Use Action Words on Your Resume for Greater Effect

Posted by

Resume reviewers typically spend mere seconds scanning a resume before moving on to the next applicant's resume. Capture the attention of hiring managers by using action words. Compelling, descriptive verbs convey more content and more concisely relay your experience and capabilities.

The interview might be your chance at making a first impression in person, but the resume is your first chance at making a first impression. For every job that you apply for, dozens if not hundreds of other candidates are also applying. With such a volume of applications, it's not surprising that a recent poll of hiring managers revealed that 68 percent of the hiring managers surveyed spend less than two minutes reading through each resume. To get noticed in those two minutes, you must craft your resume carefully. Incorporating action words is one recommended step.

This same survey, conducted by Harris Poll at the request of CareerBuilder, polled more than 2,200 hiring managers from a variety of industries to learn their preferences in resumes. One finding revealed that hiring managers favor the use of clearly defined, strong action words over subjective terms and clichés. Specifically, the hiring managers surveyed identified the following as good word choices for a resume: achieved, improved, trained or mentored, managed, and created. In contrast, they found the following words and phrases to be undesirable choices: best of breed, go-getter, think outside of the box, synergy, and go-to person.

Action words are recommended for several reasons. First, using action verbs highlights what you have done and what you can do. Second, action words are more descriptive than lackluster or passive phrases, and they denote more authority. Third, action words tend to be more engaging and elicit more interest from readers. Fourth, action verbs make your resume more concise by using fewer words to state the same thing. For example, writing "was responsible for the work of four employees" employs five more words than "supervised four employees."

Concise writing is easier to read and understand quickly. As a result, using action words to describe your skills, work history and achievements is more powerful and more persuasive than using passive phrasing. In the couple of minutes that a hiring manager takes to review your resume, action words allows her to scan and absorb information more easily, and your resume is more likely to be advanced to the next stage. Enhance the impact of your word choices by organizing your work history with bullet points, beginning each bullet with a well-chosen action word.

Review your resume, identify passive or weak word choices and replace phrases that might be written more concisely with action words. Make a striking first impression with your resume for a chance at making an in-person first impression in an interview.

(Photo courtesy of Stuart Miles at


Become a member to take advantage of more features, like commenting and voting.

  • Joseph K.
    Joseph K.

    Use of action verbs for setting learning objectives for education but also work for refreshing ah, ah, ah worked resume.

  • SUSAN L.
    SUSAN L.

    Donna D. made a valid comment. Just saying "use action words" in your resume does not show examples. Providing examples aids candidates who want to add action words when rewriting their resumes.

  • Sheila L.
    Sheila L.

    I had a job eliminated and haven't seen a paycheck for 5 weeks! What do I do?

  • Donna LYNNE  D.
    Donna LYNNE D.

    This is an article that has been emphasized over and over. However, need more info on how to use action words with accomplishments - not just saying use action words.

Jobs to Watch