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60 Best Action Verbs to Make Your CV Stand Out

Posted by Glassdoor Team

Career Advice Experts

Last Updated December 21, 2020

Recruiters see a lot of CVs. Even after automated CV scanning tools sift out the least relevant applications, interviewers may be left with tens of candidates for even entry-level roles and hundreds of qualified contenders for the most desirable and lucrative vacancies.

A CV doesn't contain very many words overall, so make every word count and you can hone your application into something that gives you a competitive advantage over most other candidates (the rest is up to you once you get into the interview room).

How to use Action Verbs

Jessie Czerwonka Roller, Manager of Career Services at Turning the Corner, recommends choosing action verbs that are highly specific to the role you are applying for, and to the industry you will be working in.

"It is important to be strategic on the action verbs used to describe your skills and experience," she says. "Being in the career services field for over a decade, I have seen an abundance of resumes: the good, the bad, and the ugly."

Shefali Raina, an NYC-based executive coach, adds: "For maximum impact, use action verbs selectively and convey simple, direct messages. Nothing dilutes the impact of action verbs more than being surrounded by many other action verbs!"

With a budget of relatively few action verbs to spend across the different sections of your CV, it's important to understand exactly what an action verb is, and how to choose the words that will have maximum impact on the interviewer.

What are Action Verbs?

Most people have heard of nouns (names), adjectives (descriptions) and verbs ('doing' words), but you may not have heard of action verbs before. So what are action verbs?

The clue is in the name - action verbs represent an action that is taking place, or has taken place in the past. They should involve some passage of time, rather than an instantaneous quality.

Linking verbs are the other main type of verb. These link a subject, such as a person, with an instantaneous quality, and are often joined by a noun or adjective.

Examples:

  • Action verb: The ball rolled.
  • Linking verb: The ball was red.

Action verbs are sometimes called activity verbs and they are, by nature, more dynamic than linking verbs. That's why including them on your CV can have a direct impact on how powerful and punchy it feels - and how interesting it is to a tired interviewer.

Bring the energy into your application with a brilliant CV and an upbeat interview, and you can leave the recruiter feeling inspired and much more positive about your prospects of becoming employed.

Types of Action Verbs

Different types of action verbs send different messages, so make sure you choose a relevant, dynamic verb for each sentence or paragraph on your CV.

Here are some examples of types of action verbs to help you get started with some of the most common uses for action verbs in CVs.

Achievement

Your CV is a record of your greatest career achievements, so choose punchy action verbs that reflect this and show that you are able to exceed expectations, and not just meet the basic demands of your role.

  • Attained
  • Exceeded
  • Outperformed
  • Showcased
  • Surpassed

Verbs - especially activity verbs - are dynamic words that bring energy to a sentence. Make good use of them and you can turn an otherwise bland record of career and academic achievements into something that will impress and excite the interviewer.

Communication

Communication is one of the most important soft skills and it can be difficult to prove your capabilities just using academic qualifications. Action verbs can help you to rely more on your work experience in this area and show you have the communication skills your potential new employer requires.

  • Briefed
  • Campaigned
  • Convinced
  • Edited
  • Promoted

A vast range of different experiences can fall under the banner of communications, from writing and editing, to verbal discussions, persuasive argument, counselling co-workers, and so on. Think about your own best areas of expertise and put those across as impactfully as you can.

Customers

Good customer service shows a combination of effective communication along with other skills like quick thinking and an understanding of business economics. If you can show your ability to deflect negative perceptions and resolve complaints quickly, without costing your company too much, you're a valuable asset to any employer.

  • Advocated
  • Arbitrated
  • Fielded
  • Resolved
  • Responded

This of course is only relevant to customer-facing roles, and in many cases if your job only involves working with internal colleagues, you won't have any examples to provide. But if you're in a customer-facing discipline, it's important to make sure your CV recognises that fact and includes appropriate examples of past success.

Growth

Growth in business doesn't just mean revenues. It can mean expansion in terms of new departments, an increase in employee numbers, entry into new markets and better brand awareness among the general public. Think about any type of growth you have achieved for your past employers and make sure you include it with specific examples.

  • Acquired
  • Forged
  • Negotiated
  • Partnered
  • Secured

Growth achieved via business networking, whether you brought in revenues, new suppliers or investors, is particularly worth mentioning. Who you know is often almost as important as what you know. If you come with connections, you represent a bigger investment for your new employer than just hiring a single person in isolation, so make the most of it.

Improvements

There are many ways to make improvements for your employer, ranging from more efficient management structures and team delegation, to better use of resources, targeted training and mentoring, and generally anything that delivers increased productivity without requiring additional costs.

  • Centralised
  • Integrated
  • Overhauled
  • Restructured
  • Simplified

Judge this one carefully. If the role you are applying for does not carry much responsibility, you don't want to appear as a disruptive force who will refuse to accept the existing working practices. But with careful choice of language, this is one area that can potentially appear very positive to an open-minded employer.

Leadership

Leadership in general is not the same thing as team management, although the two may overlap. But to portray yourself as having more far-reaching leadership potential, you need to choose verbs that reflect that and extend beyond the limitations of your immediate line management role.

  • Administered
  • Developed
  • Orchestrated
  • Pioneered
  • Programmed

You can lead both people and projects, so by choosing a more specific action verb, you can instantly make clear in your CV exactly what skills you are referring to. This is ideal if, for example, you are applying for a role with less delegation required, but which will expect you to take the helm of leading a difficult contract, a reorganisation, or some other challenge.

Observation and Oversight

Some leadership roles carry more responsibility than others. If you had to delegate tasks, oversee their completion and verify the results, make it clear that ultimately, you were personally accountable for the performance and productivity of your subordinates.

  • Authorised
  • Delegated
  • Monitored
  • Scrutinised
  • Verified

These action verbs paint a more detailed picture of the relationship between you and your team members. You can also use them in relation to projects that extended outside of your normal working team, but in which you also took on a role of significant responsibility.

Project Management

Simply 'leading' or 'managing' a project doesn't tell the recruiter too much about your role, so try to think of a more specific verb. That might depend on the nature or duration of the project, the kind of team you worked with, and the style of management you delivered.

  • Chaired
  • Coordinated
  • Headed
  • Organised
  • Produced

In addition to the above, it's sensible to include the more generic verbs here, as automated CV scanning tools might be looking for those too. But it's good practice to lead with a specific, impactful action verb for the recruiter's eyes, and include 'project management' or 'project leader' later on for the AI scanners to find.

Research

It's important to be able to base business decisions on solid research, so if you're applying for a role that requires this, choose verbs that demonstrate your ability for critical thinking and qualitative or statistical analysis.

  • Analysed
  • Calculated
  • Forecasted
  • Quantified
  • Surveyed

This is an area where you might have numerical data to back up your claim, but it's still good to choose powerful verbs to describe that data, so that the interviewer can see at a quick glance what you achieved. Then in the interview, they or you can bring this up as a topic worth exploring in more detail, for a fuller understanding of your expertise.

Resource Efficiency

If you can do more with less, you're an asset to your employer. If you have past experience or examples of when you significantly improved resource efficiency in a previous role, use action verbs that express this well.

  • Conserved
  • Consolidated
  • Reconciled
  • Reduced
  • Yielded

Be sure to frame your sentence in a positive way - improving efficiency should be about making savings, not just about making cuts. Demonstrate to the interviewer that your changes achieved a net gain for the business and did not lead to a drop in productivity.

Sales and Revenues

Increasing sales and revenues is key to growing a business's bottom line, and this is especially significant in management and marketing roles, as well as any customer-facing sales position. Choose verbs that put power behind the gains you achieved for your past employer, and recruiters are more likely to recognise your potential to raise revenues for them too.

  • Accelerated
  • Amplified
  • Generated
  • Maximised
  • Stimulated

Think about the kinds of verbs you'd expect to see in a quarterly or annual financial statement from a major company. You could even look for the most recent trading update from the specific company you are applying to, and see what words they use when discussing increases in sales and revenue.

Team Management

Team management is high on the list of soft skills and is a topic with several different aspects to it, from training new recruits, to improving productivity, to disciplining employees who have acted inappropriately. Choose your verbs carefully to put the focus on the area you think demonstrates your team management capabilities at their best.

  • Cultivated
  • Hired
  • Inspired
  • Mentored
  • Trained

If you're applying for senior positions, it's likely you'll have a team working beneath you - and the more senior the position, the bigger or more important that team might be. So a focus on team management in your CV can play a significant part in getting you into a senior-ranked role, with a more lucrative package of remuneration and benefits.

How to Use Action Verbs in Job Applications and Interviews

The more relevant and specific the verbs you use, the better. You can also use more general verbs elsewhere in your CV, but make sure you include a few that have maximum impact.

Jessie Czerwonka Roller says: "If you are a jobseeker who wants to gain a leadership position, you want to describe both your skills and experiences using strong leadership action verbs such as advocated, bolstered, drove, engaged, elicited and spearheaded.

"If you are a jobseeker targeting the IT industry, use action verbs such as administered, centralised, configured, engineered, installed and programmed."

Verbs like 'designed' are relevant for creative roles. Amanda B Gulino, founder of A Better Monday, explains: "This word tells me that the candidate has built something new that did not exist before."

How to Use Action Verbs to Make Your CV Stand Out

Some action verbs can be quite broad, but still help your CV to stand strong against those of other candidates.

Shefali Raina explains: "Empowered speaks to your ability to give energy, authority, confidence and power to a group or a team to achieve a certain result. It suggests that you possess the confidence and the influence to be able to authorise and energise a team or group to have powerful impact.

"Initiated is a powerful one because it demonstrates that you are proactive and that you spent the time and energy to begin a project or originate an idea. To employers and recruiters, it speaks to a positive can-do mindset and says that you will be a solution-starter."

Gabrielle Pitre, Recruiting Team Lead at Coalition Technologies, suggests 'organised' as "a wonderful verb that denotes an individual who can prioritise not only the items on their desk, but their tasks too. This lets employers see that you understand what is valuable to your job".

But she adds: "Perhaps an even better verb is orchestrated, as it's rarer and more likely to attract attention."

Less common verbs like 'established' and 'delegated' are perhaps the best way of all to make your CV stand out. "These words can say much more than more common verbs, such as led or oversaw," says Pitre. "You want to show how proactive you are, and these verbs express that well."

What if my Action Verbs Don't Work?

If you are rejected for a role, it's an opportunity to learn where you went wrong. You may have noticed in the interview that your action verbs were not landing as expected, or you might be able to get feedback from the interviewer (ideally as soon as possible after receiving your rejection letter).

Roller says: "A jobseeker's goal is to entice the recruiter or search committee member to read more and get excited about their background to elicit an interview invite. You know your resume isn't working if you aren't getting interviews."

Pitre adds: "We love to see candidates stray from ordinary statements. It's not always just about a specific adjective or verb, but everything around it. The best candidates often understand how important it is to share their specific stories, give examples and show how and why they are good at something, rather than just stating that it's a skill."

This last point is a hallmark of action verbs - they portray an ongoing action, rather than a momentary state of being. As you hone your CV for future applications, remember the basics:

  • Use specific, relevant and impactful action verbs - but use them sparingly.
  • Choose less common action verbs to help them stand out to the recruiter.
  • Include more general verbs elsewhere in your CV to pass automated scans.

By applying these three basic principles even as an afterthought, you can give your CV some personality, enhance its impact, and show yourself as a dynamic, highly engaged applicant to every role and vacancy you apply for.

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