Action words are impactful verbs that help tell your professional story, and they can strengthen your resume by more specifically conveying your experience.
On your resume, the right words can say a lot, conveying your skills, expertise, and accomplishments. Finding the best action words to capture your unique professional story can have a big impact. Not only can it help you stand out from other candidates who might use the same empty words to describe their responsibilities, but it can also help you specifically express what you have to offer as a candidate.
In this article, we’ll discuss how to use action words to talk about your work and ways you can begin looking for more impactful language to bolster your resume.
Action words are verbs that communicate your professional experience: the kind of work you’ve done, what you’ve achieved in your previous roles, and the skills you’ve developed. Many applicants end up using similar language on their resume: perhaps they led or oversaw or assisted. While there’s nothing intrinsically wrong with these words, they’re not very dynamic, so they don’t do a strong job of capturing your unique history.
Action words are impactful verbs that help tell your professional story—think designed rather than managed, or initiated rather than oversaw. When you choose the best words to describe your past experience and accomplishments, you help explain to a potential employer why you’d be a strong addition to their company.
It’s important that you select action words that help quantify your impact. The McKinsey Global Institute released a study in 2016 describing the current era as “the age of analytics” . Data has become increasingly important for businesses, and the same holds true for your resume. You should be able to provide some amount of data to quantify your impact.
Redesigned the main homepage, which led to an 18% increase in site visits
Streamlined incident response reports, reducing average time to completion from 18 minutes to 12 minutes
Generated three new TikTok campaigns, leading to a 32% boost in engagement across the platform
Below, you’ll find an array of action words arranged by type of responsibility, management, and finally impact. Use each section as a starting point to help you think about what you’ve done and how to best describe it for a potential employer.
The words below express what you did in your previous roles based on area of responsibility.
Being creative in a role often means having to generate innovative ideas—or improve upon existing ones. Detail the ways in which you’ve done both with words like:
Knowing what to look for, or even where to look for it, are critical factors when conducting research. Show off your critical thinking and analytical skills as much as possible with words like:
Finding sales leads, bridging relationships with clients or customers, and closing the deal all contribute to a business’s success. Share how you’ve done that with words like:
Many jobs require some technical or specialized knowledge. Think about the main tasks unique to your role and find action words that represent your ability to do that work. The words below can help get you started:
Learn more: What Are Technical Skills?
Communicating clearly with people inside and outside of your organization shows a potential employer that you know how to interpret and share information (and it also happens to be a valued transferable skill). Convey your abilities with words like:
Overseeing a team is a big responsibility. It means managing everything from personalities to deadlines. Detail your ability and impact with words like:
Besides finding words that capture your responsibilities, it's important to also highlight what you’ve accomplished in your previous roles. The sections below detail more general impact as well as impact in specific areas.
Tell a potential employer about the effect you’ve had with words that highlight how you changed something—a process or a task—and ideally created a better outcome:
When you’re responsible for budgeting, a potential employer likely wants to know two things: how did you save money and how did you increase profits? Find words that communicate how you achieved one or both:
Projects rely on timeliness, organization, and foresight. Show a potential employer how you impacted past projects—whether that meant contributing to its success or leading it to the finish line—by choosing language that demonstrates problem solving and attention to detail:
Strong customer relationships are the backbone of a good business. Explain how you cultivated new relationships and improved existing relationships to call attention to your impact in this area:
The words listed above are just a starting point. Use the following tips to help you expand your resume vocabulary and find the best words possible to detail your past experience.
A thesaurus will give you a number of synonyms to use in place of stale or empty words. However, it’s a good idea to verify whether the word you’d like to use fully captures what you originally meant to say. For example, if you’re looking for managed synonyms, you’ll likely come across supervised, administered, and organized. But other synonyms, like handled or coped, might not be the best words to use because they don’t impart the leadership or strength of the original word.
It’s important that you don’t repeat the same words throughout your resume. Your resume should help tell your story—relying on the same language doesn’t let you express the variety, diversity, or growth of your experiences.
Adverbs can help qualify your work, meaning that they express your impact in terms of degree—not data. While it’s not necessary to pair every action word with an adverb (or word that modifies a verb), it can be useful in places if you want to highlight a success. For example, instead of organized you can say successfully organized or proactively organized.
In addition to honing the way you describe your professional past on your resume, you can add to the credentials and technical skills you list on your resume by earning a Professional Certificate on Coursera. Learn valuable skills in areas like project management, UX design, data science, marketing analytics, and sales, with courses led by top industry leaders such as Google, Meta, and IBM, among others.
McKinsey & Company. “The Age of Analytics, https://www.mckinsey.com/business-functions/mckinsey-analytics/our-insights/the-age-of-analytics-competing-in-a-data-driven-world.” Accessed January 28, 2022.
This content has been made available for informational purposes only. Learners are advised to conduct additional research to ensure that courses and other credentials pursued meet their personal, professional, and financial goals.