Action words can make or break your resume.
“Action verbs are vital in a resume because they infuse it with vitality, energy and purpose. Without them, the resume can seem listless and passive, and that’s not the type of first impression you want to make on a potential employer,” said Alex Twersky, Co-founder of Resume Deli, an online career services consultancy.
Using the right action words in your resume makes your skills and accomplishments stand out. “As simple as it sounds, I often find that swapping out a few verbs can substantially boost the impact” of a resume,” said Christina Van Buskirk, founder of Janeiro Talent, a New York City recruiting company for communications and creative pros.
Employing action words is also a great way to provide prospective employers with instant information. “Using industry-specific action verbs makes it easier for employers to see what they want to see on a resume, which could prompt them to read more,” said Kenny Trinh, founder and CEO of NetbookNews.
100 action words to use
The action words listed below will increase the strength and effectiveness of your resume and adding details will help an employer better understand how you performed your duties. “With specifics, it makes you sound like a dynamic, competent professional. Saying one networked is good. Saying how one networked, where one networked and with whom you network is much better,” said Marc Prosser, CEO and Co-founder of Choosing Therapy.
Volunteered, which speaks about your character, is another action word that’s trending. Adding volunteered to your resume gives a prospective employer “a hint that you are willing to get involved in the community, take initiative and make things happen,” Trinh said.
Words to avoid
- “I” and “me”
A resume, by definition, is about you, so there’s no reason to use first-person pronouns. “Though your resume is about you and bragging rights to gain entry to the next stage, it’s assumed that the person submitting the resume will be highlighting themselves and accomplishments of the team they’ve worked with or managed,” said Pipkins.
- Words that weaken an employer’s impression of you
In order to land a high-paying position, you want to portray yourself as the top dog, not a weak underling. “Words like ‘helped’ or ‘assisted’ or ‘participated’ make the person they are describing seem like a supporting player, and ideally you should convey the opposite impression,” said Twersky.
Don’t use words that put you in a negative light or words that are vague, said Ann Trinh, founder and CEO of GeekWithLaptop. Misspelled words show a lack of professionalism, she added, so be sure to use a spell checker.
- Action words used by everyone else
Add variety to your choice of words by using a thesaurus. “I have seen thousands of resumes and each bullet starts with the same action word; it just looks lazy,” said Anna Papalia, CEO of ShiftProfile, which specializes in interview and career coaching. Make your resume stand out by choosing uncommon action words, said Pipkins, who suggests applicants substitute commonplace action words with the second or third choice from a synonym list.
Bonus resume tips
Highlight your contributions
Emphasize your contributions in addition to describing your job duties. “I love splitting positions out by ‘responsibilities’ and ‘accomplishments.’ It shows what your role is, but it also shows how you go above and beyond. Hiring managers want doers!” said Julianne Kirkland, who works as a recruiter at Vaco in Memphis, TN.
Add PAR statements
Use PAR statements (Problem, Action and Results) headed by action words to your resume’s ‘experience’ section,“ said Matthew Warzel, president of MJW Careers, LLC which specializes in resume writing. For instance, instead of “Developed Programming Systems,” write “Developed Programming Systems that helped the data storage and recovery easier and convenient.”
The first step in creating a PAR statement is to think of a work experience that you’re especially proud of, such as a special project or an award, said Warzel. Describe the problem or situation you encountered, the action(s) you took to address the problem, and the results of your efforts in a concise but detailed statement to give your resume “the extra kick it needs,” Warzel said.
Your resume isn’t about you
Finally, remember your resume is “not about who you are, but about how your skills, knowledge and experiences can help your potential employer,” said Warzel.