The Importance of Resume Action Verbs

Updated: October 17, 2019

If you want to get your resume tossed out immediately, try starting every bullet point with, “Responsible for …” If you want to make your resume stand out, however, action verbs are key. Strong, effective action verbs will paint a vivid picture of your experience and achievements for potential employers.

In this article, we’ll look at the benefits of action verbs, why they’re necessary, and how you can use them to ensure that your resume rises to the top of the (virtual) stack.

If you’re not quite there yet, you can review our full How to Write a Resume guide and browse some resume samples. Now, on to the nitty gritty.


Maximize the impact of your resume with action verbs

Your resume is a single sheet of paper. You simply can’t fit everything you’d like to share on a single page. Since you have such limited space, you need to be concise. Action verbs have an immediate impact. They make your descriptions resonate with the reader. They help your resume tell the story of why you’re the best fit for the job.

Another bonus of action verbs: They can help you bypass the dreaded Automatic Tracking Systems (ATS). Companies use this type of software to sort, analyze, and rank resumes. They’re a company’s first line of defense against getting 300 applications for a single position—and they’re often designed to scan for and identify keywords in each resume in order to filter out unqualified applicants. ATS also look for action verbs that stand out and signal a potential match.

Of course, getting past the scanning software doesn’t guarantee you an interview. But once your resume is in front of a recruiter or hiring manager, impactful, action-oriented words will get (and keep) their attention, helping you reach the next step.


A list of resume action verbs

Okay, we’ve established that you want to use action verbs in your resume. But which words are most effective? Let’s look at some strong replacements for overused resume verbs. You can view an expanded list of resume action verbs here.

Responsible for

If you were “responsible for” a project or task, you can try:

  • Directed
  • Coordinated
  • Headed
  • Organized
  • Executed
  • Oversaw


Increasing your company’s numbers is always a good thing, but it’s time to mix it up a little. Try:

  • Enhanced
  • Accelerated
  • Maximized
  • Boosted
  • Amplified
  • Expanded


If you want to explain that you saved money or time, get creative. Try:

  • Reduced
  • Yielded
  • Conserved
  • Consolidated
  • Generated (savings)
  • Lessened


Instead of saying that you “started” a new initiative or project, try:

  • Created
  • Introduced
  • Initiated
  • Implemented
  • Launched
  • Established

Helped or supported

Many students or recent grads have customer service experience. Give yourself more agency and responsibility than “helped” or “supported” implies. Try:

  • Informed
  • Advised
  • Resolved
  • Assisted
  • Educated
  • Promoted
  • Provided


“Receive” greater success by replacing this passive verb. Try:

  • Achieved
  • Awarded
  • Earned
  • Completed
  • Succeeded
  • Exceeded
  • Honored (with)


If you’ve improved an existing program or policy at your job, try:

  • Innovated
  • Modified
  • Streamlined
  • Transformed
  • Updated
  • Overhauled


These word banks should give you an idea of some powerful action verbs for your resume. Think about the skills, experiences, and accomplishments you’d like to convey to an employer, then find strong verbs to describe them.

But once you’ve selected your action verbs, where do they go?

Resume action verbs are best utilized in full sentences and bullet points. Depending on which sections you feature on your resume, this can include your professional experience, extracurricular activities, honors and awards, resume summary or objective, and additional information.  

Let’s look at some examples. Notice how action verbs can bring your skills and experiences to life.


Examples of action verbs in your resume

Before: Improved inventory management process.

After: Developed and implemented enhancements to inventory management process, resulting in 20% reduction in ordering costs.

The “after” example uses strong action verbs that clearly convey what the candidate did on the job. In addition, it details the results of said actions (a 20% reduction in costs). When possible, it’s important to include concrete results that highlight the value you added. This gives the employer a better understanding of the impact of your contributions—and how you can be expected to contribute in the future. Here’s another example:

Before: Worked with team on new customer outreach initiative.

After: Effectively collaborated with team to assess and analyze customer needs for new outreach initiative, resulting in 15% increase in customer satisfaction rates.

The “after” version provides a much more impactful description of the candidate’s communication skills. Instead of simply saying that this person “worked with a team,” it conveys their strong interpersonal skills, specific actions, and final impact for the business.

The more you use action verbs in your resume, the more likely it is that an employer will want to discuss them in an interview. This approach adds impact and depth to your descriptions, giving the employer substantial information. Review each description on your current resume. Does each one actually convey what you did? Does it demonstrate your impact via specific results?


Focus on the job description

When applying to a job, it’s vital to review the job description and look for keywords and skills. The same is true here. To maximize the effectiveness of your action verbs, customize them to the position to which you’re applying.

You may have all the qualifications and skills imaginable for a position, but it’s vital that the employer sees this on your resume. When applying for more than one position or to more than one company, you may need to change the wording on your resume. The more you tailor your resume to a specific job or company, the more likely you are to land an interview.


Bonus: Use action verbs in your cover letter, too!

Keep in mind that your cover letter is another place to utilize keywords and action verbs. As with your resume, look for areas that can be improved with strong, impactful verbs that better convey your achievements. Cover letters, too, often get scanned by resume software, so ensure that you’re using action words related to the job description.


A final word

Job candidates often feel uncomfortable “bragging” about themselves, whether in an interview or on a resume. The result is that many people simply list what they did in a previous role, which barely differs from a typical job description.

Don’t worry about staying humble. Employers want to know how you’ve excelled and what sets you apart from other candidates. Be proud of what you’ve accomplished—and use appropriate action verbs to convey it!