How To Use Action Words on Your Resume

Using action words is an important way you can improve your resume. Here’s how to replace low-quality phrases with great verbs.


Resume Action Words

When you write a resume, you need to pay special attention to the words that you use. Hiring managers don’t just care about what you’ve done in the past; they also care about the way you talk about it. Resume action verbs are a great way to showcase your skills more effectively to potential employers. When you use power words, you’ll be more likely to catch a hiring manager’s eye. If you’re looking to upgrade your resume writing skills, here’s what you need to know about resume action words.

What Are Resume Action Words?

Resume action words are a way you can highlight strengths on your resume. You can use them anywhere, but particularly in your resume summary and work history. For example, instead of saying you “worked with six people,” you could say “collaborated with six people.” Using the latter phrase gives a better impression of teamwork and cooperation.

When you use action verbs, you’re providing more color to what you did rather than using plain phrases like “was tasked with” or “was responsible for.”

Action Words To Use on Your Resume

Instead of just listing that you “have leadership skills,” you can use these action words:

  • Directed
  • Oversaw
  • Mentored
  • Set goals
  • Managed
  • Piloted
  • Tutored
  • Navigated
  • Pioneered

Rather than describing yourself as a “designer,” you can substitute with these skills:

  • Computed
  • Conceptualized
  • Cataloged
  • Quantified

Instead of saying that you have “good editing skills,” or “quality assurance skills,” you can try out some of these action words:

  • Critiqued
  • Systemized
  • Streamlined
  • Familiarized
  • Debugged

Lastly, rather than mentioning “human resource skills” or “communication skills,” you can showcase these related action verbs:

  • Organized
  • Facilitated
  • Furthered
  • Arbitrated
  • Mediated

These are all strong action verbs that can create a better impression of you as a proactive, energetic employee in your resume.

How To Narrow Down Action Words for Your Resume

When you’re trying to determine the best action words for your resume, you first want to look at resume examples for your field. This can give you an idea of the types of wording you’ll regularly see in your field. You can also go through your resume and look for adjectives. Often, you can turn vague general terms into verbs, creating opportunities for action words throughout the resume.

Additionally, look over the traits and qualifications you list in your skills section, and back those skills up in your summary and work history in your resume. Instead of “Used communication skills” in your work history section, you can be specific and energetic: “Mediated discussions between marketing and business development departments.”

FAQ: Resume Action Words

Q: What are some overused resume phrases to replace with action words?

Some terms to describe yourself have been so overused that they’re often regarded as tired buzzwords. Avoid them when you can and substitute action words instead. Here are a few buzzwords to avoid:

  • Go-getter
  • Hard worker
  • Outside the box
  • Expert
  • Innovative
  • Synergy/synergized
  • Results-driven
  • Focused

These buzzwords don’t really tell the hiring manager anything. Saying that you “think outside the box” doesn’t really give any extra information about how you think; it just fills out a checklist. You want to show off your skills and how you’ve used them, and using action verbs can make the difference.

Q: How can I make sure I’m not being overly flashy with my action verbs?

Even action verbs can be carried too far. Check our resume examples for how to best use action verbs, and hold back from being too casual or “colorful.” For instance, you wouldn’t want to use words like “destroyed” or “smashed,” even if you’re using them in a positive context. Not only do these words very rarely actually provide anything extra to your resume, but they can also be read in a negative light rather than a positive one. Saying “Systematized paperwork submission processes” is much more effective than saying “Destroyed paperwork issues at previous workplace.” The second reads very unprofessionally, but the first gives helpful information.

Q: What is the difference between action words and keywords?

Keywords are certain words that you’ll find in the job description that tell you the specific skills and experiences an employer is looking for. These words will be picked up by applicant tracking systems (ATS) employers often use to scan resumes and make sure you’re qualified for a specific job. Action words, on the other hand, are verbs that showcase how you do certain things in your job. They’re both words you’ll use all throughout your resume, but one of them helps with ATS and the other helps when it actually gets to a hiring manager.

Resume Action Words

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