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Write your resume like a pro.

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How to Make Your Resume Stand Out With Action Verbs

Show employers that you’re an applicant they should be excited about with an action-packed resume. [TWEET]

What is your resume, really? It’s the story of your professional life. A room full of quiet applicants all vying for the same job is not unlike a stack of resumes that an employer faces when there is an open position. They all look similar. They say similar things. Many of them are just plain boring.

Don’t let your resume be one of the boring ones. Make your resume jump up and demand attention by creating dynamic action through the use of great verbs and resume wording.

The power of resume action verbs.

Verbs are action words. Run, hit, jump are all verbs. The reason verbs are so powerful is that they show a person doing something. Why is that important? Largely because in life, and in the professional world, you can either be doing nothing, having things done to you, or you can be the one doing things.

You obviously don’t want your resume to display that you’ve done nothing. Nor do you want it to tell the story of someone who was along for the ride, letting the world dictate the rules. You want your resume to clearly show that you are in charge of your own career and you take the reins.

Using action verbs in your resume shows more than where you’ve worked and for how long, it shows what you did and what you accomplished. But, not all verbs are created equal.

Verbs vs. great verbs.

There is a reason why the hero in a western novel never simply walks into a bar, takes a seat, and requests a beverage. It’s boring. Yes, there are verbs in that sentence, but they’re as basic, plain and polite as they can be. They don’t jump off the page and grab your attention. That’s why your hero in the white hat busts through the door, strides to the bar and demands his drink.

When you are building your resume, you need to think the same way as that western writer with your resume wording. What did you do at your previous jobs? What actions did you take to create winning outcomes for your former employers? If you need to, go to a website like thesaurus.com to find more active and interesting verbs to replace the ones you have on your resume now.

You don’t want to go over the top and say that you did things that you didn’t really do or use fancy words incorrectly. You simply want to say what you did and accomplished in the most interesting possible way.

Active vs. passive.

You can water down even the best of verbs by using passive voice. If you worked around the clock to get a project done in record time, make sure your resume says that you shattered that old record. If it says, “Completed the project quickly. The old record was shattered.” The easy way to do this is to get those great verbs up front and center at the start of the sentence.

Don’t forget to emphasize the result of your great work in your resume wording. If you shattered that record, what did that mean for the company? “– Shattered the company record for project completion time, which magnified the overall profits.” Passive voice comes across as weak. Using active voice with strong, exciting verbs makes you (and your resume) exude confidence.

Employers want to see great examples of what you have done, not empty adjectives that say how you see yourself. Describing yourself as punctual, dependable, or a number of other boring ways is a no-no on today’s resume. Shouldn’t they expect all employees to be those things? That’s why resume action verbs are so important, they don’t describe you, they say what you have done. That’s what employers really want to know.

Know your field.

Regardless of your field of work, there is probably a list of killer action words out there that you want to use in your resume. How do you know which ones are right for you?

Easy. Scour postings for jobs that interest you. Chances are, that job posting is telling you what kind of candidate they would like to find. Print out that ad and circle all of the verbs they use. How can you incorporate those words into the job experience on your resume?

Another simple trick is to simply Google “resume words for [enter career field here].” You’re sure to get a number of great suggestions. When you do that for sales, you’ll find lists that use words like collaborated, cross-sold, and doubled. Doubled? Whoa! What hiring manager isn’t going to look twice when they see that a salesperson doubled something?

If you don’t find anything by Googling, take a look at sites like this one from Michigan State University’s Career Services Network that lists great verbs by skill sets.

Think about the whole story.

Scan your resume to see if it really does tell the story of your career. Does it show learning and progress? Does it highlight your greatest accomplishments? Your resume should show just how you got to where you are and all of the battles you have fought and won to get there. Then, it needs to show why those amazing feats make you the best possible candidate for the job you want.

Remember, an employer with an opening may be facing a stack (or an inbox) full of resumes and, yes, you’re just one of the many. But if they have a job opening that means they want one of those resumes to jump up and make them take notice. In the humdrum of dozens of resumes littered with phrases like “Partnered with manager to improve team efficiency,” that could put them to sleep, a resume that uses great action verbs and tells a vivid story of who you are as an employee will make them perk right up and reach for their phone.

Your resume is your story and you’re the hero. Make sure your story has plenty of action through your resume wording.

Want to see how your resume stacks up? Try out our free critique today!

Photo credit: Andy Roth/Flickr

Write your resume like a pro.

TopResume's resume worksheet is just like the one our pros use. Download it now for free and start getting more interviews!

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Write your resume like a pro.

TopResume's resume worksheet is just like the one our pros use. Download it now for free and start getting more interviews!