How to Use Resume Action Verbs and Write a Resume That Gets Interviews

by Kate Williams

What are Resume Action Verbs?

Also called resume power words, resume action verbs are words that convey power and specificity. These are not to be confused with buzzwords, the meaningless fluff that no one likes.

Resume action verbs, if used appropriately can take your resume from standard to standout. But before we get to the action words, here are some tips to write a strong resume.

6 Strong Resume Writing Tips

1. Enough with the Fluff

Use string action verbs to add confidence and competence to your resume.

If you are not careful, resumes can become cluttered with fluff. Recruiters and human resources professionals sniff out fluff a mile away.

Your goal is to create a strong message, convey confidence and positivity. And you have to write it in 600-800 words says Richard Poulin of the Resume Hacking e-Book series.

When applying for jobs you want to have a simple resume format. There is no such thing as a perfect resume, but you can go from having a good resume to having a great resume if you keep reading.

Fluff vs Real Words

Let’s look at an example of fluff. The word effectively doesn’t mean anything on a resume or in a cover letter. “Effectively managed” is laughable.

Why? Why would you put something on your resume that you were ineffective at doing? A real word is “Managed a team … ” keep the verbs and toss the adverbs.

American author and writing icon Mark Twain, was a crusader for real words. He had a disdain for adverbs and the word very.

He wasn’t that keen about adjectives either “As to the Adjective: when in doubt, strike it out,” he has said. Imagine what the Internet headlines would be if Mr. Twain were in charge. “The Most Amazing Video You’ll Ever See — The End Will Astound You” would become “Watch a Soldier Surprise His Golden Retriever.”

2. Get to the Point

Resume action verbs give your resume strength so get to the point.

A resume writer must use clear but vivid language. You are not going to know who will end up reading your resume but you have to write with the reader in mind. (See what I mean by writing is not easy?)

You want to convey your work history clearly and in chronological order. It’s also crucial to avoid jargon and slang.

Brevity is also critical because you are working with at most two pages of space. Job seekers with no work experience typically have a resume that’s one page.

You will also be using bullet points to break up the sections of the document. You have to be laser-focused on presenting the most relevant information for the specific job posting you are applying to.

Resume action verbs, aka strong words, communicate efficiently. At the end of the article, you’ll find a list of words to inspire you.

The toughest writing is short writing. You have to edit without mercy and spend hours thinking about it with little to show. BUT when you finally have the right sentence, it will open doors.

3. Know Your Who

It’s not about you, it’s about your reader. The Father of Advertising, David Ogilvy was a stickler for understanding his audience. He credits his success to his research, not his writing.

Ogilvy also treated his audiences with respect, something that was not the norm in the 1950s. In his book, Confessions of an Advertising Man, he mentions one of his hallmark phrases “The customer is not a moron. She’s your wife.” He humanized his audience instead of patronizing them.

When you write your resume, think of the reader not as a faceless applicant tracking software bot, but as your friend or co-worker. Is it a recruiter who sees hundreds of cover letters and resumes a week, or a hiring manager who has a Job vacancy every couple of years?

If it is a recruiter, he or she looks at the same words over and over again from people who think they are the only ones clever enough to use a resume builder. The handmade resume wins over the mass-produced ones. Feel free to use a resume template to organize your information, but keep it simple.

It’s OK to be different. Be daring, but most of all, be yourself. Using resume action verbs will help you communicate your talents.

4. Strong Writing Begins with Research

DO research to see what action verbs would be best for your resume.

Ogilvy had this to say about advertising writers and research, but it works with resume writers too. “Advertisers who ignore research are as dangerous as generals who ignore the signs of the enemy.“

Research will make your writing effective at showing that you understand what your audience, your prospective employer, needs. This means you have to do more than look at a company’s website to research your reader.

Call human resources or contact the job poster on LinkedIn to find out who will read your resume. Find out the name of your possible new boss and find out as much as you can about them.

This information will come in handy when you write your cover letter.

You’ll also want to look at employee demographics, how long people have been at the company and what they are saying about the company. You can check the company’s career page, annual report or call HR and ask. The worst they could do is say no.

Look for reviews on Glassdoor, Indeed, and Reddit. Employees know what a company is really like.

It may seem really cool to work for ABC Tech, but if an overwhelming number of employees say it’s bad news, you can move on to better job opportunities.

When advertising copywriters start a project, they receive a creative brief from the client. This one-page document helps them to understand the purpose of their writing.

Are they are selling a widget to a returning customer, or informing a potential customer about the benefits of widgets? Whatever it is, the writing must be centered around your audience.

In advertising, a creative brief tells the copywriter the who, what, when, where, why and how of the message they have to create. To write a resume, you must look at the job description for guidance about what to write. The company needs someone to do xyz.

The job description outlines exactly what they are looking for in a top candidate, the timeline for filling the position and who will make the hiring decision. Use the job posting to create a resume that persuades the reader to contact you for a job interview.

5. Watch Your Tone

One of the most important aspects of copywriting is the tone. Is the tone of the job description and company website conversational or Lord Business?

The best indicator of how formal your tone should be in your resume writing is the job description itself. You can also check the company’s careers website for the tone of the company’s voice.

For example, the Whole Foods careers site has a friendly, direct tone. So, when you apply to that kind of company, you want to use the same simple, but direct style.

A government agency job description, for example, has a heavy, jargon-laden tone. The language may be difficult for an outsider to understand.

But, it’s the language that you need to mirror back to them to show that you speak their language.

6. Be Real

Your readers want to feel like they are reading something that was written by a real person. Resume action verbs are more authentic than using a bunch of keywords.

Stuffing your resume with keywords and jargon is not reassuring to the hiring manager. This is the head-scratcher that copywriters face every day: How do I take something someone has seen a bazillion times and make it interesting?

Resume-specific Writing Tips

Resume action words can help your resume get noticed.

Now the next set of resume writing tips will look at the specific parts of copywriting as it applies to your resume.

Your Headline (Summary of Qualifications)

Writers should spend most of their time writing headlines. “On the average, five times as many people read the headline as read the body copy. When you have written your headline, you have spent eighty cents out of your dollar,” Ogilvy says.

It is what will grab the reader and make them want to find out more. In the case of a resume, the headline is your summary statement. It’s also called a summary of qualifications, but this summary statement is a few sentences that sum up your experience and what you can offer the organization. Jobscan has several examples of a summary statement.

Does your statement grab the readers’ attention and compel them to read your resume further?

It is essential that your statement uses strong words, resume action verbs, but avoids nasty filler words. A person skimming resumes spends about 6 seconds reading it.

Your Experience

Do the accomplishments and career highlights listed in your experience section reinforce the headline, or summary statement? Does your writing focus on what you offer the company and why you would be a good fit for the position?

For example, you write in your summary statement that your attention to detail regularly exceeds customer expectations and has resulted in a 20% decrease in monthly complaints.

But your experience does not talk about the programs or processes you put in place to achieve this. Instead, you talk about leading teams. Everything you write must support your summary.

42 Resume Action Verbs to Use Now

Instead of writing Use
Saved Retained
Managed Aligned
Taught Advised
Led Coordinated
Created Founded
Increased Expanded

You have tremendous value and talents that deserve to be showcased. Good luck and use strong words!


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