Today’s article shows the impact of good diction and grammar in resume writing.
I know, but stay with me. Learning the correct use of action verbs and active voice can save a bland resume from getting thrown out. And if you’re still adding jobs to your old college resume, there’s a huge chance your resume reads like everyone else from your graduating class. You don’t want that.
Instead you need your resume to read with power and purpose.
In this tutorial, you'll learn how to use action words on your resume right. There's also a sizable list of powerful resume action verbs included—for quick reference. You can use it to punch up your resume quickly and can stand out as the best candidate for the job.
Let’s start with some action verb basics.
What Are Action Verbs?
Our English teachers taught us that an action verb:
- shows physical or mental action
- shows what the subject of the sentence is doing
Consider the sentence:
Sheila created a marketing proposal.
"Created" told us what Sheila did—a marketing proposal.
What Does This Have to Do With Your Resume?
Action verbs describe the tasks, skills, achievements, and responsibilities on your resume. It also minimizes the use of linking verbs and sentences that start with “I worked on…” or “Was responsible for,” which results in concise resume bullets.
Review This Quick Comparison
Responsible for streamlining inventory to minimize product surplus
Streamlined inventory to minimize product surplus
Notice the difference? In the first sentence, we should remove the boring ‘Responsible for’ at the beginning and replace it with the action word “Streamlined.”
In the second sentence, we did remove “Responsible for”, because the action word “Streamlined” makes it clear that you’re the doer of the action.
The right action verbs also remove the need for adverbs, and in some cases, adjectives. This helps a sentence read clearly and with more impact.
Here’s Another Comparison of Resume Action Word Use
Redesigned current marketing campaign to boldly attract more customers
Transformed current marketing campaign to attract more customers
By switching "Redesigned" with the action verb "Transformed", we eliminate the need for the adverb "boldly", because the former already implies a dramatic (i.e. bold) change. This easy switch adds color while removing fluff in your writing.
Active Voice vs Passive Voice
Now let’s switch gears and learn about the active and passive voice.
Don’t confuse active verbs with the active voice. The former deals with your choice of verb, whether that’s active, linking or helping verbs, while the latter affects your writing’s syntax or sentence construction.
A sentence’s voice is based on who is the doer of the verb (V). If the subject (S) is performing the action, it’s in active voice. Passive voice is when the object (O) is the doer of the action.
- Passive:The logo design was created by John.
- Active:John created the logo design.
The sentence with a passive voice is longer and diminishes the impact of the verb (‘created’). Although sentences with passive voice are common, even on resumes, it’s easy to switch them to active voice if you know what to look for.
Is Your Resume in the Passive Voice? (2 Quick Tests to Run)
1. Helping Verb Test
Check if the sentence has helping verbs or verbs in the form of “to be” (is, are, was, were, etc.) is followed by a past participle verb (usually ends in ‘ed’). A sentence with a “to be” form of the verb doesn’t always signify passive voice.
The sentence above, “The logo was created by John” is a good example of this. “Was’ is the “to be” helping verb and “created” is the past participle.
- The teacher is coming.
- The manager was waiting.
The sentences above are not in passive voice, despite having a “to be” form of the verb.
2. "By Zombies" Test
If you can add “by zombies” after the verb and keep the sentence logical, then it’s in the passive voice. This is a helpful test if the sentence’s object and verb aren’t obvious.
Example: 7% increase in sales was achieved (by zombies).
Passive Voice Rewritten in Active Voice Examples
- New onboarding process was implemented for the company
- Customer retention was increased 5%
- Implemented new onboarding process for the company
- Increased customer retention rate by 5%
The Right Way to Use Resume Action Words
Now let’s take a step back and return to action verbs.
Action verbs can be used to amplify both responsibilities and achievements, but when it comes to resumes, achievements always trump responsibilities. It’s not enough to choose action verbs, you have to revise the bullet from doing something to achieving something.
How to Add Impact: Examples Compared
- Doing: Designed food cart logos and brochures
- Achieving:Designed food cart logos and brochures that resulted in more brand awareness and revenue
The action verb didn’t change for both the doing and achieving examples, but the impact of said logos are clearer in the second phrase. Changing the action verb to transform a doing sentence into an achieving sentence isn’t required. But it adds the results of your action into the sentence, which makes it more powerful.
The Gap Between Overused and Vivid Action Verbs for Resume
In some cases though, the action verb used in the sentence is overused or vague that it doesn’t do your achievement justice.
These are just a few of the cliché action verbs. Lots of resume bullet points start with these words, so you’re guaranteed not to stand out when a recruiter reads it.
Here’s an Example
Revised the company’s quality assurance inspections to minimize refund and return requests
The example already specifies what the task (revising the QA inspection) achieved. But the action verb “revised” makes the achievement sound petty.
Action verbs like “optimized,” “overhauled,” “upgraded” or “transform” are a better fit. Revised means you merely rewrote something, while optimized and overhauled implies that you did some research, analyzing, and a bit of testing before rewriting the inspection procedure.
Check Out the Difference
- Optimized the company’s quality assurance inspections to minimize refund and return requests
- Overhauled the quality assurance inspection procedure to decrease refund and return requests.
Using the Right Action Verbs for Scenario
In copywriting and resume writing, we aim for clarity not cleverness.
Choose an action verb that’s right for the achievement, not just because it sounds cool.
Thousands of job titles and tasks exist but only a few transferrable skills, so I’ll just categorize this list using those skills.
1. Leadership and Management
- Orchestrated a team of 5 developers to reduce database errors
- Led new sales associates that brought in $20K more sales than previous trainees
- Directed a team of 5 developers in reducing database errors
- Trained new sales associates that brought in $20K more sales than previous trainees
In both examples, the new action verbs give a more vivid impression of what the applicant did. In the first example, ‘orchestrated’ is too flashy, while “led” is vague in the second example. Does ‘led’ mean the applicant coached them how to sell, or just motivated the sales associate to perform better?
2. Key Skill: Communication
Which Reads Better? (1 or 2):
- Communicated with frustrated customers to minimize complaints raised to upper management
- Resolved customer complaints to minimize complaint escalations
Talking to customers doesn’t imply you solved their problems.
3. Key Skills: Time and Money Saving
Which Reads Better?
- Decreased delayed payments from B2B clients by 17%
- Streamlined billing procedure to decrease B2B payment delays by 17”
4. Key Skill: Problem Solving
Which Reads Better?
- Reconciled shipment procedure and scheduling to save up to $800 a week on shipping charges
- Devised new shipment procedure and scheduling to save up to $800 a week on shipping charges
5. Key Skills: Sales and Marketing
- Talked about daily specials and dessert offerings with diners, resulting in a $300 monthly sales increase
- Created customer loyalty card campaign to bring 42% more repeat customers
- Enticed diners with daily specials and desserts to increase monthly sales by $300
- Launched customer loyalty card campaign to bring 42% more repeat customers
"Created" and “launched” are both correct words for the sentence, but “created” is a common word in resumes.
“Talked means you just recited the items, while “entice” means you did a bit of tempting and persuading while offering the daily specials.
102 Powerful Action Verbs List (For Multiple Transferable Skills)
Here’s a quick-reference action verbs list, categorized according to difference scenarios, so you have a few powerful options to choose from when editing your resume. Let's look at the best action words to use in your resume:
1. You Led a New Initiative or Supervised a Team
Skip “managed,” “led” and go for these action-packed verbs instead:
Good Examples of Using Action Verbs
Coordinated a 200-person fundraising event that brought in more than $650k in contributions
Executed new employee onboarding initiative that led to increased productivity from new employees
2. Saving Time, Money, and Resources
Did you do something that decreased the money or manpower your employer spends on a certain task? Describe your amazing accomplishments using:
Quick Examples of Using Action Verbs
Calculated average employee downtime to reduce factory labor costs
Simplified payment process to minimize abandoned shopping carts in XYZ ecommerce site
3. Increased Productivity, Sales, or Profits
Did you boost profits, increase sales, or enhance your team productivity? Use one of these powerful resume words on this action verbs list:
Outdid or Outdone
Powerful Examples of Using Action Verbs
Capitalized on holiday shopping trends to sell $15,000 worth of novelty gifts
Enhanced current pay-per-click campaign leading to $27,000 product sales in two weeks
4. You Created a Product or Started a New Initiative
Did you build an innovative new product or launch a fresh strategy? Use one of these bold resume words on your resume:
Strong Examples of Using Action Verbs
Founded the Detroit Club of Stand-up Comedians and Improv Actors
Built the new inventory management database used to reduce surplus by 15%
5. Communicated with New Partners, Clients or Sponsors
Don’t let your good people skills go unnoticed. Use these descriptive action words in your resume:
Descriptive Examples of Action Verb Use
Secured new corporate sponsors for beach clean-up drive
Persuaded two major networks to become media partners for our fundraising event
6. You Trained Co-workers
Did you train new employees or your co-workers, perhaps? Show off your teaching skills with these action verbs:
Educational Examples of Action Verbs
Advised new sales associates on responding to discount requests
Demonstrated correct use of accounting software for new payroll staff
7. You Research and Analyze Information
Are you good in crunching numbers and recognizing patterns? Can you sleuth out facts from fiction? One of these intelligent resume words from this action verbs lists will showcase your analytical skills:
Analytical Action Verb Use Examples
Examined the link between open rates and engagement to improve product sales
Analyzed customer purchase patterns to aide sales team in developing new marketing campaigns
8. Teamwork and Office Support
More Examples of Action Verb Use
Cooperated with client and account executives to deliver corporate logo a week before deadline
Administered the company’s annual employee satisfaction survey with a response rate of 92%
Documented the company’s product-naming procedure to standardize branding efforts across all product lines
Action Verbs and Power Words
Less is more when it comes to vying for a recruiter’s attention through your resume. Using active voice and action words cuts down on your word count, while simultaneously improving your qualifications on paper.
So while revising your resume will take time, this is one powerful way to make sure you get called in for interviews without lying on your resume.
Need more help writing an awesome resume? Check out this compilation of helpful resume tutorials here on Envato Tuts+:
Also, if you need a great resume design to make your resume stand out strong visually, then browse through the professional resume templates on GraphicRiver, or start with one of our curated collections to find the best one for you:
Having trouble figuring out the best action verbs to use in your resume? Leave a comment below with a sentence you're struggling with so I can help out.
Most resume bullet points start with the same words. Frankly, the same tired old words hiring managers have heard over and over—to the point where they’ve lost a lot of their meaning and don’t do much to show off your awesome accomplishments.
So, let’s get a little more creative, shall we? Next time you update your resume, switch up a few of those common words and phrases with strong, compelling action verbs that will catch hiring managers’ eyes.
No matter what duty or accomplishment you’re trying to show off, we’ve got just the verb for you. Check out the list below, and get ready to make your resume way more exciting.
If you were in charge of a project or initiative from start to finish, skip “led” and instead try:
And if you actually developed, created, or introduced that project into your company? Try:
Hiring managers love candidates who’ve helped a team operate more efficiently or cost-effectively. To show just how much you saved, try:
Along similar lines, if you can show that your work boosted the company’s numbers in some way, you’re bound to impress. In these cases, consider:
So, you brought your department’s invoicing system out of the Stone Age and onto the interwebs? Talk about the amazing changes you made at your office with these words:
Instead of reciting your management duties, like “Led a team…” or “Managed employees…” show what an inspirational leader you were, with terms like:
Were you “responsible for” a great new partner, sponsor, or source of funding? Try:
Because manning the phones or answering questions really means you’re advising customers and meeting their needs, use:
Did your job include research, analysis, or fact-finding? Mix up your verbiage with these words:
Was writing, speaking, lobbying, or otherwise communicating part of your gig? You can explain just how compelling you were with words like:
Whether you enforced protocol or managed your department’s requests, describe what you really did, better, with these words:
Did you hit your goals? Win a coveted department award? Don’t forget to include that on your resume, with words like:
Want some help making your resume over? Hire a coach.
What are you waiting for?