The Best Resume Action Words to Make You Stand Out [Examples]

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The Best Resume Action Words to Make You Stand Out [Examples]

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Joanna Ryś

Sourcing Specialist

Joanna Ryś

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“Mind your speech a little lest you should mar your fortunes.” — William Shakespeare.

I couldn’t have put it better myself! Words have the power to change minds, start wars, heal even the deepest of wounds. And in this case, get you a job 😄

The words you decide to use on your resume will be the first impression you make on the recruiter, and we all know how important first impressions are.

Not everyone is destined to be a poet, but that doesn’t mean you can’t put some effort into making your resume as coherent and captivating as possible.

You might remember your high school creative writing teacher nagging at everyone for using duller than dull words like “nice” and “fine” — and guess what?

She was right! Nobody wants to read anything written like that. I am yawning just thinking about it.

Add to that the fact that recruiters spend an average of 6 (!!!) seconds per resume, and you can see why using original vocabulary can make or break your candidacy.

If you have no idea where to start with your resume, have no fear! Check out my in-depth guide available here and then come right back to find out how to really polish things till they shine.

If you already have a resume and want to find out how to use specific words to make your case that much more compelling, let’s get started!

Exciting action verbs

How many times can a hiring manager read “Led a project” during the course of one afternoon?

My guess is, a whole lot more than anyone should ever have to. Going through resumes is hard, often dull work — after all, the recruiter is forced to spend hours sifting through stacks of near-identical resumes of similarly qualified candidates, all of whom are applying for the exact same position. I just yawned again in spite of myself.

Exciting action verbs

As the old adage goes, “the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over, and expecting a different result”.

I can only imagine how close to stark raving mad a recruiter can be after reading hundreds of the exact same lines over and over. Not to mention that doing the exact same thing as everyone else has never been a good way to stand out.

So let’s have mercy on all of the hiring managers and recruiters out there, shall we? Let’s give them something a bit more engrossing to read, and get you a job in the process. Win-win.

So, without further ado, here are a few lists of effective action verbs you can use in the place of the same tired old ones everyone else is using.

Instead of “led”, try:

  • Chaired
  • Coordinated
  • Headed
  • Orchestrated
  • Oversaw

Instead of “created”, try:

  • Designed
  • Developed
  • Founded
  • Engineered
  • Established
  • Formed
  • Implemented
  • Initiated 
  • Launched

Instead of “saved”, try:

  • Consolidated 
  • Decreased 
  • Deducted
  • Lessened
  • Reduced

Instead of “worked on”, try:

  • Constructed
  • Developed
  • Engaged in
  • Operated
  • Pursued
  • Undertook

Instead of “increased”, try:

  • Accelerated
  • Advanced
  • Amplified
  • Boosted
  • Enhanced
  • Expanded
  • Furthered 
  • Gained
  • Improved
  • Maximized
  • Stimulated

Instead of “improved”, try:

  • Overhauled
  • Refined
  • Revamped
  • Streamlined
  • Strengthened
  • Updated
  • Upgraded
  • Transformed

Instead of “managed”, try:

  • Directed
  • Facilitated
  • Fostered
  • Guided
  • Mentored
  • Motivated 
  • Supervised
  • Trained

Instead of “supported”, try:

  • Advised
  • Coached
  • Consulted
  • Informed
  • Resolved

Instead of “researched”, try:

  • Analyzed
  • Audited
  • Calculated
  • Discovered
  • Evaluated
  • Explored
  • Forecasted
  • Identified
  • Interpreted
  • Mapped 
  • Quantified
  • Tested
  • Tracked

Instead of “wrote/communicated”, try:

  • Authored
  • Advocated 
  • Co-authored
  • Composed
  • Conveyed
  • Corresponded
  • Critiqued
  • Defined
  • Documented
  • Illustrated
  • Mediated
  • Moderated 
  • Persuaded
  • Promoted 
  • Publicized

Instead of “checked”, try:

  • Authorized
  • Enforced
  • Ensured
  • Inspected
  • Monitored
  • Screened
  • Scrutinized
  • Verified

Instead of “achieved”, try:

  • Awarded
  • Completed
  • Delivered 
  • Earned
  • Enacted 
  • Exceeded
  • Outpaced 
  • Outperformed
  • Reached
  • Succeeded
  • Surpassed

Your resume is sounding better already, isn’t it?

Tips to make your resume action verbs even stronger

Tips to make your resume action verbs even stronger

  • Use specific numbers alongside your action verbs
    Don’t just say you helped your company save money, say how much. Don’t just say your innovative idea helped save time, say how much. And wait for that glint to appear in the hiring manager’s eye 😄 After all, their success is measured by how good the candidates they hire are.
  • Use them at the beginning of the sentences in your resume objective.
    This will make you sentences come off stronger, give them more oomph, if you know what I mean. And you can never have enough oomph!  If you need more hints on how to write a great resume objective, check out my guide here.
  • Don’t use the same verbs more than once
    You have enough words here to avoid using the same ones over and over again. The goal here is to be less dull and repetitive, not more!
Resume adjectives - should you use them

Resume adjectives: should you use them?

The short, yet to many, surprising answer is:

no, you shouldn’t.

Anybody can go on about how excellent, meticulous, thoughtful, unique, genuine, honest, competent and dedicated they are. Just like John Wilkes Booth could have described himself as a somewhat disgruntled yet passionate lover of the performing arts.

But words are supposed to mean things, and on a resume, unless they are backed up with examples, they don’t.

That’s why I am going to come right out and say it:

  • avoid adjectives when possible, and
  • replace them with action words that do mean something.

Instead of simply describing yourself as:

  • “competent”
    give an example of your competence starting with, “Constructed/Ensured/Implemented…”.
  • “perceptive”
    give an example of your competence starting with, “Solved//Caught/Invented…”.

You get the picture.

Words to avoid on your resume

Words to avoid on your resume

I’ve already provided you with lists of synonyms for different overused resume words. These next few, however, are special. And I don’t mean that in a good way, I mean it in a “Imma rip my hair out if I read this one more time” kind of way.

Yes, exhausted recruiters everywhere think you should omit the following words when writing your resume, as they have been done to death and are just about as exciting as watching paint dry. These include:

  • Team player
    Sure, they likely want you to be good at teamwork — what 21st century company doesn’t? But there are much more creative ways to communicate this.
  • Hard worker
    Everyone who has a job is supposed to be a hard worker, so I fail to see how this sets you apart. Not to mention it doesn’t really mean anything specific.
  • Go-getter
    Shania Twain called and she wants her 90s song lyrics back. Once again, this just doesn’t mean anything. Not to mention it is supremely cheesy. Just don’t.
  • Best of breed
    How this ever became a thing people say is beyond me. If you are not a poodle at a dog show, why would you ever refer to yourself using this term…?

Don’t you just feel more eloquent already? Now go on, polish up that resume and rescue a recruiter from insanity today!

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Joanna Ryś

Joanna Ryś

Sourcing Specialist

Joanna Ryś

Sourcing Specialist

Joanna has 8 years of experience in the recruitment industry, and currently works as the Chief Strategist for Sourcing in the EMEA area at HAYS. Microsoft, Rolls Royce Aerospace, Abbott, AB Inbev are several companies from the...portfolio of clients with whom it has cooperated, and its tasks include defining strategies for obtaining candidates in Europe, independent management of recruitment tools, monitoring the rate of return on investment, implementing initiatives from the area of Employer Branding into processes recruitment and data analysis. Sharing knowledge and discussions about working with candidates is her passion, which is why she eagerly creates new training programs, conducts postgraduate classes, organizes workshops with students of Krakow universities, employees of her company and free students from various social organizations. Passionate about computer games and socioeconomic issues.