If you want to obliterate the glass ceiling and bolt to the very top of your industry, you need to be a woman of action. An attractive job posting gets hundreds and hundreds of applications. How do you make sure your résumé has a chance of catching the hiring manager’s eye? That’s where action verbs can swoop in and save the day. The language we use on our résumés shouldn’t be overwrought, but it should be vivid enough to put a polish on your accomplishments. By using a long list of clichés, you’re suggesting that you don’t actually feel strongly about what you’ve achieved — and maybe no one else should, either.
So, What Exactly Is An Action Verb?
Tired: “I helped with an initiative that reduced order fulfilment time by 20%”
Wired: “I orchestrated an initiative that reduced order fulfilment time by 20%”
You didn’t just help — you orchestrated. You sound smart and cunning, like you’re capable of being a mastermind supervillain, but choose instead to use your powers for good.
Tired: “I made a new guideline for quarterly goals and metrics”
Wired: “I formulated a new guideline for quarterly goals and metrics”
You concocted that guideline with the precision of science. The exact ingredients are a proprietary, patent-pending system that no one else will be able to copy, and this laser-focused dedication to detail is what you’d bring to the job you’re applying for.
Tired: “I led my team to drive 10% growth in our department last year”
Wired: “I mobilised my team to drive 10% growth in our department last year”
You’re not pulling your team along on a leash; they feel motivated by your leadership to scale new heights. These are the results that you inspire, and your team definitely gets you a really nice birthday cake every year.
See how much more exciting those sound? Not every verb on your résumé has to be an uncommon alternative to more a more natural-sounding word. Here’s a non-exhaustive list of other action words you can use:
Action Verbs For Initiative
Action Verbs For Creativity
Action Verbs For Critical Thinking
Action Verbs for Management
Action Verbs For Communication
Tip: Avoid Business Jargon
The general idea is to really hone in on what it is you’ve accomplished, using verbs that immediately call to mind an image of achievement and leadership all the while avoiding shallow, mind-numbing corporatespeak. “When people write about their work experiences, there can be a tendency to use business jargon or general phrases of self-promotion,” Eleanor Hooker, Indeed's Senior Director of Job Seeker Experience, tells Refinery29. “These include terms like ‘strategic thinker,’ ‘self-starter’ or ‘detail-oriented.’ While we've grown comfortable with these phrases, they actually tell an employer little to nothing about what you've actually done or what you're capable of in their workplace.”
Tip: Be Extra Specific, But Straightforward
“We recommend starting each sentence in the work experience section of your resume with a strong action verb and following that with a description of exactly what you did,” says Hooker. “Whenever possible, include numbers to support your achievements — did quantifiable good things happen because of your work? Here's an example full sentence: ‘Created product renderings for new client pitch deck that increased sales by 15% quarter over quarter.’”
“The benefit of using action words in your resume is that it makes your accomplishments clear and direct,” she continues. “You only have a short time to grab a recruiter's attention — our research has shown most employers look for longer than ten seconds, but that's still quite brief. You don't want to risk them misunderstanding what you really have to offer. Writing your resume this way has the added benefit of being useful for interview prep. When you're speaking to someone about your abilities, you want to use the same straightforward language.”