Resumes & Cover Letters

How to use action verbs to make your resume stand out

Written by Kate Lopaze

Take a look at your resume. What words jump out at you? If you’re like most people, phrases like “was responsible for” or “worked on” are probably in there somewhere. And those phrases are totally…fine. But if you want to make your resume stand out from the rest of the people who were responsible for X and worked on Y, one of the easiest places to start is to make your language sparkle a little. Using strong, specific action words can help make your accomplishments seem even more impressive.

Using next-level verbs in your resume shows the reader that you put particular care and effort into crafting your resume—your resume should show what you do and indicate to the reader how active and dynamic you are as an employee. Strong action verbs can also help you with non-human readers, or Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS), as the software may be programmed to look for particular words as indicators of experience. Weak or ordinary verbs will just slip right by the automated eye.

This is not to say that every word in your resume needs to be straight out of a thesaurus. If every word is a five-dollar word, that gets repetitive as well. It can also seem very stiff and formal. Instead, use key verbs to punch up your resume writing. Your experience bullets are the best place to use varied words to show what you’ve done. This is where you can really take ownership of your experience and accomplishments, by using active verbs instead of passive ones.

For example:

I was tasked with organizing the large annual holiday party.


I coordinated a large annual holiday party.

They’re similar, but look at the perspective here. In the first sentence, you were following someone else’s orders. In the second, you’re taking control. The only real difference here is the verb; sentence one is passive, while sentence two is active. And yet you don’t need to rewrite every word, just replace the main one.

When you’re rewriting your resume with power verbs, you should go for specificity and relevance over flashiness. Let’s look at some replacements for common resume words.

Leadership Verbs

If you’re trying to demonstrate leadership, instead of words like “led” or “managed, try one of these:

  • Chaired
  • Coached
  • Directed
  • Cultivated
  • Enabled
  • Coordinated
  • Executed

Service Verbs

Service verbs show how you work with clients, bosses, team members, or other people. Teamwork is a metric that’s more and more important to hiring managers, so be proactive about using them. Instead of words like “communicated with” or “dealt with,” try words like:

  • Liaised
  • Consulted
  • Facilitated
  • Collaborated

Analysis Verbs

Analysis verbs show how you handle information or situations. Instead of words like “analyzed” or “determined,” try words like:

  • Researched
  • Assessed
  • Audited
  • Evaluated
  • Investigated
  • Quantified

Communication Verbs

Communication verbs are some of the most important ones in your resume. Just about every job calls for good communication skills (verbal and written). What better place to show your stellar written communication skills than by picking the exact right words to show how well you communicate? Instead of words like “communicated,” try words like:

  • Conveyed
  • Corresponded
  • Campaigned
  • Briefed
  • Concluded
  • Presented

 Innovation Verbs

Innovation verbs convey your creativity and ingenuity. Many employers are looking for forward-thinking employees who can help get new things accomplished. Instead of words like “improved” or “organized,” try words like:

  • Piloted
  • Optimized
  • Customized
  • Created
  • Generated

One of the trickiest part of your resume is showing, not telling, so the more you choose words that highlight your most important accomplishments, the more you’ll be able to convey to any reader in a limited space. Your resume has limited real estate, so make the most of it!

About the author

Kate Lopaze

Kate Lopaze is a writer, editor, and digital publishing professional based in New York City. A graduate of the University of Connecticut and Emerson College with degrees in English and publishing, she is passionate about books, baseball, and pop culture (though not necessarily in that order), and lives in Brooklyn with her dog.