Remember to Use Action Words in Your Resume

Nancy Anderson
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You never get a second chance to make a first impression, which is why you must choose your words carefully in your resume and cover letter. Fill your documents with action words, keywords from the job description and descriptive terms that make an impact with recruiters and hiring managers. Take a look at how to improve your chances of getting a call back with these word-usage tips.

Start With Action Words

Action words go beyond typical resume verbiage. Use words such as "managed," "maximized," "improved," "achieved" or "increased." These verbs are ideal for describing hard skills and experiences that former supervisors can verify. For example, you can state that as an IT supervisor, you "managed a team of five people who maximized the company's internal technology budget"

Action words come into play with your soft skills, too. Narrow down four top-level soft skills that most employers look for, regardless of the industry. For example, the soft skills can be leadership, communication, collaboration and creativity. The words "developed" and "initiated" are good ones to use to showcase your leadership skills, while the words "generated" and "accomplished" can highlight how you collaborated with a team to get results.

Mine the Job Description

Use action words along with terms or statements used by the company in the job description to grab a hiring manager's attention. For example, if the job description states that you need at least five years of sales experience in a supervisory role, state that you "Increased 5 percent quarter-over-quarter growth for five years while supervising a team of 12 salespeople."

Throw in Some Descriptive Verbs

Descriptive terms, when used in a way to highlight actions you took as an employee, paint a more vivid picture for a hiring manager. Rather than saying you "worked with a team of 15 people to make the company more efficient," say you "Decreased inefficiencies by 32 percent in six months by automating the firm's customer service module." Although the word "decreased" may have a negative connotation in some sense, the word describes precisely what you did for six months on the job. Also, the word "decreased" sounds a lot better than "worked on" or "helped."

Ditch Empty Adjectives

Avoid empty adjectives, such as "interesting" or "outstanding." These words do not describe what you accomplished for a previous employer or what you can do in your new position. In addition, you cannot provide hard data about being an "interesting" or "outstanding" person, so these words add no value to your document.

Action words create a vibrant description that show how you made an impact in previous positions, which typically leads to heightened interest from hiring managers. What are some of your favorite action verbs to put in a resume to capture a hiring manager's attention?


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  • Nancy Anderson
    Nancy Anderson

    @Betty Johnson thanks for your comment. So glad that you are healthy enough to get back into the workforce. It is going to be hard because all of your skills are probably out of date. What I typically suggest for someone in your situation is to try going through a temp agency. Just to get your feet wet. You might also want to try to take a refresher course or two - especially for any skills that deal with technology. Using a temp agency or even a recruiter is probably your best bet as they can present you instead of you just blindly submitting resumes.

  • Betty Johnson
    Betty Johnson

    Like your post but I have a question please I have been out of work for 20 years, because of health issues and now I need to return and I'm afraid I want get hired because I'm older but I can do the work what is it I need to do?

  • Nancy Anderson
    Nancy Anderson

    @Sharon Grubb thanks for your comment. A good way to get started would be to do a search on the Internet for sample resumes for the position you are seeking. Take a peek at what others are doing and it will help to guide you along. Do not copy from others - just use them as guideline. Please note, also, that we offer a resume writing service. If that is out of reach for you, take some time to look through other articles on our network as we have many articles on how to write a great resume.

  • Sharon  Grubb
    Sharon Grubb

    How do I write a good resume

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