How to Use Action Verbs for a Winning Resume

FT Contributor  | 

A resume is a document that highlights your education, prior work experience, and skill set. You submit your resume to hiring managers as the first step in applying for a job. Because a resume is a highlight reel of sorts, it’s important to choose your words carefully. Using action verbs on your resume is beneficial for a number of reasons. For one, action verbs indicate that you are still working on the role(s) indicated on your resume.

Secondly, action verbs indicate that you have strong experience in a particular role, drawing the employer’s attention to those experiences. Thirdly, the use of action verbs can be beneficial in helping your resume get past automated scanning tools that many employers use to help filter the bulk amount of resumes they receive.

Choosing words that are weak or faulty can give an employer the wrong impression in the skills section of your resume, but action verbs allow you to showcase your communication skills, work experience, and accomplishments with confidence.

When choosing the action verbs to include on your resume, note that they should not be chosen at random. Instead, the action verbs you use should showcase your personality and be specific and tailored to the type of job you are applying for.

Whether you are formatting your resume in search of your first job or refreshing your resume to present it in pursuit of a new career opportunity, this guide to action verbs will help you create a winning resume that attracts the attention of employers.

Active vs. Passive Voice

Active voice implies that you — the subject — are performing the action. On the other hand, passive voice implies that you are being acted upon. In other words, passive voice separates you, the actor, from the job duty or responsibility, which in this case would be the action. On a resume, you’re listing the experiences you have had in the workplace that you are still acting upon, so active voice is imperative.

Using a passive voice on your resume isn’t wrong, but it’s not encouraged. Active voice allows you to appear confident in the responsibilities you are discussing, while passive voice can make it appear like you’re not giving yourself the credit you deserve. When it comes to showcasing your experience, using active verbs helps demonstrate a stronger connection to the tasks or responsibilities being outlined and gives the employer a better sense of what you’re capable of.

Common Action Verb for Resumes

Many people use common action verbs to showcase their experience on a resume. These commonly used action verbs give an employer an overview of your experience, but they may not be enough to get past those scanners mentioned previously.

These are some of the most common action verbs you can use to demonstrate experience on a resume:

  • Achieved.
  • Improved.
  • Trained.
  • Mentored.
  • Managed.
  • Created.
  • Resolved.
  • Volunteered.
  • Increased.
  • Decreased.
  • Launched.
  • Won.
  • Programmed.
  • Configured.
  • Implemented.
  • Championed.
  • Aligned.
  • Cultivated.
  • Founded.
  • Motivated.

While there is nothing wrong with the action verbs that are commonly used on resumes across the board, you may want to consider the use of alternative and more illustrative action verbs to help your resume stand out from the others.

More Action Verbs

Those common action verbs mentioned above aren’t the only action verbs you can use on a resume. There are countless action verbs you can use to showcase your relevant experience.

You can employ certain action verbs to highlight your experience, soft skills, and hard skills in a particular role. Moreover, there are action verbs that are more well-suited to a position you held. For instance, the action verbs you choose to describe the duties in a managerial role will differ from action verbs that describe an administrative role.

Similarly, the action verbs you wield to describe your experience on a resume will vary depending on the skills you wish to highlight. For example, the action verbs that describe the technical skills for an engineering role will vary greatly from the action verbs that describe the soft skills a salesman practices on a daily basis.

Below, you’ll find action verbs to include on your resume depending on the experience you are looking to highlight.

1. Leadership skills:

    1. Spearheaded.
    2. Executed.
    3. Established.
    4. Developed.
    5. Sanctioned.
    6. Negotiated.
    7. Advocated.
    8. Pioneered.
    9. Galvanized.
    10. Diagnosed.
    11. Budgeted.
    12. Increased.
    13. Advised.
    14. Appointed.
    15. Authorized.
    16. Directed.
    17. Educated.
    18. Elicited.
    19. Employed.
    20. Empowered.
    21. Enabled.
    22. Encouraged.
    23. Fostered.
    24. Moderated.
    25. Monitored.
    26. Recruited.

2. Organizational skills

    1. Arranged.
    2. Budgeted.
    3. Centralized.
    4. Indexed.
    5. Orchestrated.
    6. Organized.
    7. Processed.
    8. Purchased.
    9. Recorded.
    10. Scheduled,
    11. Systemized.
    12. Generated.
    13. Registered.
    14. Validated.
    15. Updated.

3. Management skills:

    1. Controlled.
    2. Converted.
    3. Directed.
    4. Eliminated.
    5. Enforced.
    6. Executed.
    7. Headed.
    8. Hired.
    9. Incorporated.
    10. Increased.
    11. Initiated.
    12. Managed.
    13. Merged.
    14. Motivated.
    15. Navigated.
    16. Overhauled.
    17. Secured.
    18. Selected.
    19. Streamlined.
    20. Strengthened.
    21. Supervised.
    22. Terminated.

4. Communication skills:

    1. Addressed.
    2. Articulated.
    3. Collaborated.
    4. Debated.
    5. Defined.
    6. Drafted.
    7. Edited.
    8. Elicited.
    9. Enlisted.
    10. Formulated.
    11. Incorporated.
    12. Influenced.
    13. Interviewed.
    14. Lectured.
    15. Marketed.
    16. Mediated.
    17. Negotiated.
    18. Outlined.
    19. Persuaded.
    20. Publicized.
    21. Reconciled.
    22. Reported.
    23. Solicited.
    24. Synthesized.
    25. Translated.
    26. Wrote.

When creating your resume, remember to use action verbs that are relevant to your experience and the role that you are applying for. Note that the action verbs you include in one application might differ from the verbs on your resume for another position. Along with the other details you incorporate, tailor your verbs to the role you are applying for.

Doing so will ensure that your resume reflects your experience clearly and concisely, increasing your chances of receiving an in-person interview and, eventually, a job offer.


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This post was updated January 9, 2020. It was originally published January 9, 2020.