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How to Best Use Resume Action Words (+117 Powerful Verbs)

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This post is part of a series called How to Create a Great Resume (Ultimate Guide).
How to List Your Education on a Resume (+Best Format Examples)
How to Make Your Resume Better With Keywords & Phrases

Today’s article shows the impact of good diction and grammar in resume writing.

Yawn.

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.

Are you ready to make your resume read more powerfully
Are you ready to write a more powerful resume—that helps land you a target job? (graphic source)

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.

Transform definition
Definition of transformed.

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.

For Example

  • 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

Passive Sentences

  • New onboarding process was implemented for the company
  • Customer retention was increased 5%

Active Sentences

  • 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

  1. Doing: Designed food cart logos and brochures
  2. 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.

  • Led
  • Managed
  • Handled

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

Bad Examples

  • Orchestrated a team of 5 developers to reduce database errors
  • Led new sales associates that brought in $20K more sales than previous trainees

Good Examples

  • 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):

  1. Communicated with frustrated customers to minimize complaints raised to upper management
  2. 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?

  1. Decreased delayed payments from B2B clients by 17%
  2. Streamlined billing procedure to decrease B2B payment delays by 17”

4. Key Skill: Problem Solving

Which Reads Better?

  1. Reconciled shipment procedure and scheduling to save up to $800 a week on shipping charges
  2. Devised new shipment procedure and scheduling to save up to $800 a week on shipping charges

5. Key Skills: Sales and Marketing

Bad Examples

  • 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

Good Examples

  • 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:

Authorized     

Facilitated      

Oversaw

Chaired

Headed

Orchestrated

Coordinated

Hired

Recruited

Directed

Implemented

Supervised

Executed

Mentored

Spearheaded

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:

Calculated

Formulated

Negotiated

Consolidated

Fused

Overhauled

Conserved

Integrated

Revamped

Deducted

Lessened

Simplified

Devised

Merged

Standardized

Drafted

Modernized

Streamlined

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: 

Accelerated

Enhanced

Heightened

Boosted

Expanded

Maximized

Capitalized

Fast-tracked

Outpaced

Crafted

Gained

Outdid or Outdone

Developed

Grow

Surpassed

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: 

Built

Established

Instituted

Designed

Founded

Launched

Devised

Formalized

Manufactured

Engineered

Generated

Shaped

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:

Acquired

Corresponded

Partnered

Campaigned

Joined

Persuaded

Combined

Lobbied

Petitioned

Convinced

Negotiated

Secured

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:

Advised

Demonstrated

Initiated

Answered

Educated

Instituted

Coached

Empowered

Instructed

Cultivated

Lecture(d)

Trained

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:

Analyzed

Deduced

Investigated

Appraised

Discovered

Measured

Assessed

Explored

Quantified

Audited

Examined

Researched

Computed

Interpreted

Surveyed

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

Administered

Encouraged

Recorded

Budgeted

Formalized

Ordered

Collaborated

Gathered

Repaired

Contributed

Liaised

Resolved

Cooperated

Manufactured

Started

Documented

Mediated

Volunteered

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.

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