your resume to Chegg CareerMatch.

Examples of Strong Resume Verbs

At this point, you understand that you should include action verbs in your resume. But what are some effective words to use? Below, we’ll look at strong replacements for overused resume verbs.

Led

If you “led” a project, you may substitute a verb like:

  • Directed
  • Coordinated
  • Headed
  • Organized
  • Executed
  • Oversaw

Increased or Improved

Increasing your company’s numbers is always a good thing, but employers get tired of those words. Replace them with:

  • Enhanced
  • Accelerated
  • Maximized
  • Boosted
  • Amplified
  • Expanded

Saved

If you want to explain that you saved money or time, get creative with action verbs for resumes such as:

  • Reduced
  • Yielded
  • Conserved
  • Consolidated
  • Generated (savings)
  • Lessened

Started

Instead of saying that you “started” a new initiative or project, try:

  • Created
  • Introduced
  • Initiated
  • Implemented
  • Launched
  • Established

Helped or Supported

Many recent graduates have mostly customer service experience. Describe these jobs with terms like:

  • Informed
  • Advised
  • Resolved
  • Assisted
  • Educated
  • Provided

Achieved

Achieve greater success with your resume by replacing this verb with the following:

  • Awarded
  • Earned
  • Completed
  • Succeeded
  • Exceeded
  • Honored (with)

Changed or Improved

If you’ve improved an existing program or policy at your job, describe this accomplishment with resume power words such as:

  • Innovated
  • Modified
  • Streamlined
  • Transformed
  • Updated
  • Overhauled

These word banks should give you an idea of what makes good action verbs for resumes. Think about the skills and experiences you’d like to convey to an employer, then find a strong verb to describe it.

Once you’ve selected your action verbs, where exactly should you put them?

Resume action words are best utilized in the bullet points of your resume’s “Experience” section. That’s where you summarize your responsibilities and accomplishments in previous jobs you’ve held. You can also employ action words in a “Summary” section when describing yourself and a few key highlights—essentially a summary of top skills that you bring to the job.

Let’s look at some examples in both locations. Notice how action words can make your experience and skills jump off the page.

Examples: Action Verbs in Your Resume’s Experience Section


Before: Improved inventory management process.

After: Developed and implemented enhancements to inventory management process resulting in 20% reduction of ordering costs.


The second example is better for several reasons. It uses strong verbs that clearly convey what you did on the job. In addition, it gives the results of your actions. When possible, it’s important to include concrete results that highlight the value you added. This gives the employer a better understanding of the impact of your contributions–and how you can be expected to contribute in the future.

Examples: Action Verbs in Your Resume’s Summary/Skills Section


Before: Worked with team on new customer outreach initiative.

After: Effectively collaborated with team to assess and analyze customer needs for new outreach initiative directly resulting in increasing customer satisfaction rates by 15%.


The “after” version in this example provides a much more impactful description of your communication skills. Instead of simply saying that you worked with a team, it conveys that you excel in this area and would bring beneficial communication skills to the job.

The more you use strong verbs to describe your experiences in your resume, the more likely it is that the employer will want to discuss them further in an interview. This approach adds impact and depth to your descriptions, giving the employer substantial information. Review each description on your current resume. Do these descriptions actually convey what you did?

Remember to add results as often as possible. The combination of action words and specific results indicates that you know how to take initiative and get results.

Focus on Areas That Are a Match

To maximize the effectiveness of your action verbs, customize them to the position to which you’re applying.

Start by carefully reviewing the job description. If you’re applying to a position that emphasizes critical thinking and analytical skills, look for areas on your resume where you can focus on those skills and add keywords.

You may have all the qualifications and skills imaginable for a position, but it’s vital that the employer can easily see this on your resume.

When applying for more than one position or to more than one company, you may need to change the wording on your resume. The more you tailor your resume to a specific job or company, the more likely you are to land an interview.

Bonus: Use Your Cover Letter Too!

Keep in mind that your cover letter is another place to utilize keywords and action words. As with your resume, look for areas that can be improved with strong, impactful verbs that better convey your achievements.

Cover letters often get scanned by resume software, so ensure that you’re using action words related to the job description. They’re also typically the first thing the employer reads when reviewing your application, so make the most of this opportunity to further stand out.

Don’t Sell Yourself Short

Job candidates often feel uncomfortable “bragging about themselves,” whether in the interview or on the resume. The result is that many people simply list what they did at work, which barely differs from a typical job description.

Don’t worry about seeming arrogant. Employers want to know how you’ve excelled and what sets you apart from other candidates. Be proud of what you’ve accomplished, and use appropriate action verbs and resume adjectives to convey these achievements in your resume.

Action Verbs for Passive Job Seekers

Here’s a final tip to keep in mind about action words:

They can also benefit you when you aren’t actively seeking a new job.

Even if you aren’t necessarily looking for a new position, it’s a good idea to keep your resume updated. Your resume should be featured on your LinkedIn profile and/or posted elsewhere online. You never know when the right recruiter will find your online profile and reach out to you with an opportunity, so use resume verbs to enhance your marketability.

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