6 Action Words That Make Your Resume Rock

This article is part of a series called How to Write a Resume. To start this series from the beginning, read the introduction.

It’s time to activate your resume with some action words. Action words, or verbs, ignite an otherwise dull resume by setting your skills on fire – giving your credentials authority and power. Verbs are important to include on your resume since they show hiring managers what actions you’ve taken in previous jobs.

You’re being hired to DO something – so show what you’ve DONE in the past by preceding your skills and experiences with action verbs!

Resume Writing Series:
  1. What is a Killer Resume?
  2. 10 Resume Do’s
  3. 10 Resume Sins
  4. Resume Anatomy
  5. 6 Sucky Resume Words
  6. 6 Resume Action Words
  7. 8 Resume Keywords
  8. 3 Resume Formats
  9. Free Resume Examples
  10. Free Resume Template

Finding the right verbs for your resume is also key to standing out above the competition and landing a job interview.

Finding Your 6 Action Verbs

It’s easy to find the right verbs to make your resume rock. Start by taking your desired job description and highlight the 6 verbs that best reflect what you offer a prospective employer. Depending on the job description and your experience, you may find 3 or you may 30. The point is to identify the actions employers value and match them to your qualifications. The idea is to tailor your resume and cover letter to the position.

For example, below is a sample job description for an administrative assistant containing 6 highlighted action verbs.

resumewords_administrativeassistantjob1

If you’ve applied to several jobs within the same area, you may notice the same verbs are repeatedly requested in your job descriptions. So be sure to use these verbs in your resume to capture the attention of hiring managers.

A word of caution though, using too many verbs can lead to buzzword overkill and harm, rather than help your chances of landing a job interview. No hiring manager likes a resume saturated with lots of action and little substance. When I’ve been on hiring teams, I’ve been know to yell, “bingo” when too many matchy words are buzzing in a job application. So choose your action verbs with care by starting with 6 and going from there.

If you’re having difficulty seeing how the verbs in a job description match your skills, try using the Make Your Match Worksheet to help activate your resume.

Using Action Verbs on Your Resume

You’ve found some verbs, now put them into action. The idea is to precede your skills and accomplishments with a verb, and hopefully end each statement with concise facts and figures.

For example, let’s look at a job description for a software developer. I’ve highlighted the 6 verbs that match the applicant’s skills best.

resumewords_developerjob1

Now let’s get these 6 action verbs working for us in resume format! Here’s how:

1. VERB: coding

  • Coded a web-based shopping cart supporting 3200 customers using C#.NET.

2. VERB: programming

  • Programmed web-based applications using object oriented methods for 5 years.

3. VERB: writing

  • Wrote database layer for an online shopping cart using stored procedures in SQL Server 2008.

4. VERB: building

  • Built custom web-based applications to process credit card and financial data to meet customer requirements.

5. VERB: design

  • Designed a three tier object oriented architecture using web services.

6 VERB: develop

  • Developed industry leading high-transaction financial software using over 5 years experience in C#.NET, web services, SQL Server, AJAX, and object oriented methods.

Resume action words make it easy to add fire to your facts and make your skills sizzle.

Download Your List of Resume Action Words

If you’re challenged to find verbs to match your skills, download this list to get your resume rocking!

resume_action_words_printable_download

Download: Printable Resume Action Words (PDF Format)

Got additional rocking resume words to add? Feel free to share in the comments below!

Your two cents:

  1. Ryan March 8th, 2009

    Well written. Thank you for the resume help, I need it!

  2. Laura @ no more spending March 8th, 2009

    Great post. I’m glad you’re back :)

  3. Barbara Ling, Virtual Coach March 9th, 2009

    Great points! I love action words – as a recruiting trainer, I always tell recruiters to use them in their job posts as well.

    I remember my very first resume, I was a ‘facilitator of business communications’ (I answered the phones) and a ‘perforator of documentation (I punched holes in paper to store them. That’s back when things were actually recorded ON paper…imagine that! :) ).

    Data points, Barbara

  4. Sagan March 9th, 2009

    Yes, active is definitely better than the passive in this case! Thanks for all this great information.

  5. How to Live in Canada March 10th, 2009

    Great post – well done. I am updating my resume again :) Every post you have, I know there’s something else to change!

  6. Brian March 10th, 2009

    Great post again. Thanks for doing a software developer example, as I am one!

  7. Dalton March 10th, 2009

    Not to be nit-picky, because I think this is a very good asset and good advice to any prospective employee, but I just want to point something out:

    In no way are “coding,” “scheduling,” or “building” verbs. They are, in English, participles. The beginnings of participial phrases such as, “Building a computer is hard work.”

    “Building a computer” is the participial phrase and works as the subject of the sentence, whereas “is” is the verb.

    Sorry for being so particular about this.

    Good advice either way.

    –d.mc.

  8. Eric March 10th, 2009

    Thanks for the article! I myself am a software developer looking for work. :)

  9. My Life ROI March 10th, 2009

    I have seen a lot of people use good action verbs… but then I realize they don’t match up very well with the job they are applying for.

    So I am glad you pointed that out :D

  10. henry March 10th, 2009

    Great post. The list is genuinely useful. I’m doing a CV workshop soon with some interns who we’ll be helping get jobs in the not too distant future. I’ll be sure to use this. Keep up the good work!

  11. Auto-entrepreneur March 11th, 2009

    Thank you very much !

    Very useful for a french guy like me.

    Actually I’m trying to write my first resume in english and this post is very useful for me.

  12. Martin March 11th, 2009

    It’s “object oriented” not “object orientated in”:

    6 VERB: develop

    * Developed industry leading high-transaction financial software using over 5 years experience in C#.NET, web services, SQL Server, AJAX, and object orientated methods.

  13. Kerry March 11th, 2009

    @Martin Thanks for the bug report. ;)

  14. Trevor @ Financialnut March 12th, 2009

    That’s great! Your choice of words can either make or break your resume.

  15. Cindy March 13th, 2009

    I’m going to have to dust off my resume and check my phrasing. My problem with resume’s and interviews is that I hate talking about myself but it looks like I might be in the job market soon. Your resume articles are a great resource.

  16. Tri Dang March 24th, 2009

    Thanks for your tip.
    I’m a freelancer. I should put action words into my portfolio too. ;)

  17. Tudung April 8th, 2009

    Excellent! I’ll have to rewrite my resume now…!

  18. larryheard August 26th, 2009

    It’s a good way to get you going if you find it hard to get started. All you have to do is pick up your keywords and expand it with specifics, stay away from vague details. When you could, keep your resume in one page, hiring managers don’t have all day so it’s important that you have killer summary and don’t add objective – this is obsolete.

  19. mike September 22nd, 2009

    thanks for this! Although I am not looking for a job, it is always a good idea to keep your resume up to date. I will be reviewing my resume, and keeping the six action word in mind.

  20. Un auto-entrepreneur January 4th, 2010

    Very useful. Thanks a lot

  21. Jody March 4th, 2010

    I love this information. Got the resume pretty well set, but you said in the cover letter info to include the name of the hiring manager and to NEVER address as “To Whom It May Concern”…ok..so what if you are applying online, and you have no clue who the hiring manager is?? How do you address the person to whome you are sending the cover letter?

    Thanks!

  22. Vicky August 22nd, 2010

    Hi,

    Can you put “enthusiasm” or “helpfulness” as some of your skills under the “Relevant Skills” section on your resume, and then use action words to describe how these skills have been utilized and strengthened? I used to put those skills under my skills section (without using action words), and now when I am rewriting my resume, I was wondering if I can still do so.

    Also, what if you are still actively involved in a volunteer organization, and you perform certain tasks that would be useful to mention under a specific skill category – would you use present or past tense for the action words? It sounds kind of strange to shift from present to past tense… so I figured I would ask you for some advice!

    Thank you so much,
    Vicky

  23. Janie August 18th, 2012

    Very good tips, I’ll definitely modify my Resume accordingly. I’m looking to submit a few soon for a new position.

  24. Leeda July 25th, 2013

    Excellent!!!!! THANK YOU !!

  25. James Russell April 16th, 2014

    Great post – Thank a lot. I am updating my resume again!
    Regards.

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