Set yourself apart with resume action words that describe your contributions.

These days, potential employers and hiring managers want to know what you can achieve for their company — simply utilizing job descriptions on your resume isn't enough. After all, there are hundreds of applicants lined up who are qualified for the job. You have to stand out.

Set yourself apart with action verbs, achieving language, and resume writing that describes what you have contributed rather than what you have done on a daily basis.

What are action verbs?

Think of Yoda and his notorious phrases. Then, don't be like him. Sentences like “The Dark Side I sense in you” are not what you should place in your resume. Yoda often speaks in the passive voice, where the object comes before the verb in a sentence. For example, “The ball was thrown by John” is in the passive voice. These sentences are longer, more difficult to read and give an overall weaker effect. You can create more impact by writing in active voice — placing the object after the verb. For example, “John threw the ball.”

How can I use action verbs in my resume?

Using strong action verbs in resume writing is as easy as any other form of writing, as long as you know what to include and what to look for. Here are two tests to determine if you are using passive voice in your resume writing:

  1. Verb Test: Look for helping verbs, especially forms of the verb “to be.”

  2. “By You” Test: Can you insert the phrase "by you" after the verb? Does the sentence still make grammatical sense? If yes, this signifies passive voice.

Scan the resume for these warning signs and replace passive resume writing with more active verbs and sentences. Here are a few examples of passive resume sentences:

  1. A 20 percent revenue growth was realized in our department over two years.

  2. A promotion to supervisor was awarded to me after only one year of service.

  3. Responsibility was recognized as one of my strengths.

Here are the same examples rewritten using active voice:

  1. My team realized 20 per cent revenue growth over two years.

  2. After only one year, I earned a promotion to supervisor.

  3. Recognized for responsibility and proactive decisions.

The only time passive voice is appropriate is when you want to draw more attention to results instead of yourself. This is very rare, and you should focus on your achievements rather than your company's results.

Related: How to Maximize Resume Action Words and Wow an Employer

Which action verbs are most effective?

Not only do you need to use resume action verbs, but you also must select those that fit your industry and create an impact. Here are a few general, strong industry-specific action verbs to include in your current resume:

  • Advised

  • Compiled

  • Critiqued

  • Coached

  • Designed

  • Directed

  • Established

  • Examined

  • Generated

  • Guided

  • Hypothesized

  • Illustrated

  • Improved

  • Influenced

  • Invented

  • Motivated

  • Negotiated

  • Ordered

  • Oversaw

  • Prepared

  • Recruited

  • Resolved

  • Trained

  • Upgraded

Related: The Best Words to Use in a Resume

Make your resume stand out with achievements

Another action-word strategy is to use “achieving” language rather than “doing” language. How do you determine if the sentence is doing or achieving? Ask yourself these three simple questions:

  1. Can anyone perform this function?

  2. Is this the standard, run-of-the-mill description?

  3. Did any results come from this action?

If your answers are yes, yes, and no, you are listing descriptions that only show what you can do. What you want instead is to show what you have achieved.

Here are a few examples that highlight “doing” sentences, and how to convert them into “achieving” sentences:

Doing: Responsible for inventory control and ordering products.

Achieving: Optimize inventory by monitoring for product shortages and ensuring efficient service usage.

Doing: Help company sell more products and gain revenue.

Achieving: Increase profit margins by creating effective sales plans and implementing strategies to solidify client retention.


Using action verbs and active voice makes all the difference in your resume, so it's worth the extra effort to leave a lasting impression. Show the employer or hiring manager what you can bring to the table by listing past accomplishments and notable contributions, and you'll increase your chance of getting an interview. Just keep these questions in mind and your resume-writing experience will go smoother:

  • Does the sentence leave the option for results, or is it just a description?

  • Have I been writing in active or passive voice?

  • Is this an exceptional description, or can anyone do this?

Click on the following link for more resume advice.

Are you using passive verbs or action verbs in your resume and cover letter? Request a free resume critique today to check and see!

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