5 action words you should always include on your resume

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When working on your resume, you’ll always want to include the action phrases that really showcase what you’ve done, what you’re ready to offer, and the positive outcomes that will come along with you should your future employer choose to hire you.

“It is extremely important to include action phrases in your resume because employers don’t care so much what you did at former jobs but how you did them,” explained career expert Paul Claybrook, MS, MBA.

“This is especially true when you are describing jobs that are not directly related to the job you are applying for.

For instance, if you are applying to be a sales person but you only have experience flipping burgers, they don’t care that you flipped burgers but they do care if you did it well.” 

In order to include the best action phrases, you should be as specific as possible without assuming context.

James Osborn, a coach focusing on leadership in high scale digital environments, suggests cutting out company jargon completely, and replacing it with simple yet impactful words.

“Make it easy to read,” he says. “Get out the thesaurus. For each achievement, find something new. You’ve initiated, driven, launched. You’ve inspired, improved, grown, collaborated or contributed.”

Looking for the right action words to set your resume apart? Here, we’ve listed a handful of career and HR professionals-approved words that will take your resume from good to great.

1. Innovated

“Find weak words in your resume, and make them strong,” suggests Osborn.

Instead of saying you spearheaded or solved problems, you’ve innovated or motivated—you want your future employer to know that you’re focusing on solutions before anyone else is aware there’s a problem or issue to be solved.

2. Led

“It is recommended that job applicants use the word ‘led’ on their resumes in lieu of ‘managed’ or ‘directed,’” says Dana Case, Director of Operations at MyCorporation.com.

“Led better conveys leadership qualities than the other two verbs.” Led also lends itself  to someone who takes charge while working together as part of a team rather than seeing themselves as a superior.

3. Self-taught or in my own time

“Progression and development is an important factor in our decision making process,” explains Mark Webster, Co-founder of Authority Hacker, an industry leading online marketing education company. “We want to see people who are constantly driving themselves and learning.

Phrases that indicate you sought this progression yourself are particularly poignant, for example, ‘This was a Self-Taught skill’ or ‘I pursued this interest in my own time.’” Webster suggests trying to include anything to indicate that you have the drive and passion to learn and will do so without external input or requirements.

4. Willing to do whatever it takes

“I’ve looked at hundreds and hundreds of resumes, and the phrase that stands out to me, above all else, is, ‘Willing to do whatever it takes’” explains Austin Wolff, Chief Marketing Officer at Novus Anti-Aging Center.

“Every other action phrase is pretty much garbage to me, except that one. If you’re confident enough to tell me you’re the best employee I’ll ever hire, I’m probably going to hire you!”

5. Applicant Tracking System (ATS) keywords

While adding creative and powerful action words are key to getting your resume noticed by hiring managers and recruiters, you’ll also want to make sure that your resume ticks off all the Applicant Tracking System (ATS) keywords just in case the company you’re applying to uses AI technology to screen potential candidates.

Not sure which ATS keywords you should be including? That’s where a quality resume writing team comes in.

Companies like TopResume will pair you with a professional career writer to ensure your resume will land on the top of the pile every single time—even if there is a pre-screening ATS process in place.