How to use resume action words and action verbs

Readers aren’t necessarily hooked by the content of your resume, but the way you present the information. To create an engaging resume, make sure that you use action words. In order to use resume action words you need to understand passive voice and how it negatively affects your resume.

By using the best action words for your resume, it will be more engaging while spotlighting your best accomplishments.

Passive vs active voice on your resume

Avoid passive voice when writing your resume. While it may create an objective detachment you think you need, all it does is stop your reader from identifying with you. The reality is, in resumes as in fiction, people want to read about characters performing actions—not about action being performed by characters.

An example passive voice example phrase is “profit margins grew 50% as a result of…’’

You can replace this passive formulation with ‘Increased profit margins by 50% through…’’

The first example paint the picture that you were in the way of success. In the second example, you are the agent responsible for a specific situation.

Use active resume verbs like these to avoid passive voice

Achieved Formulated Incorporated
Advised Forecasted Reached
Attained Diagnosed Reconciled
Collected Generated Revitalized
Constructed Identified Streamlined
Created Implemented Upgraded

Detecting passive voice on your resume

We often use the passive voice unconsciously and it can be difficult to detect. One method is to go through all verbs and notice the ones that are in the past participle instead of in the simple past. In other words, look to see if the resume verb comprises two words instead of one.

For example, the verb “were grown” comprises two words, meaning that it is in the passive voice. If it were in the active voice, it would have only one word: “grew.”

Another example is: “were developed.” The active voice for this verb would simply be “developed.” By changing your wording you will increase the readability of your resume and better appeal to the reader.

Accomplishments action words

Boosted Exceeded Projected
Developed Increased Published
Enabled Planned Received

Creativity action words

Acted Established Initiated
Conceptualized Fashioned Originated
Designed Founded Shaped
Discovered Illustrated Visualized

Leadership action words

Advocated Empowered Mentored
Coached Engaged Oversaw
Delegated Instilled Prioritized
Developed Led Strengthened

Learn more about how to showcase leadership skills on your resume.

Of course, you should quantify your action phrases and focus on what resulted from these actions. The use of action words is only the first step in crafting a strong phrase. You need to substantiate your claims and make their value evident.

Here are a few strong resume phrases which quantify accomplishments:

  • “Oversaw the development of the company’s new website, which led in 30% more web traffic.”
  • “Strengthened the stability of the IT infrastructure so that it can analyze terabytes of data.”
  • “Exceeded quarterly sales target by 15% through focused lead generation strategies.”
  • “Sustained an average of $20,000 worth of sales every month for three years.”
  • “Published and launched the company’s first issue of its new magazine.”

Check out 39 more resume accomplishment examples.

Action words make your resume more fun to read

The key concept to remember is that you shouldn’t treat your resume differently than other types of written works. Ask yourself, if my resume were a novel or a short story, would it be engaging and fun to read?

If the answer to this question is no, then you need to reconsider the way you write your resume—and it starts with eliminating passive words.

No recruiter wants to struggle through a heavy resume filled with past participle—like most people hate to read scientific literature.

Your professional career is a journey and it deserves a well-written narrative.

Do your resume action words paint the right picture?

Learn more 

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