The Importance of Resume Action Verbs

resume action verbsIs it time to give resume action verbs a starring role?

You know that keywords are important for applicant tracking systems (ATS). If your resume doesn’t contain the same keywords that recruiters are searching for, it may never even be seen by a human.

But what happens once your resume does make it past that first hurdle? What are the “keywords” that appeal to recruiters and hiring managers? And how do you get those words noticed?

Cut Out the Clutter

Think about the passive, weak, or ambiguous words that clutter up far too many resumes – words like “results-driven,” “motivated,” “hard-working,” “professional,” etc. Those words are easy to use because they sound good – who wouldn’t want to hire someone who’s motivated and hard-working? – but they don’t really mean anything.

You may be the most “results-driven” employee on the planet, but that doesn’t mean you’ve ever actually delivered results. The way recruiters and hiring managers see it, those are the words you use when you don’t have anything concrete to talk about.

Add in Your Results

The people you’re trying to impress don’t really care about how much effort you put into your job; they want to know what you’ve accomplished. That’s why your resume should contain lots of verbs – but not just any verbs. Verbs like “is,” “was,” “served,” or “became” are all verbs of being. They say a little bit about what you were, but nothing at all about what you did. That takes resume action verbs.

The specific words vary depending on the job, but they all have a few things in common: They’re action-oriented, they’re specific, and they create powerful visual images. A quick online search will turn up dozens of lists of verbs, and they’ll all include things like:

  • accomplished
  • achieved
  • advanced
  • boosted
  • calculated
  • campaigned
  • collaborated
  • delivered
  • developed
  • founded
  • forecasted
  • generated
  • studied
  • trimmed
  • upgraded
  • won

Give Your Resume Some Action 

So what do you do if you have a sneaking suspicion your resume needs a booster shot of resume action verbs? Get it out and read it ruthlessly. Highlight or circle every weak, ambiguous, cop-out verb, and find precise, clear, powerful, action verbs for resumes to take their place. Here’s a hint: If the word invites you to include specific details, it’s probably a good resume action verb. Just be sure to proofread carefully after you make your revisions – it’s really easy for a typo or spelling error to sneak in.

What if you’re not sure your resume will even make it far enough to be seen by a human? Before you inject the action words, optimize your resume with Jobscan. Compare your resume to the job description, and then we help you optimize your resume to make it past the “robots” doing all of the legwork in applicant tracking systems.

Don’t apply for one more job without demonstrating your skills and experience… with resume action verbs.


For this post, YouTern thanks our friends at Jobscan.




???????????????????????????????About the Author: James Hu earned his bachelor’s of Information Systems and Finance from University of Washington. Before becoming the Founder and CEO of Jobscan, James enjoyed work experiences at Boeing, Microsoft, Groupon, Kabam Games, and a start-up of his own. Having already worked in the United States, China, and Spain/Gibraltar, James truly integrates a global mindset into his career. In his free time, he enjoys water sports and backpacking. Follow James on Twitter.



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