Resume

20 Powerful Action Verbs To Kick Your Resume Up A Notch

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Did you know you should have strong action verbs strategically placed throughout your resume?

Well, now you do!

Most importantly, you want them at the beginning of the majority of your bullet points and accomplishment-based statements. Please do yourself —and every hiring manager out there—a favor; do not start your sentences with: Responsible for… worked with… or any other opening that lacks power and punch.

These really do nothing for your resume or experience except hurt it. Hiring managers are not exactly captivated by the phrases, “responsible for” or “worked with.” They are just so boring and repetitive—and it’s because just about every job seeker out there uses them. Hiring managers want—need—words that jump off the page and captivate them.

Here are a few examples of my favorite action words:

Captivated
Championed
Directed
Exceeded
Pioneered
Formulated
Generated
Intensified
Leveraged
Masterminded
Maximized
Mentored
Optimized
Orchestrated
Re-engineered
Spearheaded
Structured
Proliferate
Recaptured
Rejuvenated

Truthfully, the list could go on.

Don’t believe me?

Use the synonym feature in Microsoft Word or go to Thesaurus.com.

Be creative in your action verb choice, and choose strong words that convey ACTION to begin every sentence. These words communicate action, results, accomplishments, and contributions—which are all key components in creating a powerful and captivating resume.


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Jessica Holbrook Hernandez

Jessica Holbrook Hernandez, CEO of Great Resumes Fast is an expert resume writer, career and personal branding strategist, author, and presenter.

35 comments

  1. All are nice Action verb one should use in resume but they have to express these action verb at the time of interview,if they fail than its negative impact so using this action verb not necessary to impress interviewer.

  2. Yes you are writing in very good direction i would like to understand your point of observation towards the present condition of any ones job securiety

  3. Thanks for the words but no thanks I do not need to use them. I’d rather let my employer find out for itself who I am, than to boast about myself which may be very embarrassing if I fail to match up to the expectation created by these very action words.

    “Who ever humbles himself shall be exalted and whoever exalts himself shall be humbled” – Holy bible.

  4. I think that the general thrust of this article is good advice. I work with students and many undersell themselves with “responsible for”, “worked with” etc. I always tell them to break down what they did and be specific. I agree that for many candidates, “pioneered, master-minded” might be a “overplaying it”. You have to be happy that you can defend your choice of verbs and description in an interview. If you feel you can talk confidently about “pioneering” a new way of doing something, fine. But it is better to be specific and interesting than vague and bland. Oh, I do agree about “leveraged” – personally feel it is awful business speak that I would avoid!

  5. This list is an excellent example of what some industries, such as marketing or service-oriented professions are looking for. My only reservation in endorsing it entirely is that you should look for synonyms but only the ones that you can truly substantiate with demonstrable evidence. And angle those synonyms toward what’s credible in your profession: many fields such as medicine, academia, even journalism and technical writing, have a deep distrust of exaggeration in all forms.

    • Dear Chris Ann, your analysis was spot on. Indeed, these words are more suited to the service-oriented fields. As a scientist, to me, these words appear exaggerated. It’s good to have a powerful impression, yet simplicity and straightforwardness is gold.

  6. Thanks for your list. I like your creativity in suggesting that we native English speakers increase our vocabulary to go beyond mundane, low level forms of speaking and writing. I do believe however, that one should be wise in choosing the words that fit the need of the prospective employer. Unfortunately I think that many of us have a tendency to get stuck in using rote vocabulary in our writing and speaking.

    Dennis

  7. Well, the action words sounds well, but difficult for a beginner to use them freely, when English is the second language. As you have mentioned, could have with user-friendly words, at least at the beginning.

  8. While the overall idea here is good, that saying “worked with” is boring and vague, another resume tip I see frequently is to include specific numbers with your achievements, e.g., “increased sales by 22%”.

    I’d like to know how the author would suggest we quantify verbs like “captivated”, “championed”, “masterminded”, or “spearheaded”. In my opinion, these words are more fit for political speeches and are likely to come across as arrogant, as other commenters have said.

    Also, don’t even get me started on “leveraged”, possibly the most hackneyed and meaningless business buzzword there is today.

    • I agree with you totally. Although, I’m wrecking my brain trying to figure out the right words to start with now that are more modest. I’m one of those people that favor “I” so I’m struggling because to me doing otherwise sounds like a sentence fragment…confused now. I think I’ll mimic a little of what everyone else is doing but I do plan on creating about 4 resumes that looking & sound totally different from each other.

    • Scott, it can be done. What about “spearheaded use of ABC which resulted in x% revenue growth”? Or “championed use of collaborative tools, contributing to x% improvement in customer case resolution”?
      As for “masterminded”, it has a little bit of a machiavelic and manipulative undertone that I’d probably avoid. “Orchestrated” always makes me laugh, so I’d avoid too.

  9. And, please, make it clear that none of the above would be appropriate for the soon-to-be college grad with summer jobs and a couple of internships on the resume. “Planned”, “organized”, “demonstrated”, maybe “analyzed” or even “created”. Otherwise I imagine the resume writer will be mainly providing the hiring manager with entertainment.

  10. How would RIDICULOUS, PREPOSTEROUS, LUDICROUS………be as action adjectives for the article????

    These words you suggested seem overtly dramatic and suitable only in motivation speeches not for a resume. How would “I masterminded/pioneered/spearheaded… public relations in XYZ Bank” sound?…….lughable!!

    • Anil,

      I agree with you and others who have responded to the article.

      We have to be selective and humble, yet authentic while promoting our employment accomplishments. Many of the words are over the top.

      Thank you for my first laugh of the day.

    • LMBO! Anil, top making me laugh so hard. lol. I agree with you though. I understand what she means in general but the example words given come across to me as someone who is a kiss up, overdramatic & just…tries too hard. At my last job, there was this girl I had to convince myself everyday not to knock her out because she was just plain weird. She was just too much of everything…too sad…cried too much…too happy…a kiss up…throws things when she didn’t get her way…too happy…she was definitely the team’s eccentric. I can remember thinking after everything she did & said “really,…you had to do all that just for this…whatever.” Some of these words seem overly dramatic words remind me of her…so I definitely will not use any of these. I think I’ll Google or Bing some more modest words to start job descriptions with because I definitely don’t want to come across as a laughing stock to an employer or make them say WTH when they read my resume. I mean, I want to come across as someone that is a drama queen or an eccentric. I don’t understand how spearheaded would come into play unless you’re a tour guide for a particular type of museum. I mean, you just don’t use these words in everyday speech. I can assure you I don’t go to my husband telling him “Baby, you spearheaded that yard” when he mows it I mean…come on. I for one would love to see more modest & humble word listings.

  11. Where do you go looking for jobs with such verbs, concentration camps in Germany? I wouldn’t even be allowed to expect a reply if I used such arrogance in my culture.

    This is simply stupid, such things are COMPLETELY culture-oriented, imagine writing something like that in a JAPANESE environment, for instance!!

  12. Jessica: I like the intent of your article. However, when action verbs seem almost dramatic, the words may not fit the speech pattern of the individual once they are in an interview. Those are strong words you used and I agree with you for the most part. Resumes are all relative. I work with entry-level persons, not executives. I appreciate you sharing this information. Thanks! Melinda

  13. This is an interesting concept, Jessica, although I would have to agree with the comments above. These verbs are appropriate for certain industries, but not for most.

  14. I would caution following the statement that you should use a Thesaurus. Rather, it should be used if the author knows what the word really means. If any word is used out of context, the resume author will look foolish. For example, using pioneered is great as long as the pioneered subject is original.

    If you are pioneering an expedition to Mars,…great!

    If you are pioneering a new vaccine,…fantastic!

    But if you are pioneering software in an office environment, then perhaps you should reconsider using the word.

  15. While I agree with the intent of the article, that being use of action verbs I would be very careful using many of the words on this list, such as “masterminded”, “proliferated”, “captivated”, and “rejuvinated”. These words can come across as arrogant and self-important, which is the opposite of what many organizations are looking for in today’s team-oriented environment.

    • I agree. I think some of these words you have to really consider what you’re applying for to avoid coming across that way & some of these are just not good words to use. The only profession that I can think of that “captivated” wouldn’t sound arrogant is if you’re a book reader at a library where you could say you “captivated the minds of children while reading adventure books to them” or something like that or if you were a public speaker. The word rejuvenated automatically takes my mind to a spa & quite frankly I’m ticked that I’m not at one. lol.

      • Keep the team-oriented action verbs (e.g., mentored, orchestrated, rejuvenated). Lose those laced with arrogance, self-promotion, and hubris (e.g., master-minded, pioneered). Use others only if, and only if, they are truly appropriate (if you really were the director of something, say so). Inappropriate word choices may they challenge the person interviewing you and, worse, raise the stakes so high that you’d better walk on water to get to the interview!

  16. HI , I WILL SAY YOUR POST IS ONE OF IT KIND . I REALLY LOVE THE INFO , IS INFORMATIVE AND IT’S IMPROVE THE STRENGTH IN WRITING . THANK YOU .

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